So, Jimmy Carter and James Baker are sitting at a table, and Carter starts talking about the disastrous election of 2000 in Florida.... It sounds like the start of a joke. It was actually the start of the first meeting of the Baker-Carter Commission on Federal Election Reform in Washington, D.C., on April 18th. Baker didn't do much bragging about his role in Florida. In fact, there was more than one occasion during the meeting on which Baker notably kept silent. But, more on that later.
The primary question in the minds of many people I spoke to in the meeting and outside it was: "What the heck is James Baker doing on a commission to reform elections?" Former President Carter said more than once that Baker had been his first choice to co-chair the commission and was his second favorite Republican (second to Gerald Ford). Carter and Baker once worked together on monitoring elections in Nicaragua. Baker said he was encouraged to participate by President Bush and Republican party leaders.
Some background on the creation of this odd-couple commission can be found on Brad Blog, which reports that a group called the American Center for Voting Rights appeared out of nowhere on March 17th, was the only voting rights organization to testify at a U.S. House committee hearing on the 2004 election on March 21st, and praised the Baker-Carter Commission on March 24th just 24 minutes after its creation was announced to the surprise of real voting rights groups. ACVR, as Brad Blog reports, was created by Jim Dyke, the Communications Director for the Republican National Committee and Mark F. (Thor) Hearne, the lead National Counsel for Bush/Cheney '04 Inc. The group's tax status is 501c3, which requires that its activities be non-partisan, and its representative never mentioned in congressional testimony its relationship with the RNC and Bush/Cheney. http://www.BradBlog.com/ACVR.htmhttp://democrats.com/blogcall8
Those involved in voting rights issues are aware that, unlike Republican-chaired hearings in Washington, hearings held in Ohio in the months following last year's election included many points of view and resulted in a 102-page report on election fraud in that state. The driving force behind those hearings and the subsequent January challenge to the Ohio results in Congress was Ranking Democratic Member of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers.
Hence the second question in many people's minds on Monday: "Why the heck wasn't Congressman Conyers testifying at this meeting?" The short answer is that the commission would not allow him to do so. This letter that Conyers sent to Carter on April 11 should shed some light on why.
In this letter, Conyers does two things that were not done by any speakers on Monday. He questions the inclusion of Baker on the commission, and he questions the validity of the official results in the Bush-Kerry election.
That's right. An election reform commission has been created in the wake of massive public outrage over an election, and following the historic challenge in Congress of the Ohio results, and not a single speaker at Monday's meeting raised the question of whether the election system functioned adequately to conclude that Bush won the 2004 election.
[. . .]
Last week, Progressive Democrats of America and a coalition of other organizations submitted a list of recommendations for the commission to propose:
* Constitutional right to vote for all citizens, without exception
* Paper ballots as the official record of all votes cast
* Open source code for all machines used to count and/or tabulate the votes
* Independent analysis of all voting machine software and hardware before and after elections
* Unified national standards for national elections
* No vote machine company executive or employee involvement in campaign work for any candidate
* Random audit of 10% of elections
* 10-day period for voting
* Election day registration
* Voter identification by any official form of identification
* Independent non-partisan administration and multi-partisan observation of elections
* Voting rights restoration to convicted felons
* No computer networking of vote machines
* Publicly financed elections for federal offices and free access to public airwaves to all candidates
* Fair ballot access laws and access to debates for all candidates and parties
* Federal holiday for national elections
* Instant Run-off Voting and Proportional Representation
* Equal protection for voting rights nationwide
* Augmentation and reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act
The above is from an article sent in by Heath, David Swanson's "The Half-Baked Baker Carter Commission" (DC Indymedia). Moving from the Carter Commission to this month's earlier National Election Reform Conference, Lyndsey e-mails Rose Davis' "David Cobb at the National Election Reform Conference" (Tennesse Indymedia):
I was very fortunate to be able to attend the National Election Reform Conference held in Nashville on April 9th. David Cobb was one of the many speakers at the conference. David was the 2004 Green Party Presidental Candidate. He continues to work on raising awareness regarding the fundamental flaws of the 2004 election by educating citizens about the wide evidence of voter intimidation, disenfranchisement, and voter fraud around the country that occurred in the 2004 election. Mr Cobb has been instramental in educating citizens about the illegitimate seizure of our government and economic institutions by helping design and implement grassroots strategies that exercise democratic power over corporations and our government. David Cobb asked us to have a look at the legacy of our first "democratic" governments where only rich, white men were allowed to vote. We must create a true democracy by using the tools available to us, such as community radio(WRFN,Radio Free Nashville), bloggers and the indepentent media. We must educate ourselves and others by learning the truth about what really happened during the last election especially in the states of Ohio, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina and all across the country. As you know, David Cobb and The Green Party raised the funds needed in just a few days to allow a recount in Ohio. But I'll bet you didn't know that of the 88 counties in Ohio, only 3 counties actually recounted their votes. You know, democracy is a radical idea. A democratic culture is one in which the people who are going to be impacted by the law actually have a voice. The CEOs of the multinational corporations rule us- as surely as the masters lead their slaves. These CEOs decide how much toxins are going into our food, our air, and water. They make decisions about our health care and our privacy.We need to have true democratic elections where every vote is counted and counted correctly by nonpartisan people. We need random recounts before the elections are certified. We need instant runoff voting using paper ballots, where you give your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices. They do this all over the world. This is not a radical idea. It is as easy as 1,2,3- a very easy and fair system. The only people who don't like this system are the incumbents. The same people who make the laws.In most states in the last election, people were ony given three choices in who to vote for. They were told that if they wrote in a vote for Davis Cobb, their vote would not be counted. Many people had the idea that they would be throwing away their vote of they voted for any one other than George Bush or John Kerry. The fact is, that most people voted against a candidate rather than for one. This is outragous. The only time you truly waste your vote is when you vote against your principles. If you are a Peace advocate, then you must vote for the Peace Candidate. The Green Party is the Peace Party believing that WAR SHOULD BE USED ONLY AS THE LAST RESORT.
