Another reason why we're in big trouble

The following exchange comes to us from Tom Blackburn, co-writer of the documentary Orwell Rolls in His Grave.
I reproduce it here because it may shed further light on the peculiar mind-set of Farhad Manjoo–and, more important, on the common journalistic type that he exemplifies: i.e., the blithe would-be “debunker” of whatever troubling reportage the powers that be find inconvenient. While Tom sees such apologists as “right-wing nuts,” I see them primarily as opportunists (whether they’re aware of it or not), concerned far less with ideology than with the progress of their own careers.
Whatever makes them tick, these over-confident Manjoovians are actually more dangerous than any number of overtly far-right propagandists. Because they sound off as “progressives,” they cut a lot of ice with nervous liberals and complacent leftists looking for a good excuse not to accept the awful truth. And while they pose as cool and sober scientists, extraordinarily
“judicious” and, of course, “non-partisan,” their minds are closed as tight as those employed full-time by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News or Bush/Cheney’s White House.
Note, for example, this sarcastic shot from the exemplary Manjoo: “I haven’t yet had the time to look at the evidence you so kindly uncovered and provided me; when I do, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it” (emphasis added). That is quite a statement–coming, as it did, from a reporter recently applauded (by Joan Walsh, Salon‘s editor) for his “open mind.” There Manjoo sounds exactly like a hanging judge who promises to give his prisoners fair trials before he has them executed. It would be funny, if its consequences weren’t so dire.
MCM
Dear Mark,

My name is Tom Blackburn. I am the co-writer of “Orwell Rolls in His Grave.” We haven’t met, but I’ve long admired your work, especially in “Orwell”.

I’m attaching something you might find interesting. In reading your “Open Letter to Joan Walsh,” I noticed that you seem to think that Farhad Manjoo was reasonable before the 2004 election but that after it was stolen he went galloping “off into the journalistic herd as it went thundering rightward” and that Salon’s editorial policy therefore followed suit (“such was the consensus that Manjoo, too, suddenly embraced, thereby bringing Salon fully into line with all the corporate media.”)

I believe the e-mails I’ve attached will convince you otherwise. It’s not the kind of evidence that would hold up in court, but it was certainly enough to convince me.

According to what I have read, Manjoo had been covering possible election fraud since November of 2002. It was during that initial month that I wrote to him about Florida and the 2000 election. I had been doing research for “Orwell” and I apparently read his first piece on the possibility of election fraud. He had presented (as I remember) some convincing arguments that there was fraud but then surprisingly concluded that it was clear that Bush had won Florida and Gore had lost. I had seen this many times before. A writer will walk the argument that Gore may have won Florida right up to the precipice, where they push Gore over the edge and declare Bush the indisputable winner.

I thought Manjoo may be able to shed some light on the editorial policy that I assumed must be behind these reversals. I wrote him a brief e-mail trying to sound him out on how he came to his conclusion. He apparently thought all “liberals” regarded the New York Times as their God. He sent me a copy of the Times story on the NORC report with the note: “Given this report, how can you call me a liar?”

So, I pressed him further in a second e-mail, sent him the NORC data and found in his response that I had uncovered a right-wing nut.

I am still almost as stunned now, when I read his response, as I was when I received it— November 14, 2002.

His second point, that I had a “curious forest-for-the-trees failing” is exactly 180 degrees off the mark. The reason I wrote the e-mails was to find out how a writer who had identified so many of the trees couldn’t admit to the existence of the forest.

I only hope that when these right-wing nuts finally do find the forest, they will find it full of
hungry squirrels.

Best Regards,

Tom Blackburn

—–Original Message—–
From: Tom Blackburn
Sent: Saturday, November 09, 2002 10:02 AM
To: Farhad Manjoo
Subject: Voting into the void

Dear Mr. Manjoo,
I am writing to alert you to something that was factually inaccurate in your article. Your comment about the NORC data showing that Bush had probably won is absolutely false. The NORC data showed that Al Gore won under every scenario except one–where the overvotes were not counted. In other words, in every scenario where all the votes were counted, Al Gore won. Everyone knows this. Could you please explain to your readers why you chose to lie about this? I’m assuming that, like everyone who reads the internet, you knew this was a lie. If you didn’t know, I expect to see a retraction in the next Salon edition.


