Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy Holidays

Hi all. I've taken a bit of a break, but I resolve that after the new year, I'll be back to daily postings. We've had a revolving door of family and houseguests for the holidays and the it has left the tinfoil crew a bit tired. Some final thoughts from 2004 to leave you with:

  • Coverage of the Tom Feeney (R-Florida) vote rigging scandal is starting to heat up on the Brad Blog.

  • Keith Olbermann and others are reporting that Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) will challenge the Ohio electors, and is looking for a senator to join him. It seems to be a largely symbolic gesture, since the challenge is decided by a majority vote in each house of Congress. It makes me wonder . . . if Kerry had won Ohio (and the election), could Republicans have used a challenge to invalidate the vote, and put Bush in office? It seems to me that we should have a better system than letting the majority party decide if there was fraud. I guess there's the Supreme Court, but we all know how that turned out in 2000.

  • Lastly, the Tsumani is a terrible thing. Revolting. It has remined me that for all of our technology, we are really just (relatively) hairless monkeys that can't do squat if nature decides to put the smack down. As of this posting, Olbermann is projecting that the death toll could rise to nearly half a million once authorities get into inaccessible, currently unexplored regions to assess the damage. Half a million people in a matter of hours . . . That might be the deadliest day in human history. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings together were responsible for 110,000 deaths. The firebombing of Dresden, over several days, killed upwards of 200,000.

Folks, be good to each other. We're all we've got.

Tinfoil out

Monday, December 20, 2004

American Academy of Achievement

In talking about the Reagan years in a previous post, I became nostalgic for one of the few times in my life that actually touched world events . . . I attended the 1989 American Academy of Achievement conference in San Francisco in the summer of my senior year in high school. I went as a Junior Achievement representative, and was billed in the "yearbook" that they distributed as the "Ambassador of Free Enterprise." I know, I know. . . I was 18, what do you want?

Anyway, the American Academy of Achievement is the coolest thing in the Universe (imho), because they hook up "promising" high school students with the movers and shakers of our times--in 1989, I got to personally chat with Jim Henson, George Lucas, Tom Selleck, Oprah, Tom Clancy (asshole), Tom Brokaw (nice, but too well tanned), and Diane Sawyer, who was amazing.

At the conference, I met Lawrence E. Walsh, independent prosecutor of the Iran-Contra hearings. He sat behind me at a speech by Tom Selleck in the dining room of Alcatraz . We were told it was the first "civilian" meal there since it had been re-occupied by the federal government after Native Americans asserted their rights to the land. I asked him what I thought was a simple question, based on the news coverage I had been watching: "Do you think that President Reagan knew about the money being transferred from the Iranians to the Contras?"

He said: "Yes, son, he probably did."


The funniest moment of the conference for me was at the final awards ceremony where each celebrity in attendence got a "golden plate award." Steve Wynn (owner of the Mirage casino in Las Vegas) was giving his acceptance speech and was clearly, um, how to put it delicately . . . smashed. He mumbled something like, "You kids, are great. Great kids . . ." for about 10 minutes, and turned to his right to return to his seat.

Which would have been fine, except that the podium was at the end of a raised platform (sort of like a model's runway), so when he turned to his right, he stepped out into empty space and fell about 6 feet to the floor.

The audience gasped. Luckily for Wynn, the nearest celebrity on the dias was none other than Colin Powell who lept down to help Wynn, dusted him off, and helped him get back to his seat.

My friend Elisa, who is--to this day--one of the smartest people I've ever met, leaned over to me and said, "See how the military industrial complex supports the capitalists?"

Tin Foil Out

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Disbelief Fatigue

"I've lost all capacity for disbelief. I'm not sure that I could even rise to a little gentle skepticism"

--Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

I'm going to venture a guess. If you're reading this (I realize that this is a big "if"), then you probably are suffering from, at least, a mild case of what I'm going to call "disbelief fatigue." This is a condition that arises from being liberal in America through 4 years of the Bush administration, and living through thousands of dishonest, scandalous, and even criminal abuses of power by the Bush team, fighting hard to get him out of office, and . . .

. . . watching him get re-elected.

