Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Friday, January 27, 2006

HOLDING RIGHT-WING POWER: BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY


For GOP voters, the 2004 presidential election was little short of miraculous: Behind in the Electoral College even on the afternoon of the vote, the Bush-Cheney ticket staged a stunning comeback. Usually reliable exit polls turned out to be wrong by an unprecedented 5 percent in swing states. Conservatives argued, and the media agreed, that "moral values" had made the difference.

In his latest book, Fooled Again: How The Right Stole The 2004 Election, And Why They'll Steal The Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them), Mark Crispin Miller argues that it wasn't moral values which swung the election -- it was theft.

TERRENCE McNALLY: You're a professor of media studies. According to your bio, you write about "film, television, propaganda, advertising and the culture industries …" Why did you write this book?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Out of a sense of civic emergency. I believe that "Fooled Again" makes the case quite persuasively that there is actually no convincing evidence that Bush and Cheney won re-election.

This is a civic story of the utmost importance. It has to do with the dire need for election reform in the United States. But it's also a story about the colossal failure of the American press to do precisely the kind of job that the framers had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment. What they had in mind was that the press would function as a reliable check on executive power. It would keep the people informed about what their government was up to, and it would keep them politically engaged in national debate.

The newspapers, as limited and defective as they were in the 18th century, did perform that function, and I believe they performed that function for much of our history. We now have a corporate media system that is not answerable to the people nor concerned about the people, but [is] in the service of its pay masters. And it is far too close to the government for the health of anything like a democratic system.

One of the points of "Fooled Again" is that this is a story of tremendous importance, as far as a democracy is concerned. Yet the press has for the most part ridiculed those who have come up with very solid evidence of fraud. They've been in the business less of talking about the situation than of preventing anybody else from talking about it. And this includes some of the progressive media as well. In fact, the most hostile reviews that I've received have been in Mother Jones and Salon.

TM: I read the transcript of you on Democracy Now! with Mark Hertsgaard, a progressive journalist who has been fairly dismissive of those questioning Bush's victory. By the end he seemed to be agreeing that everything should be more fully investigated.

I would think that the 2004 election story, if tracked and broken, would be huge for whoever breaks it. Any other thoughts about why it's so ignored?

MCM: We have to understand that for some decades the press has served basically an establishmentarian function. They have the reputation, and they certainly have the self-image, of being terribly skeptical, prone to disrespectful questions, probing dark matters that authority would just as soon have them leave alone. That's a very flattering view of the press but completely undeserved. The press will not deal with any story that goes beyond a particular scandal to cast doubt on the very viability of the entire system. The press in this country will studiously ignore any story that too violently rocks the boat, whose implications are too shattering.

This is not new. Watergate was a story that the press avoided for months and months. Only the Washington Post pursued that story; everybody else made fun of it. Now we look back on Watergate with tremendous nostalgia and self-congratulation, telling ourselves the press saved the system. But since Watergate the press has preferred to deal with meaningless and trivial scandals like the Clinton scandals. They will not talk about 9/11, they will not talk about the theft of the last three elections.

TM: You also include the 2002 congressional election. That one also broke too consistently against predictions?

MCM: That's exactly right. In Colorado, in Minnesota, in Georgia, and in a couple of other states -- there was what we might call "Diebold magic" everywhere. In all these states, you had far-right-wing politicians predicted to lose by pre-election newspaper polls and by exit polls, and all of them won.

TM: Why do you believe the two successive Democratic candidates have given in so easily?

MCM: I think basically Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry this last time are far too concerned with establishment opinion, far too worried that they'll seem to be sore losers, conspiracy theorists, etc. They have therefore refused to go public with what they actually believe. Kerry told me personally on October 28th at a fundraising party that he believes the election was probably stolen.

TM: He then disavowed that in the press, didn't he?

MCM: Exactly -- a few hours after the story broke. The Democratic Party is as much a part of the problem as the Republican Party.

TM: Are there exceptions among the ranks of mainstream politicians? I think of Barbara Boxer and John Conyers. Any others?

MCM: Tom Daschle has told me he thinks very highly of the book and has given me permission to quote him to that effect. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Rush Holt. There are growing numbers of Democratic politicians who are willing to take the risks of facing the truth on this issue.

Let's put it less dogmatically. All right, maybe I haven't proven that the election was stolen, but I am completely confident that I've provided ample grounds for a serious investigation of what went on last year. It seems to me that any Democrat who refuses to even go for that kind of inquiry is really failing his or her constituency.

TM: -- and failing the voters. As a citizen, it bothers me that we leave it to a Gore or a Kerry, who's thinking about his future reputation or his future career, to stage the protest. I don't care about their careers. I care about my vote getting counted or discounted.