Sincerely,
Thomas R. Blackburn

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: RE: Voting into the void
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 10:17:54 -0800
From: Farhad Manjoo
Reply-To:
To: Tom Blackburn

Here’s how the New York Times, one of the sponsors of the study, reported the story a year ago. Given this report, how can you call me a liar?

“A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year’s presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.

Contrary to what many partisans of former Vice President Al Gore have charged, the United States Supreme Court did not award an election to Mr. Bush that otherwise would have been won by Mr. Gore. A close examination of the ballots found that Mr. Bush would have retained a slender margin over Mr. Gore if the Florida court’s order to recount more than 43,000 ballots
had not been reversed by the United States Supreme Court.

Even under the strategy that Mr. Gore pursued at the
begin
ning of the Florida standoff — filing suit to force hand recounts in four predominantly Democratic counties — Mr. Bush would have kept his lead, according to the ballot review conducted for a consortium of news organizations.

But the consortium, looking at a broader group of rejected ballots than those covered in the court decisions, 175,010 in all, found that Mr. Gore might have won if the courts had ordered a full statewide recount of all the rejected ballots. This also assumes that county canvassing boards would have reached the same conclusions about the disputed ballots that the consortium’s independent observers did. The findings indicate that Mr. Gore might have eked out a victory if he had pursued in court a course like the one he publicly advocated when he called on the state to “count all the votes.”

In addition, the review found statistical support for the complaints of many voters, particularly elderly Democrats in Palm Beach County, who said in interviews after the election that confusing ballot designs may have led them to spoil their ballots by voting for more than
one candidate.

More than 113,000 voters cast ballots for two or more presidential candidates. Of those, 75,000 chose Mr. Gore and a minor candidate; 29,000 chose Mr. Bush and a minor candidate. Because there was no clear indication of what the voters intended, those numbers were not included in the consortium’s final tabulations. “

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/12/politics/12VOTE.html


–FM

E-mail #2

—–Original Message—–
From: Tom Blackburn
Sent: Thursday, November 14, 2002 9:52 AM
To: Farhad Manjoo
Subject: Gore Won Florida

Dear Mr. Manjoo,

It’s hard for me to believe that you are as uninformed as you pretend to be. Let me explain this to you as simply as I can.

In my previous e-mail I stated the simple fact that “in every scenario where all the votes were counted, Al Gore won.” If you look at the data that I just forwarded to you, you will see that this is the case.

I realize that you are using very deceptive language here to avoid telling what actually occurred. You apparently want to leave the reader with the false impression that George W. Bush would have won the election even if the Supreme Court had not intervened.

I do not know if this is a line in the editorial policy of Salon that you are not allowed to cross or whether you, on your own, are intentionally misleading the reader.

Your statement “dozens of news organizations spent months and millions of dollars to try to determine whom the state had really chosen to be president” contains two lies.

The first is that the news organizations spent months trying to determine the winner. The news organizations did not spend a single minute trying to determine anything. They hired the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. They then lied about the results.

The second lie in your statement is that the news organizations tried to determine who was “really chosen” by the voters. It became painfully obvious after the media consortium published the results of the NORC recount (after many delays), that their real interest was in showing that Bush won and being unable to do that, they decided to distort the results in the way that the New York Times did, in the excerpt you sent me. I am currently working with someone on a documentary film on the media and this very subject is something we chose to highlight.

Look, your article repeats the lie that the media consortium started, as though it were fact. In addition, you added a few lines of your own in order to lead the reader into believing that the media companies actually looked into this themselves. I stand completely by my original statement.

You sir, unfortunately, are no different than most of the journalists in this country today. You are a shill for the corporate agenda of
your empl
oyer. Trying to defend your position by sending me the Times article is nothing more than a silly exercise in cynicism. You know what you’re doing in your article, and so do I.