[. . .]
The Green Party stands on these Four Key Pillars- Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy, Ecological Wisdom, and Nonviolence. If you would like to learn more about the Green Party and David Cobb, you can go to www.gp.org. There is also The Green Hour on WRFN 98.8, Sunday nights at 7pm.
From San Diego Indymedia, Thor e-mails "Breaking News from The Student Walk Out:"
About 350 students held a rally at City College on April 20th to protest the proposed budget cuts being put forth by the Governor.
After the rally, they held a spirited, loud march wiht drums, noisemakers and booming music through downtown to the State Department building where the Governor's office is. After rallying at the State Department building, the group began to march back. Present were supportive faculty members, organizers, college students and high school students from SDSU, UCSD, City College, Miramar College, Southwest College, SD High and more.
A breakaway march of about 50-75 people split off from the main group, outside of the lines of motorcycle cops and horse cops in riot gear. After an intense confrontation where the police pushed people, hit them with their motorcycles and bicycles, threatened them with batons and brought out a visciously marking police dog, the breakaway still refused to return to the main group.
Although they tried to move their march to the sidewalk, the police still refused to let them go and tried to negotiate the route. After the students refused negotiations, the police finally gave up and let the march continue on the sidewalk back to city college. Numerous attempts were made to retake the streets, but the police used their horses to push people back onto the street.
Clicking on the link will take you to additional reports on the walk out.
From Santa Barbara Indymedia, Lisa e-mails Philadelphia Rage's "June 18-21 *** Converge in Philadelphia *** BioDEMOCRACY / Reclaim the Commons!"
BIODEMOCRACY 2005: Reclaim the Commons!
Call to Action: Converge in Philadelphia, June 18th to 21st, 2005
CALLING ON ALL PEOPLE who resent the demise of democracy and hold to the promise of authentic popular empowerment! All who dare to paint poems of resistance on walls of oppression, dance in city streets in defiance of police states, and plant seeds of sedition in the shadows of Empire: come to Philadelphia! As the world’s leading agents of eco-devastation and medical malpractice meet here in June, we cannot stand quiet.
Join us to challenge the corporate crime, poisons for profit, and flagrant lies of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (www.bio.org), at the time of their annual international convention, with a creative uprising for truth, life and justice!
RECLAIM THE COMMONS!
We recall a custom much older than two-party Republics, in which croplands, grazing land and forests were a public domain that benefited the whole community and belonged exclusively to no one. In today's global society, our commons encompass the biological strata that sustain life on earth -- air, water, food, medicine, energy, biodiversity -- plus the means of communication, education and transit that connect us culturally.
Today, to a degree unprecedented in human history, corporations have seized this public wealth and privatized it to reap growing profits for a small and ever-shrinking elite. As public access to and control over the commons has eroded, so has true democracy. For democracy to thrive, for racial, economic, social and environmental justice to take deep root, and for sustainability to flourish ... we must reclaim our commons!
With their industrial exploitation of biotech research, agricultural, pharmaceutical and weapons-manufacturing corporations are now busily locking their greed into the most primal area of the commons, the genetic structures of life itself. At the expense of public health and ecological harmony, their profit-driven success hinges upon the global proliferation of dangerous genetically modified organisms (GMOs), disregarding the health needs of the poor while sinking money into science-fiction treatments of questionable safety, and governmental funding for deadly biological weapons deceptively classified as "biodefense."
The corporations gathering in Philadelphia this June are contaminating the world with genetically engineered crops at the expense of our health, popular food sovereignty and biodiversity. They are profiting from unsafe and costly designer drugs, whose side effects can be worse than the conditions they're aimed to treat, while raising the false hope that biotechnology carries the solution to all human ills.
In the name of "biodefense," they are profiting from the costliest expansion of research into high-tech weaponry since the Manhattan Project, developing new bioweapons and resurrecting old ones, and exposing our communities to the hazard of uncontrollable biological agents. To reclaim our nutrition, health and security ... we must resist their biotech!
PLANT REAL DEMOCRACY!
Sustainable, community-based alternatives to corporate biotech are possible and viable, and we are making them real! At our counter-convention in June, we will not only shine an educational spotlight on the dangers of GE food, medicine and weapons, but will also exhibit the grassroots eco-solutionstaking shape in our own communities.
The Philadelphia area is home to a fabulous array of community gardens and organic farms, food co-ops and urban nutrition initiatives, radical health collectives and advocates for universal public health care, groups of student environmentalists and war resisters, interfaith leaders for human rights and renewable energy, and diverse neighborhood coalitions against police brutality, the gutting of public services, and environmental injustice ...
We welcome this opportunity for local residents to come together and learn from each other, and for visiting activists to share energy and ideas from your home communities! With a shared commitment to putting our values and vision into action, we can and will counter their corporate bio-devastation with our peaceful uprising for BIODEMOCRACY!
To be involved with the BIODEMOCRACY 2005 mobilization, please contact:
Philadelphia RAGE (Resistance Against Genetic Engineering) at phillyrage (at) riseup.net -- (215) 222 4711 (ask for Nathaniel) -- or leave a message toll-free at 877-806-2871.
For updates about the mobilization -- send a blank email to: biodev-subscribe (at) lists.riseup.net
And check these websites in the coming months:
"Because disease and starvation will not be solved by corporations!"
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org.