What's the statement that you're willing to make in "Fooled Again" about the 2004 election: stolen? worthy of investigation? evidence clearly shows in six states …?

MCM: The evidence in Ohio, as anyone who followed the story knows, is copious. Bush allegedly won that state by 118,000 votes. As I point out -- and this part of the book is largely based on John Conyers' report to the House Judiciary Committee -- the various stratagems, tricks and tactics used to prevent people from registering, to prevent them from voting, to throw away provisional ballots -- all these add up to a number far greater than 118,000.

TM:: That's news to me. Many people have said, yes, there were long lines, yes, there was disproportionate distribution of voting machines, yes, there was trouble with provisional ballots, yes, there was intimidation -- but the margin was 120,000. You're saying that they add up to over 120,000?

MCM: Oh easily, easily. It was in the urban parts of Ohio that most of this stuff went down. All the urban centers in Ohio were Democratic. If people want to get a strong sense of what was happening at the grassroots level coast to coast last year, go to a website called the Election Incident Reporting System, EIRS. Then type in the name of a state or a county, and you'll get a transcript of all the complaints that were lodged that day by people who called 1-866-MY-VOTE.

Now a lot of them couldn't get through because it was understaffed, but those who did get through left messages. You can find copious firsthand evidence of what the average person had to go through to try to vote against Bush. This didn't happen only in Ohio. Electronic touchscreen machines flipped Kerry votes into Bush votes in at least 11 states.

TM: You say similar practices (and occasionally worse ones) were applied in several other key states -- Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and even New York?

MCM: In New Mexico, for example, we're told that Bush won by some 7,000 votes. We know of over 17,000 Democratic voters who were unable to cast a vote for president because the touchscreen machines in their districts refused to record a vote for president.

These 17,000-plus New Mexicans turned out to vote in Democratic areas, and they didn't record a vote for president. Seventeen thousand is 10,000 more than 7,000. That glitch alone can account for the ostensible victory margin of Bush over Kerry in New Mexico. Greg Palast's new book will have a whole chapter on New Mexico. It's hair-raising stuff, and we haven't heard a word about it. The same kind of thing happened in Iowa, where Bush supposedly won by under 10,000 votes.

Tom Daschle was supposedly beaten in South Dakota by 4,500 votes. There was so much chicanery going on there, that it's easy to argue that John Thunes should not have won. I know Daschle believes he was robbed.

This isn't only a matter of the White House, it's also a matter of the Congress. I don't believe that this government represents the people of this country. The people of this country, however frightened some of them may be by terrorism, are essentially not theocratically inclined. They don't want a Christian republic. They were not happy with the way the government dealt with the Terry Schiavo case. Americans basically believe in the American system of government. Checks and balances, the separation of church and state.

The press kept telling us after the election that a huge outpouring of religious voters account for Bush's miraculous victory. Well that's nothing more than a talking point that the religious right itself put out after the election. There is no statistical evidence whatsoever that there was any increase in the number of religious voters.

TM: The big thing that people seized on was one particular exit poll in which people, when given a choice of a few things, said moral values was the No. 1 reason for their vote. More people answered moral values in 1996 and in 2000 than in 2004. There was actually a drop in the number of people who attributed their vote to moral values in 2004, not a rise.

Let me check a couple of things with you. I've heard that exit polls were most inaccurate -- by a big margin -- in those areas that used electronic voting machines with no paper trail. True?

MCM: That's basically true, and it was particularly noticeable in five swing states. There's a lot of stuff floating around out there in cyberspace about the exit polls. The question of the exit polls has been very badly muddied by a lot of disingenuous argument. Now a lot of people think that it's not a reliable gauge, it doesn't tell us anything. That's actually the result of propaganda obfuscation. The exit polls' sudden divergence, sudden wrongness in these five states is really a remarkable deviation from the norm.

The guy doing the best work on that particular issue is a statistician at the University of Pennsylvania named Steve Freeman, who will have a book coming out in a few months primarily about the exit poll question.

Bogus reasons for why the exit polls were so wrong include the reluctant responder argument, which holds that Bush voters were strangely reluctant to tell exit pollsters how they voted. Well, Freeman has read the raw data at precinct level and has discovered that, as a matter of fact, if anyone showed a greater reluctance to come forward and say honestly who they voted for when confronted with an exit pollster, it was actually the Democrats. There's no evidence of any numerical kind that can support the view that somehow Republicans wouldn't fess up.

TM: I would assume that the very ones being referred to as reluctant are the ones who would be proud to say they voted for God's candidate.

MCM: One of the weirdest things about this whole election business is that one of the two parties has, for over the last year and longer, been vociferously complaining about the dangers of election fraud, and that's the Republican party.

TM: Thus the ID card in Georgia, right?