It's getting harder and harder (for me) to get passionately excited about recent Bush-related scandals, because:
I swear, any one of these scandals would have been the end of Clinton (after all of the hunting, can you believe a blow job brought him down?). The press called Reagan the "Teflon President" because no scandal would stick to him, what does that make Bush II, the "frictionless surface president?"

I still think that Bush is headed for a reckoning in the next four years, but I can't imagine the scandal it will take to bring him down. Then again, given the short attention span and sensationalism of TV news, it would probably need to be a sex scandal.

That said, I would like to enlist someone (male, preferably) to go to Washington D.C. and have elicit sex with W, take pictures, and walk over the Washington Post and turn them in. I know it's a difficult (and yucky) mission, but it would really help America. Come to think of it, give Cheaney a little love too. Oh, then you'd have to get Dennis Hastert . . . oh forget it.

Too many Republicans in the line of succession.

Tin Foil Out

My Favorite Bush Associate

I know you'll find this unbelievable, but there is one resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave that I like and respect. You can find a short video here about his attempts to join the Bush Cabinet.

It's too bad he didn't get appointed. He would have done infinitely better than, say, Rumsfeld. He might be a good candidate for the open Homeland Security post. He's qualified.

Tin Foil Out

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Intelligent Design

Looks like the Scopes Monkey Trial didn't settle it. The ACLU has brought a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania school district that is requiring teachers to tell students that "intelligent design" is a viable alternative to the theory of evolution. Basically, this theory asserts that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an intelligent being (read: God).

I'm not opposed to people believing in God. I'm not opposed to people believing in creationism (if you want to be stupid, who am I to stop you?). I am opposed to holding a science class for kids that teaches them that the theory of natural selection and evolution, which has been accepted as mainstream science for more than a hundred years, is flawed, has been disproved, and that an alternative has been found.

That's just not true.

Next thing you know, they'll be lobbying to tell students that "thee" and "thou" are legitimate modern English alternatives to "you" because they are in the King James Bible.

Folks, theres a place for this crap, and it's called private school.

Also, I have always had numerous problems with creationism, stemming from my own experience. I was born with a blood disorder called "hereditary spherocytosis." Basically, a certain percentage of my blood cells are strangely shaped (like spheres, not doughnuts as in "normal" people). My spleen decided that these oddly shaped blood cells were invading bodies and started destroying them. Eventually, this led to severe anemia, and they had to remove my spleen to keep it from killing me.

"Intelligent design," my ass! One of my organs was trying to kill me. This is the way I was "designed." God didn't even have an extended warranty. Luckily, science saved me.

Another thing that I've never been able to grasp is that scientific fact is rarely irreconsilable with religious ideas--this is true for "intelligent design" and modern evolutionary theory. I can't believe that people who supposedly have such faith in God, can believe that He (or She) couldn't have started the ball rolling with a good "big bang" and watched the huge chain of events unfold in wonderfully random ways to produce the disorganized mess of world we have now. Maybe "God's plan" was to set in motion a process that could have (and did) bring forth human life. Still sounds pretty impressive to me. I guess that doesn't jibe with the whole Adam and Eve, clay, ribs, and snake stories, though.

Let's keep religion out of public schools.

Tin Foil Out

Unemployed Kerry Staffer

Just a quick post today to introduce the riveting reading that is:

A blog by . . . well . . . an unemployed Kerry staffer. Having recently been unemployed, and obsessed with getting Kerry into the White House, I can relate to the guy.

Tin Foil Out

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Armageddon Conspiracy?

Ok, I realize that I'm actually going to have to put a tin foil hat on if I keep writing stories like this one, but . . .

I think that the Republicans are TRYING to destroy the world. To this point, I had assumed that they were incompetent (in my less generous moments), or at least that they were so beholden to corporations, oil companies, and defense contractors that they were ruining the planet as a tragic of side effect of the pursuit of money and power. Now, I'm not so sure.

Let me 'splain:

Ecomonic Armageddon

In a previous post, I talked about the mammoth deficits that Bush was running up, and the precarious position in which it puts Social Security. I blamed Bush for being incompetent. Now I am beginning to suspect that he might have a touch of evil genius in him.