Sincerely,

Thomas R. Blackburn

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Gore Won Florida
Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2002 10:04:18 -0800
From: Farhad Manjoo
Reply-To:
To: Tom Blackburn

Tom,

Say you’ve caught me; say, just for a moment, just for pretend because it makes you feel good, that you’ve tripped upon the boot of a larger body of conspiracy, a Web of lies and distortions designed, as you say, to “shill for the corporate agenda.”

I want to know: 1) What would be my motive and my employer’s motive to do so? To cover up the truth as you see it? What would be the NYT’s motive? Can you think of one good reason why the NYT would “lie” to protect the president?

2) And how do you explain, then, your curious forest-for-the-trees failing?

Isn’t it curious, Tom, that the very article in which I pushed this corporate agenda was about how corporations are trying to take over democracy? Either you didn’t see that, or you’re so thick in the soup of conspiracy that you believe the whole thing to be a deception: you’re the type who believes that everything you read that doesn’t conform to your personal version of the truth must be a deliberate lie, aren’t you?


I haven’t yet had the time to look at the evidence you so kindly uncovered and provided me; when I do, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. But I’d just like you to know that neither I nor Salon nor anyone else is cowed by corporate or government agents into disagreeing with your personal view of the truth.

Believe it or not, we don’t need to be conscripted by third parties in order to issue statements not in line with your politics.

–FM

Darkness growing in the Sunshine State

Published on Monday, July 17, 2006 by CommonDreams.org

Florida’s Fear of History: New Law Undermines Critical Thinking
by Robert Jensen

One way to measure the fears of people in power is by the intensity of their quest for certainty and control over knowledge.

By that standard, the members of the Florida Legislature marked themselves as the folks most terrified of history in the United States when last month they took bold action to become the first state to outlaw historical interpretation in public schools. In other words, Florida has officially replaced the study of history with the imposition of dogma and effectively outlawed critical thinking.

Although U.S. students are typically taught a sanitized version of history in which the inherent superiority and benevolence of the United States is rarely challenged, the social and political changes unleashed in the 1960s have opened up some space for a more honest accounting of our past. But even these few small steps taken by some teachers toward collective critical self-reflection are too much for many Americans to bear.

Read more.

It isn't just the DRE machines

UPDATE:

>Folks – Eleanor’s story [below] is why I’m advocating for no more secret
>ballots. All votes should be a matter of public record.
>
>Lynn Landes
>http://www.ecotalk.org/VotingSecurity.htm

Dear Ilene Proctor,

There were no electronic machines in our district, the heart of the Busby-Bilbray district. they were instead very fragile, tacky, old cardboard election boxes in which you dropped your traditional ballot. Inexplicably, the machine refused to accept my husband’s completed ballot. I tried mine as well, but the same thing happened, though the woman before us had had no trouble. A poll watcher rushed over, adjusted the machine and said it was working again. We expected to slip our ballots into the box then, but the man stopped us, saying our votes had already rung up. I said I didn’t care, my vote was not in the box yet and I was going to insert it. The man literally grabbed our ballots out of our hands and shoved them into another box, which he said was the one containing the absentee ballots. I protested but he claimed they would be counted along with the absentee votes. I said I was very angry about this. But it was already done and he said he couldn’t open it to remove our ballots.

He had literally grabbed the ballots out of our hands so quickly that I remember thinking that that would be how a mugger might have grabbed our wallets on a supermarket line, the element of surprise making us ripe for the plucking.

I have used absentee ballots on occasion in the past. There are very strict rules about the envelope protecting the enclosed ballot, how the voter must sign his or her signature only, etc. At the least sign of non-compliance, the ballot would be eliminated from consideration. Was it possible that 2 naked Democratic Party ballots without envelopes would be counted when they were found in the wrong box? Hardly. I was furious and shocked to have been so blatantly disenfranchised.. I called the Busby headquarters as soon as I got home. They took down the information, said they would get back to me within the next few days, but we never heard from them again.

Please look into the older system as well as the newer electronic system. I am still angry about what happened to us. These are people who will stop at nothing to manipulate our electoral process.

We have decided to only vote absentee from now on. This is unfortunate since we enjoy the act of voting in person.