MCM: Exactly. They're the ones who are always screaming about Democratic fraud, but the Republicans in this last race were really the only ones engaging in election fraud.

This has to do with the peculiarly paranoid quality of the crusading mindset. I believe this theft was to a great extent carried out thanks to a kind of crusader mentality. I've got plenty of evidence in the book that the religious right played an enormously large role in the theft of the election last year.

TM: I think first of Diebold, I think of the Ken Blackwells or the Kathryn Harrises. How does the religious right itself play a role beyond mobilizing its own troops?

MCM: That mobilization is significant when you consider that a lot of those troops have actually become embedded inside the election system.

TM: Local polling officials, that sort of thing?

MCM: One Democratic election judge tried to observe the vote count in Pima County, Arizona. A roomful of polling personnel who all belonged to the same evangelical church in the area started to call him a liberal demon, a liberal scum.

TM: When you talk about a crusader mentality, you basically mean that if you do not support my candidate you are an infidel -- and the ends justify the means?

MCM: Precisely. See, all these crimes that I attest to in the book were committed with impunity by people who regard their political adversaries as demons. And that's not an exaggeration. You know, this government is to a great extent dominated by people who have that metaphysical view of the current political situation.

It is a very serious mistake I believe to think that all of this is happening only because of the excessive greed of certain corporate powers. That greed is decisive It played an enormous role. There is no question about it. But it could not have succeeded without the vigorous grassroots assistance of a lot of people who are religious true believers. And I think that they include the likes of Tom DeLay and others.

TM: I've heard that almost all irregularities worked in Bush's favor. True?

MCM: Absolutely true. I have not yet heard of a single example of a touchscreen voting machine flipping a Bush vote into a Kerry vote. This does not mean it never happened. I'm just saying I haven't heard about it if it has.

TM: I've read that in New Hampshire, Ralph Nader's Green Party campaign paid for an actual recount. They picked the precincts they thought were suspicious, and the hand recount confirmed the actual vote totals and showed that the exit polls were, in fact, wrong. What do you say to that?

MCM: Well, the recount that they paid for found no evidence of fraud in that particular case.

TM: It confirmed the hand recount, showing that the exit polls were in fact wrong. So how does that fit your analysis of the whole scheme?

MCM: The only thing one can say about that with any scientific certainty is that the particular hand count that they carried out did not reveal any evidence of fraud. That does not mean that no fraud was committed. This is a very fine point, but when we're dealing with questions of electoral honesty and accuracy, I think we have the right to make fine points. The distinction must be made -- that particular hand count involved a sample, that sample revealed no fraud, but that does not mean that we can then sit back and say, well, OK, so the exit polls were wrong.

TM: To the question "What is the point of revisiting the last election?" you point out that there has never been a great reform that was not driven by a major scandal. Do you believe that true election reform is not going to happen until the people and the media finally wake up to this?

MCM: I think it's going to depend on the people. It's going to depend on the people simply and irresistibly insisting that the media finally deal with this subject. That's why I wrote the book.

Interviewer Terrence McNally hosts Free Forum on KPFK 90.7FM, Los Angeles (streaming at kpfk.org).

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

PEAK OIL AND CIVIL LIBERTIES - IN THE SIGHTS OF THE GUN


George W. Bush is on a campaign to justify his war on the American people. He and his team are now appearing everywhere to convince us that spying on us is "good for us." They are saying that intercepting domestic communications is legal. The big lie, repeated often enough, becomes the truth. And it wears the opposition down. Bush is big time into showing all of us that he "won't give up." He wants to protect us.

I believe this is the first-step in conditioning the American people to get used to martial law. We are soon to have a Supreme Court that will give the "president" maximum authority. They will make Bush the king and put the "law of the land" ribbon on top for good measure.

This must be done because of the coming economic turndown that is bound to happen when you are spending $500 billion on a war in Iraq and jobs are leaving the country the way they are. In the past 10 years over $1.3 trillion of American companies have been bought by foreign investors. The U.S. economy is hanging by a thread.

Add to that the reality of peak oil and you can see we are in the sights of the loaded gun. Peak oil means that the world is running out of fossil fuels and experts predict that prices are going to rise for oil, and oil based products, dramatically in the next few years. When that happens food production becomes overwhelmingly expensive, home heating oil becomes overwhelmingly expensive, driving cars or flying becomes overwhelmingly expensive. The economy hits the wall. The people begin to yell and scream and hit the streets. By that time Bush has set in motion the shutdown of freedom of speech in the USA.

Saudi Arabia is reported to be pumping 70% water out of its oil wells these days. When that happens you know we are in trouble.

The way out won't be biofuels - the growing of corn and turning it to fuel. We are going to need all available arable land for food production, which will suddenly be very labor intensive, as oil for tractors and fertilizers becomes cost prohibitive.