I think that Bush is trying to bankrupt the federal government, so that we will have no choice but to eliminate "big-goverment" entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The tax cuts and deficit spending may be calculated to force us to abandon these programs.

I know what you're saying, and, for the record, the sources of information for this post are not my dog and the voices in my head. They are as follows:

In his address to the nation about the government shutdown in 1995, Bill Clinton was pretty explicit in saying that he thought that Gingrich and his cronies were intentionally trying to undermine social programs:

. . . the Republicans are following a very explicit strategy announced last April by Speaker Gingrich, to use the threat of a government shutdown to force America to accept their cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, to accept their cuts in education and technology and the environment.

Backing that up, NY Times columnist and Princeton Professor Paul Krugman wrote this in 2003:

It's no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by those ideologues — that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut — was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.
He cites an editiorial in the not-exactly-liberal-at-all Financial Times, stating:

Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door.
Even REPUBLICANS think that Bush is intentionally bankrupting the government to get rid of entitlements. Peter G. Peterson, Nixon's Commerce secretary, wrote in a 2003 article:

For some Republicans, all this tax-cutting talk is a mere tactic. I know several brilliant and partisan Republicans who admit to me, in private, that much of what they say about taxes is of course not really true. But, they say, it's the only way to reduce government spending: chop revenue and trust that the Democrats, like Solomon, will agree to cut spending rather than punish our children by smothering them with debt.

This clever apologia would be more believable if Republicans — in all matters other than cutting the aggregate tax burden — were to speak loudly and act decisively in favor of deficit reductions. But it's hard to find the small-government argument persuasive when, on the spending front, the Republican leaders do nothing to reform entitlements, allow debt-service costs to rise along with the debt and urge greater spending on defense -- and when these three functions make up over four-fifths of all federal outlays.

Makes an evil kind of sense I guess. If you were married and your spouse went out one day and bought a very expensive car against your wishes, and you were saving for, say, a new dinette set, you could get him/her to get rid of it by spending all of your savings and running up huge amounts of debt. Your spouse wouldn't be able to make the payments, and the car would be repossessed. Once you managed to get rid of the car, you could pay off the debt and make sure that the remainder of both of your salaries went into an account that you controlled, so you could spend it on your dinette set (If you could avoid absolute financial ruin and a divorce).

An aggressive plan to be sure. Horribly tough on your credit rating (not to mention your marriage), but, if you played it right, you might just get what you want. That's the kind of a game of economic "chicken" that Bush is engaged in: ruining the US's finiancial standing in the world to get rid of some New Deal and Great Society programs that neo-conservatives find distasteful.

ACTUAL Armageddon

Alright. I'm writing this section while wearing my tinfoil hat. It has also been recently reported that Bush and Co. might not just be planning an "Economic Armageddon"--They might be actively working to create a REAL one.

Stay with me . . .

My partner-in-blog, SJ, brought some disturbing facts to my attention in her comments to this post:

It seems that some sects of evangelical Christians are firmly convinced that the end of the world is coming soon, and that this is the last generation of humans before the "rapture," when God will call the faithful to heaven, punish the "evil doers" and pretty much end the world. This story is told in the hugely popular Left Behind books, which have sold an astonishing 56 million copies (Please do not read this as an endorsement). SJ, noted that this idea has entered the mainstream, and many commentators (including Bill Moyers) are concerned that Republicans, and the evangelicals that elect them, are destroying the environment because, if the rapture is coming, why bother to preserve the earth for future generations?


I'll add to that. If the rapture is coming, why not make it come a bit faster (waiting for Armageddon sucks) by starting unnecessary wars with Muslims, letting the Palestinians get clobbered by Israel, calling everyone we don't like "the Axis of Evil" and turning a blind eye as they acquire nuclear weapons. Everyone knows that there are "signs" in the book of revelation that indicate that the end is near. Why not create them? The ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy.

Before you call the men in white coats with the butterfly nets to come get me, I'm not the only one who thinks these things.

I urge you to read the Moyers lecture, he puts it pretty succinctly, and you should also read a great article that Moyers references by Glenn Scherer of Grist, that gives a basic history of the evangelical apocalyptic movement.