Eleanor A.

More on the McKinney race

APN will be discussing this this story and others Thursday on WRFG Radio that’s Radio Free Georgia 1205pm, 7/20/06, 89.3 on Adam Shapiro’s Current Events show…

Machine Vote-Flipping Claimed in McKinney Primary
By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor and National Correspondent, Atlanta Progressive News (July 18, 2006)

(APN) ATLANTA -“You’ve got electronic voting machines. Many people called in and shared their concern. They pushed the button for Cynthia McKinney and Hank Johnson came up. It wasn’t one time, it wasn’t two times, it was many, many times,” Karen Fitzpatrick, who has been monitoring elections for US Rep. McKinney’s re-election campaign, told Atlanta Progressive News in an exclusive interview.

Let me repeat: The McKinney Campaign says they have documented complaints of voters here in Georgia whose votes FLIPPED BEFORE THEIR VERY EYES on Diebold machines.

“It started early this morning. There were well over 25 to 30 calls that came in [to the campaign office]. Many of them went to the poll manager [after this happened]. In some cases, the poll managers said there’s nothing we can do. In some cases the voter left frustrated as if their vote had been compromised, as if it had been stolen,” Fitzpatrick said.

Read more.

Government arrests Al-Jazeera bureau chief in Israel

Israel | 18.07.2006
l-Jazeera bureau chief freed on bail

Reporters Without Borders hailed the release of Al-Jazeera bureau chief Walid Al-Omari on bail yesterday but reiterated its appeal to the Israeli authorities to stop harassing the Qatar-based TV news station’s journalists and called on the judicial authorities to drop all charges against Omari.

In a phone call with his editors following his release, Omari said: “It is clear that certain parties want to obstruct Al-Jazeera’s coverage of events.” Al-Jazeera stressed that Omari’s release was subject to payment of bail.

Omari was arrested by Israeli police for the second time in two days on the morning of 17 July while covering the armed clashes taking place in the Akka region of northern Israel, near the Lebanese border.

Read more.

California suit moves forward

California Voters’ Suit to Block Electronic Voting Machines Remanded Back to State Court
July 18, 2006

Oakland, CA — As a first-step to victory in a California voters’ lawsuit against Secretary of State Bruce McPherson to block the State’s use of Diebold touch-screen electronic voting systems – which have a well-documented history of security, reliability, and verifiability problems,” the United States District Court in Oakland today entered an order remanding the voter plaintiffs’ lawsuit to the California Superior Court in San Francisco, where it was originally filed on March 21, 2006. The Court’s decision in Holder v. McPherson, et al. rejected an effort by California Attorney Bill Lockyer, Secretary of State McPherson’s attorney, to transfer the case from state to federal court.

The Court’s decision was announced today by the law firm of Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin in San Francisco and the Law Offices of Lowell Finley in Berkeley, co-counsels for the California voter plaintiffs, and Voter Action, which is supporting the legal action in California. Voter Action is also supporting similar cases in Colorado, Arizona, and New York. In response to the California voters’ lawsuit, elections officials in seven California counties have signed affidavits that they will not use Diebold touch screens for the November elections. Twelve California counties remain in the suit, as well as Secretary of State McPherson.

In her written order granting the plaintiffs’ motion to remand their lawsuit to California Superior Court in San Francisco, Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong of the US District Court for Northern California concluded that the Attorney General’s attempt to move the case to federal court was “legally improper”.

“The Court’s decision is a victory for California voters, who need to know if their right to have their votes recorded and counted accurately will be protected, and local elections officials who will need time to make alternative arrangements if the Court agrees that the only way to protect those rights is to prohibit use of Diebold touch-screen voting machines,” said Jason Takenouchi, an attorney for the plaintiffs and an associate at of Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin.

“Had the Secretary of State and Attorney General succeeded, the courts of their own state would have been stripped of their power to decide whether California’s constitution and election laws prohibit use of Diebold touch-screen electronic voting machines, which are vulnerable to hacking, losing and switching votes, and are difficult if not impossible to audit,” said Lowell Finley, co-counsel for the California voter plaintiffs, co-director of Voter Action, and election law expert. “The only thing they gained was months of delay, leaving voters and county elections officials uncertain about what voting equipment they will be using in the November elections.”