We are going to need massive installation of solar but right now Japan is the world's primary producer of solar panels and Germany is buying them all up. There are waiting lists to purchase solar panels. We need to expand solar production and windmill production in the U.S. right now!

When gas hits $7, $8, $10 per gallon we will need an alternative. Hell, we need one now. It is called public mass transit. We need local, state, and national rail systems to go under production today. Forget trying to power your car with vegetable oil. We need trains. We need to get on our bicycles.

Conservation will become a major source of energy. What we don't use won't have to be replaced. This is something that the energy wasting U.S. economy will have to learn and learn fast.

The corporate and political world will suggest we go nuclear so we can continue the mass produced, centralized power system. And when electrical power costs hit the wall, many people will want to go for that quick and "easy" solution. Already we are seeing the early stages of a campaign by the nuclear power industry to prepare the people for this "solution." But nuclear power is not a solution. The massive amount of nuclear waste will remain a huge problem. And we need to move away from "centralized" power. We need to decentralize power creation and distribution. The way to do that is with solar and wind. The problem with solar and wind is that the big corporations can't hook up the meter to it and make you pay them every month the way they now do with coal, oil and nuclear.

The next ten years are going to be very difficult times for us. That is why we all must begin to talk today about where we must go before it is too late. We must talk to each other daily about solar, wind power, and public transportation. We must turn our front and back yards, now heavy fertilized useless green lawns, into healthy organic gardens producing our food. Local food production will literally mean survival.

The sooner we begin to turn this ship the better our future will be. Discount these warnings as ravings of a mad man at your own peril.

Fight for free speech, the right to peacefully assemble, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures now before it is too late. Bush, and his right-wing Extreme Court, are coming with the clamp down.

Monday, January 23, 2006

SECURITY EXPORT TO BE JOB # 1


Ford Motor Company announced today that it will be cutting as many as 30,000 jobs and will shut down 14 factories as a result of continuing losses.

Ford, now hires about 123,000 workers in North America and lost $5.5 billion in those operations in 2005.

General Motors Corporation last year decided to close all or part of 12 plants and 30,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2008.

With China's recent introduction of a car selling for $10,000 in the U.S., Ford and GM have hit the wall. They have been building big SUV's in recent years and now that gas prices are rising dramatically their sales are dropping significantly. The workers on the China car are making $3.50 an hour compared to the good wages and benefits at the unionized auto plants in the U.S.

Television manufacturing in China pays workers there about 50 cents an hour. Thus TV manufacturing is virtually non-existent in the U.S. any more. On and on the story goes......

Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld has a "strategy guy" by the name of Thomas Barnett. Barnett's job is to teach "military transformation" to high level Pentagon officers and CIA operatives. I've seen Barnett on C-SPAN several times during the past year saying that we are not going to have industrial jobs in the U.S. anymore. The big corporations will move overseas where production costs can be significantly lowered.

America's role in corporate globalization will be "security export" says Barnett. We will build the weapons systems and send our children into endless war in order to protect the profits of the corporate elite. Under corporate globalization, Barnett says, there are places called "the non-integrating gap" that have not yet submitted to the authority of the new world order. The job of the U.S. will be to go into the "non-integrating gap" and make sure these countries comply with the dictates of corporate globalization.

Barnett has identified the gap as the Middle East (where we fight in Iraq today), Central Asia (where we are now building six permanent bases in Afghanistan), Africa (where Barnett says the U.S. will be fighting for oil 20 years from now), and Latin America (where you have Venezuela and others not carrying the water for big business).

Barnett says that the U.S. won't do international treaties anymore because they would limit the ability of the Pentagon to do preemptive first-strike attack on any country that is not complying with corporate globalization.

What does this mean for social spending back home? As the job base dries up in the U.S. so will the tax base at the local-state-federal levels. There will increasingly be cuts in social programs. Education will be cut and privatized so that only the children of the rich can afford, without incurring massive debt, a college education. Thus the only real job prospects for many young people will be in the military - endless warriors. Thus the Pentagon's statement that there will be no need for a draft. When the military is the only job around legions of poor and working class kids will have few other options.

This is the not-so-bright picture that the corporate dominated government of the U.S. is creating for us. It will become a reality if we don't begin to protest now against this re-introduction of feudalism. We must fight to have a fair tax system in the U.S. that does not let the rich, powerful, and corporate elite get away with not paying taxes. We must fight for public education and affordable college options for our kids. We must fight to create new jobs in manufacturing sustainable technologies like solar, wind power and public mass transit systems. We must fight for health care for all. And we must escalate our educational work and action now, before it becomes too late.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

U.S. IS ADDICTED TO WAR