Friends, the end is nigh . . . If we can't stop these lunatics from ruining the world. I say, if they want to have their apocalypse, they should have the decency to have it somewhere where it won't bother us. I hear Mr. Bush is keen on Mars. That would be a great place to hold a rapture.

Tinfoil out

Error Rates in the 2004 Election Results

News Flash:

Not only are the politicians screwed-up-cheaters, but the voting methods we use make determining a clear winner in close races impossible.

My good friend Dr. Philip Howard of the University of Washington and his colleagues at have produced a study that examines the margins of victories in the Presidental, Senatorial, and Gubenatorial races in the 2004 election, and compares them to the known "error rates" of various voting technologies. The surprising conclusion is that, since all voting technologies "lose" a certain number of votes (some more than others, between 1%-2%) , several close races can never be decided with certainty, since the margin of victory was within the error rate. The authors of the study conclude that:

There are, however several states where the margin of technology error was
higher than the margin of victory for a presidential candidate (Iowa, New Mexico, New Hampshire), the margin of victory for a gubernatorial candidate (Washington), or the margin of victory for a Senate candidate (Florida, Kentucky, South Dakota).
This is a non-partisan study, but only one of the "questionible" races put a Democrat in office (Kerry, narrowly, in New Hampshire). No comment on that, except to say that Mr. Bush seems to pull out all of the close ones . . . Hmm.

It boggles the mind, that in 2004, we can't count votes accurately, and we don't seem to care. The question that I'm left with after reading this study is: Fraud aside, what can we do to make vote counts more accurate? Is there a magical system that everyone should use? Should we, at the very least, mandate the systems with the smallest error rates: optical scan (1.2%) and Datavote punch cards (1.0%) ? More hanging chads anyone?

Tin Foil Out

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

More on Tax cuts and flip flopping

George Bush cracks me up (the same way that the iceberg cracked up the Titanic).

He made a huge campaign issue out of Kerry's alleged "flip-flops," and of course, he never changes his mind (except on the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the 9/11 Commission--which he opposed and then took credit for). Bush has proven to be a resolute (read: bullheaded) leader on one issue: Tax cuts. Regardless of the economic circumstances or world events, we apparently still needed a $1.9 trillion dollar tax cut.

Tax Cuts to "Give Back" the Surplus
When he was running for President in 2000, Bush told us in his first debate with Al Gore, that we needed the tax cuts, because the country had been so prosperous in at the end of the 1990s that we should give some of the money back to the people (Sigh, remember prosperity?) CNN reported Bush's comments:

"I want to send one-quarter of the federal budget surplus back to the people who pay the bills," he said. " Of the surplus, which some government accounting entities have predicted could amount to more than $4 trillion over the next decade, Bush said of the $25 trillion the government takes in the course of the next 10 years -- including the surplus -- "surely, we can afford to give back 5 percent of what comes into the treasury."

First, imagine what kind of shape we'd be in with a $4 Trillion dollar surplus, instead of a $500 Billion dollar deficit every year (Sigh). Then note that Bush's main motivation for the Tax cuts lies in the fact that the goverment has a large surplus and should give part of it back.

Tax Cuts to "Stimulate the Economy"
Shortly after his innauguration, with the "Bush recession" beginning, and the prospect of large surplusses dwindling, Bush insisted that we needed those same tax cuts to stave off the recession. Again, reported by CNN, Bush said:

"For several months, our economic growth has been in doubt and now it may be in danger," the president said. "A warning light is flashing on the dashboard of the economy, and we can't just drive on."

CNN's Ian Christopher McCaleb goes on to comment that: "The plan closely mirrors the cuts that Bush made the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, including reducing income-tax rates, easing the marriage penalty, phasing out the estate tax and boosting tax breaks for charitable contributions. "

So, let me get this straight--we need the tax cuts when times are good, AND we need the tax cuts when times are bad. They are "magic" tax cuts, apparently, that work for whatever economic state the country's is in.