“The California voter plaintiffs have a powerful and well-documented challenge to the Secretary of State’s illegal certification of the Diebold touch-screens. The Secretary of State is asleep at the switch, and only the court can prevent a train wreck in the November election,” said Lowell Finley.

“The Secretary of State has abdicated his duty, as it is impossible to make electronic voting systems acceptably transparent, accurate and secure as required by law,” said Holly Jacobson, co-director of Voter Action. “Optical -scan paper balloting is a much better, less expensive, and more secure option, which is why it has been selected in New Mexico, Michigan, and hundreds of counties across the country.”

Voter Action, www.voteraction.org, is a not for profit organization providing legal, research and logistical support for grassroots efforts to ensure the integrity of elections in the United States. Voter Action supported successful litigation in New Mexico to block purchase and use of the types of voting machines that are most prone to error and most vulnerable to tampering, and is currently supporting similar efforts in Arizona, Colorado, and New York. Voter Action is a project of the International Humanities Center, a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Thank you for your continued support of Voter Action.

web: http://www.voteraction.org

A victory in New York

In a key win for verifiable voting advocates, four companies have submitted precinct ballot scanners for New York State certification testing.

For years voting machine vendors have tried to keep ballot scanners unavailable to New York. A comment in 2004 to Assembly woman Sandy Galef from the president of ES&S – “New York is a DRE state” shows the presumption that electronic touch screen voting was to be the only alternative for New Yorkers.

But ongoing advocacy by citizens calling for paper ballot systems forced voting machine vendors to begin demonstrating paper ballot scanners in New York. But until this week, there was no guarantee that any vendor would actually submit a scanner system for certification. If no vendor submitted a system, there would be no paper based system available for counties to choose as an alternative to DREs.

But yesterday, the State Board of Elections announced that four vendors had submitted precinct based ballot scanners for certification testing. The growing citizen demand for adoption of paper ballot systems has won another key victory, and an essential step in the battle for paper ballots.

The State Board reports that the following companies have submitted systems for certification:

Avante – One DRE system; One ballot scanner system
ES&S – One DRE system; One ballot scanner system
Diebold – One DRE system; One ballot scanner system
Sequoia – Two DRE systems; One ballot scanner system
Liberty – One DRE system
Populex – One ballot marking system

We are still a long, long way from adopting paper ballot based voting in New York. But this was an essential step along the path.

Congratulations to verifiable voting advocates around New York State, this win belongs to you!

-Bo Lipari

Peace, Liz

You don't want to stay? You pay!

Even if you’re dead.

TPMmuckraker July 18, 2006 02:55 PM
State Dept.: No Free Evacuations for Dead Americans, Either
By Paul Kiel – July 18, 2006, 2:55 PM

Alive or dead, Uncle Sam doesn’t give any free rides.

Earlier I noted that the State Department, in stark contrast to the Canadian government, is requiring U.S. citizens caught in Lebanon to pay for the cost of their evacuation. (Rep. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has since weighed in, saying that this was no time “for quibbling over payment for evacuation.”)

I called up the State Department to ask about the policy. “We are not standing there with a cash box asking people to pay before they get on the boat,” spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus told me. But if they don’t pay (by check, no cash or credit cards accepted), or sign a form promising to pay, they don’t go. It’s the law: “Reasonable commercial air fare” shall be charged to all evacuees.

What if they’re dead?

Read more.

McKinney getting Diebolded?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jocco Baccus
July 18, 2006

DIEBOLD ELECTRONIC MACHINES MALFUNCTION, VOTE FOR OTHER CANDIDATE

(Decatur) After one hour of voting, the McKinney campaign has received numerous calls that the voting machines are malfunctioning. Voters casting votes for McKinney are reportedly having their votes switched by the machines for Hank Johnson. This is not a new problem with Diebold machines. Lawyers for the campaign have been alerted and said that If this situation is not corrected, Cynthia McKinney for Congress will be forced to take additional measures.