Tax Cuts for the Post 9/11 Economy
After 9/11, Bush couldn't possibly advocate for these same tax cuts, in the face of an expensive war (or two) and a devestating economic downturn. Could he? You bet he could:

In his 2002 State of the Union, Bush prouldly trumpets the budget increases he's proposed while at the same time, lobbying for those SAME tax cuts:

" Our men and women in uniform deserve the best weapons, the best equipment and the best training and they also deserve another pay raise. My budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades, because while the price of freedom and security is high, it is never too high. Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay. "

The next priority of my budget is to do everything possible to protect our citizens and strengthen our nation against the ongoing threat of another attack.

Time and distance from the events of September the 11th will not make us safer unless we act on its lessons. America is no longer protected by vast oceans. We are protected from attack only by vigorous action abroad and increased vigilance at home.

My budget nearly doubles funding for a sustained strategy of homeland security, focused on four key areas: bioterrorism; emergency response; airport and border security; and improved intelligence. "

After making such proud statements about his budget increases, he makes a call for making the tax cuts permanent:

Good jobs depend on sound tax policy. Last year, some in this hall thought my tax relief plan was too small, some thought it was too big. But when those checks arrived in the mail, most Americans thought tax relief was just about right. Congress listened to the people and responded by reducing tax rates, doubling the child credit and ending the death tax. For the sake of long-term growth, and to help Americans plan for the future, let's make these tax cuts permanent.
To sum up: These "magic" tax cuts are good for America during prosperous times, recessions, and times of war. The work equally well when you have a surplus, and when you are increasing the budget by record amounts.

The good news is--well, there really isn't any. Bush's bullheaded insistance on the SAME TAX CUTS, regardless of circumstances has left the United States in serious trouble--Running budget deficts of 35%-40% each year of his presidency, and leaving us $7.5 trillion in the hole. 9/11 and the economic problems and extra spending associated with it simply exaserbated the problem, and Bush made no adjustment to his already short sighted policy.

Way to not flip-flop George!


Tin Foil Out

Howard Kurtz is back

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post has been taking a break for the past two weeks from his Media Notes Extra online column. Thankfully, he's back writing again. It's an excellent "behind the scenes" media blog that summarizes and comments on most of the punditry on the issues of the day.

Monday, December 06, 2004

UPDATE--Bev Harris v. Keith Olbermann

There's an update on this story. Bev Harris has posted her side of things:

Tax cuts, budget deficits, and a falling dollar (Oh my!)

This morning, I heard on NPR that the Japanese and Europeans are so concered with the weak dollar (~$1.30= 1 Euro) that they are thinking of ways to stop the slide of our currency. Why would they do this? Well, our government is not about to do anything, and they depend on a strong dollar to make money from trade with the US. While the weak dollar is good for US trade in the short term, eventually, it will cause foreign governments, who currently lend us billions to finance our national debt, to abandon our currency for something more stable--the Euro--and will lead us into a huge financial crisis of high interest rates and record inflation.

Does this bother anyone else? Our federal goverment is facing one of the largest finacial crises in its history (in the next ten years or so), and we have a president who insists upon trillions of dollars in tax cuts, leads us into a very expensive war (in money and lives, unfortunately), and who refuses to veto a single spending bill that comes out of the Republican controlled Congress?

There was a time in my 20s when I thought that credit cards were a pretty good idea. I was able to live way beyond my means by charging more and more, and making the minimum payments on those cards. This worked for a while, and I got some good Vegas vacations out of it, but eventually, I had to pay the piper. For the past four years, the old US of A is taking up the spending habits of my younger days, and most politicians: A) agree that we're headed for a reckoning when Baby Boomers start collecting Social Security and medicare, and B) that they won't do anything about this issue becasue it would make them unpopular with everyone from seniors (who will almost certainly have to take a benefit cut) and younger workers (who will almost certainly have to pay higher payroll taxes).

Neither presidential candidate wanted to touch this in the debates, becasue there is no good solution (i.e. one where no one has to pay more or earn less), but I did believe Kerry when he talked about his Senate budget cutting resume. Even with a Republican Congress, Clinton and Senate Democrats managed to control spending and create surpluses, even going to extreme measures to prevent unneccessary spending. Remember the "government shutdown" in 1995? That was one of my favorite Clinton moments.

When I was growing up, I remember that the popular conception was that Republicans were fiscally reponsible, wanted to limit spending, and make goverment smaller. Unfortunately for conservatives, this didn't happen under Reagan, Bush I, or Bush II, all of whom ran record budget deficits.

W is, in my view, either crazy, stupid, or just tragically shortsighted. It seems that conservatism now means: cutting taxes for the rich regardless of circumstances, spending like a drunken sailor on any program that benefits the military or big business, and claiming that God told you to.

I have visions of Bush appearing in a popular credit card ad:

Tax cuts : $1.9 Trillion/10 yrs
Iraq War: $148 Billion (and counting)
Increased spending: Over 10% per year
New Medicare Perscription Drug Benefit: $400 billion/10 yrs
Budget Deficit: $521 Billion (2004)
National Debt: $7.5 Trillion (and counting)
Screwing Baby boomers out of their retirement benefits: Inevitible

Now it doesn't take a genius to figure out that without the tax cuts (mostly for the rich), a very costly medicare benefit, an unnecessary war, and unusually high spending, we'd be a little better off, and at least have a chance of keeping the debt under control.

Add to the $7.5 trillion national credit card bill (growing by 1/2 $ trillion per year) the fact that social security benefits will be going through the roof, and I don't know how we'll get out of it without a huge tax increase or reduction in benefits. Even Alan Greenspan , not known for his liberal views, is concerned about deficits enough to make them a central point in his address to Congress this year. The most dire predications I've heard are from Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley who predicted that we have a 1 in 10 change of avoiding "Economic Armageddon."
He said: (As recounted by the Boston Herald):

To finance its current account deficit with the rest of the world, he said,
America has to import $2.6 billion in cash. Every working day. That is an
amazing 80 percent of the entire world's net savings. Sustainable? Hardly.

To make maters worse, he says that the weak dollar, and larger deficits will force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in a desperate attempt to keep inflation low and will cause Americans with unprecedented personal debt to default and declare bankrupcy in record numbers.

Got an adjustible rate mortgage on that house you can barely afford? Thousands of dollars in credit card debt? Guess what? You also own a $25,526.56 share of the national debt, and each member of your family owes an equal amount.

Good luck. You need it, and so does the country.

Tin Foil Out

Friday, December 03, 2004

Welcome to The Tin Foil Hat!

I've finally decided to stop ranting and raving about politics and art, etc. in private. I've decided to blog. In the future, you're likely to see commentary on politics, popular culture, dogs (Pugs primarily), and anything that I notice (I have a short attention span).

Not going to go too deep into my personal life (probably), but I'll let you know that I am an overeducated, underpaid, married, pet owner from Seattle who works for a major software (and hardware) manufacturer.

Here's what's on my mind today:

The Stolen Election (not the one in Ukraine): Bev Harris v. Keith Olbermann

I'm a bit mad a Keith Olbermann these days. For those of you who are not familiar with the ongoing investigations of voting "irregualities" on Nov 2nd, Keith Olbermann, the host of MSNBC's Countdown, is pretty much the only mainstream journalist covering the story that the presidental election was "rigged" in favor of President Bush. First, let me say that I love Keith Olbermann. He was great on ESPN when I was in college, and Countdown is pretty much the only cable news show I can watch without gagging. Here's my beef with him now, though:

Bev Harris is the co-founder of which is a non-profit organization dedicated to making our elections fair and vote counting transparent. She is disturbed by the trend of states replacing paper ballots (which can be recounted and examined) with touch screen voting machines that produce no paper trail and count votes using proprietary software developed by one of three major manufacturers (Deibold is perhaps the most well known). Sounds good, no? Why would anyone, in any political party, with any sense, with two brain cells to rub together, ADVOCATE for a voting system that is proprietary, and which produces no verifiable paper trail. (If you would like to advocate for it, there may be $1,000 in it for you).

Anyway, Bev Harris has been shaking things up since election day, filing lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests in Florida and other states, trying to find out if there was fraud on Nov 2. Keith Olbermann has been on a parallel track since election day, covering statistical anomalies, undercounted ballots, provisional ballots, and recounts in Ohio, New Hampshire and Florida. They should be fast friends, right?

This week there has been a blog war between the two, stemming from some statements Keith Olbermann made about her on Countdown and in his Blog. To summarize, he said that she was hurting her cause with some guerilla tactics ("public confrontations with public officials involving crashing meetings and videotaping their reactions, etc."), he intimated that she might be in it for the money (proving election fraud--the next big moneymaker!), and said that she has refused to appear on Countdown (Olbermann admits that he scheduled her once and bumped her for another more "mainstream" guest) or to let them air her video tapes.

Harris responded on her Web site (the post has since been removed) that this last charge was patently false, and that she had been asked to appear on Countdown twice in early November and then not again. She also said that she had already shared her videos with other media outlets and would gladly have done so with Countdown, if asked.
She demanded that Mr. Olbermann retract his allegations (and apparently called his staff--more on that later).

I don't ususally do this because I don't expect anyone to read it (kind of like blogging), but I emailed Olbermann to get to the bottom of this. Here's the email I sent to Keith:
___________________Email begins____

I’m sure you’ve seen the posting from Bev Harris (or her associates) on where she asks you to retract your statements on Countdown last night (I’m sure she would have asked for a retraction of your blog comments from last night as well if she had read them). I’m a big fan of yours from the old ESPN days, and I love the current Countdown show. I appreciate your coverage of the voting irregularities in this election, but I’m a little confused about a few things. I REALLY think that you should have Ms. Harris on ASAP to clear these questions up:

  • Did you cancel her appearances on the show twice (not once as you claimed in your blog)?
  • Is it true that your staff has not asked her back since, and has never asked to broadcast her footage? From what she says on her Web site, she has shown her footage to CNN, and promptly provided tapes to a local affiliate in Florida.
  • Does “making a documentary” disqualify people from having pure motives?

On the last point . . . Anyone who has even taken a 15 second glance at her Web site would see that she is working with a team of documentary filmmakers making a film called “Votergate.” She even links to their Web site where the project is clearly explained. Your blog makes it sound like she has a secret plan to cash in on her cause, and that this somehow disqualifies her as a good spokesperson for fair and transparent voting. She is working with filmmakers—so what. Got any cameras in the Countdown studio, Keith? Get any ratings boost from this story? Maybe MSNBC has a secret plan to cash in on it. People who live in glass houses . . .

Also, I found it more than a little disingenuous to hear you complain that Ms. Harris wouldn’t provide you with her footage (If that is indeed the case). Maybe she’s deferring to her documentary film crew—making sure that they can release the footage first. Maybe she’s waiting for a bigger news show (no offense) to break the story. Maybe she wants to finish her investigation. None of this makes her any less credible in my book. She wants to use her footage her way—so what? Keith, can I have footage of every Countdown show to use in my blog as I see fit? What’s that you say? Copyright? Intellectual property? Lawyers? Again, glass houses.

In Bev’s account of the LePore incident, she recounts that she went to the podium and said, “Since we can't get your attention any other way, I'm serving you with a courtesy copy of the lawsuit we served on your office this morning." In the blog, you made it sound like an out and out ambush—If you tried to contact a public official though multiple means and got no response, wouldn’t you resort to extraordinary (and possibly theatrical) measures? All I’m saying is that LePore should have known that a reckoning with Harris was coming.

Your characterization of the LePore meeting, while accurate: “She burst into LePore’s retirement ceremony,” leaves out a few important points

Ms. Harris explains (on her site): “Black Box Voting went to the meeting because it was on the official schedule as a speech by LePore on retention of election records. LePore seems to have been retaining records too aggressively, by failing to provide public records to the public. Unfortunately, it seems that the agenda was changed, unbeknownst to Black Box Voting, and instead of a speech it was to be an event honoring LePore prior to her retirement (she was voted out of office by Palm Beach County residents), and congratulating her on surviving so many lawsuits.”

These accounts are a little different, no?

Have her on the show. Sort this out. A lot of us who are following this story have lost a little faith in the accuracy of your reporting and any biases you might have. Clear this up for us.

I must not have been the only one emailing him, because the next night he addressed his comments about Bev Harris in his blog, becoming even more annoying if possible (it's the Dec 2nd entry--the last few paragraphs). I guess Bev Harris contacted Countdown, and was, understandably, a bit miffed. She apparently "threatened" Keith and his staff, and Keith announced that he was retracting his invitation for Harris to appear on the show (if he had ever indeed offered it), and that she was "belligerent, threatening, and demanding."

Now, I don't know Bev Harris, but I have seen her on video. She is a housewife and mother from Seattle. She seems very determined and unafraid of confrontation in a Michael-Moore-kind-of-way, but I can't imagine that her "threats" were of the "I'll breaka you kneecaps" variety. She probably threatened them with a lawsuit unless they stopped talking uncorroborated smack about her on a national news show.

This made me a little mad. Olbermann has been on a high horse during this whole election fraud investigation: calling other media outlets "whimps," and dismissing a lot of Internet evidence as "Saran Wrap Hat" or "Tin Foil Hat" (nice name!) thinking. Now, he was announcing that he wasn't going to allow key source in the investigation to come on because, in my view:

He made shit up about her
She got mad

I felt compelled to write another email:

I think it’s time for you to get a tinfoil hat . . .

From your Blog: “Only today did she (Bev Harris) even get back in touch with us, and was so belligerent, threatening, and demanding, that we have chosen to withdraw our invitation to her to appear, or to have videotape of her efforts played, on Countdown. Threats against myself or my staff will not be tolerated.”

Let me get this straight . . . a middle aged woman “threatened” you and your staff? Was Bev going to send goons to beat you up in the parking lot? Come on Keith, this is the kind of thing that you would make fun of if the shoe was on the other foot.

If she “threatened” you with a lawsuit for defamation of character for what you said about her and wrote in your blog—I think she might have a case. She has already filed two this week—what’s one more? In the future, maybe you’ll want to watch what you say, check the accuracy of your sources, and stop complaining about being understaffed (do you think Dan Rather should have tried that one?). You are a journalist, when you make false statements about people on national television, they will complain, and, yes, occasionally threaten you with lawsuits. Put aside any petty silliness, retract your statements about Bev Harris, apologize, and HAVE HER ON THE SHOW. SHOW US HER FOOTAGE. This is a vital story, and I appreciate your work on it, but you’re leaving out a major player and key evidence.

And now for your tinfoil hat moment:

“These are my people — they are running professional risks I can’t begin to describe — and I will stand up for them, first, last, and always.”

First, I appreciate your loyalty to your staff. That’s a good way to run a business. But Keith, if you think that your “firing” caused people to put on tinfoil hats, statements like: “professional risks I can’t begin to describe” ought to inspire calm, don’t you think?

God help you if you ever get a chance to interview the President, or Osama Bin Laden—someone really dangerous—If one little middle aged housewife-turned activist can put the fear of God into you and your staff. Grow up and cover the story.

We'll see what's going to happen next, as I mentioned, Bev Harris took down her posting that Olbermann retract his statements--Maybe they're working it out. Let's hope so.

To Bev and Keith: Now, girls, you're both pretty. Stop fighting and work together.

That's all for now.

Tinfoil Out.

Brazil--A timely movie

And now for something completely different . . .

Seemed like the appropriate way to start a post about a Terry Gilliam movie (he was a member of Monty Python).

I saw Brazil over the weekend. It was my first time seeing it in almost 20 years (eek!). I saw it in high school when it came out in 1985. I remember it being pretty and weird--and it is--but I was floored by the timeliness of the movie for 2004. The movie takes place "Sometime in the 20th Century" (there was still some 20th century left when it came out), and is a portrait of a dystopian society where everyone lives in constant fear of terrorist attacks. The goverment has used the terrorist threats to assume absolute power to arrest citizens suspected of terrorism, detain them indefinitely, and torture them into confessing to crimes they may not have committed. The rich in this society get richer and are obsessed with plastic surgery and cuisine, the poor live in dangerous slums, and a large central corporation controls everything.

Sound familiar?

Watch it. Let me know what you think. It's got a hell of a cast: Jonathan Pryce, Robert Deniro, Jim Broadbent, Ian Holm, and many more. Tom Stoppard is credited on the screenplay, too.