January 12, 2017
Election Theft in the USA: An Astrophysicist's POV
By Joan Brunwasser
Nothing can be accomplished until we restore the basic elements of a free society: transparency in government, robust diversity of news reporting, open and fair elections that are counted in broad daylight. Our "elected" officials are not excited about changing the system that keeps them in power. But one way or another, we will get our democracy back."The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
My guest today is astrophysicist, Josh Mitteldorf, co-author of Cracking the Aging Code: The New Science of Growing Old -- and what it Means for Staying Young, an election integrity activist and fellow Senior Editor at OpEdNews. His election reporting has covered censorship, taboos and at least one assassination.
Cracking the Aging Code: The New Science of Growing Old - and What it Means for Staying Young
(Image by Josh Mitteldorf & Dobson Sagan) Details DMCA
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome, Josh! Most recently, you wrote a four-part series on election theft in the US, which exposed sordid backroom details and suppression of the truth. Please tell us where your interest in election integrity come from.
Josh Mitteldorf: So many issues, so many causes. I've been blessed (or cursed) with the kind of mind that looks for the heart of the matter. I suppose that's a reason why I studied physics in college and graduate school--it's the foundational science.
Back in 2004, I read an article in The Nation and a series* of New York Times columns by Paul Krugman [see list below], and I first became convinced that the voting machines that count America's votes were being deliberately misprogrammed. I thought every American would be moved to fix this in short order. The Democrats would stand up and holler when they found out. And then, if we could keep the elections honest, all of our advocacy for peace, for equality, for environmental preservation would be that much more effective.
JB: I don't recall any of your hopes or dreams coming true - yet! Were these mainstream articles written before or after the 2004 election? What happened?
JM: Yes--it's been quite an education. It was the politics of electronic voting that started me down a road of skepticism, doubting the New York Times and The Nation, which had been my primary news sources since my college days. Patterns in the statistics of the exit poll discrepancies pointed toward a corrupted vote count.
We took the story to the newspaper of record, the New York Times, but they didn't want to talk to us, didn't even want to hear what we had to say. This is a newspaper that has so often been accused of leaning so far toward the Democrats that they can't give Republicans a fair shake. It took another year or two, but I came to question the landscape of political reality as painted by the Times.
The Krugman story was another big event for me, shaking my faith. Krugman published that last column warning of election theft just a few days before the 2004 presidential election. Then, on November 1, the Times abruptly announced that Krugman was "on leave" for a few months, writing his book. By the time his column returned the following February (2005), we knew a lot more about ways in which Secretary of State Ken Blackwell had stolen Ohio for Bush.
But Krugman didn't write about that. In fact, he has not written a word about election theft since.
The Nation had that very revealing article in the summer of 2004. Then in November, the election was stolen, just as they had predicted. But The Nation completely changed their tune, and in fact, David Corn published disinformation, clearly designed to discredit the election integrity movement. (The Nation has taken down the original link, but a copy of Corn's article can be read here.)
I have a friend in Chicago who went to school with Krugman in the 1970s, and in 2006, I had an opportunity to pass a question to him: Why did he stop writing about election theft? My friend reported that Krugman got a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face and said "I'll tell you about that later," but he never did.
JB: You also experienced censorship regarding buying advertising for a book that dealt with the subject of election fraud. Share that story with us, please.
JM: Sure - Like most other public radio stations, WHYY (Philadelphia) doesn't have "advertising" but they do have "donor announcements", which are often used to put a movie or a book or a theatre piece on the air in exchange for a contribution to the station. They're structured just like ads, in that you get a set number of announcements for "contributing" a set amount. So I called their giving office and asked if I could get a book announcement in exchange for a gift, and they said, "sure," and I arranged the donation amount and the number of times it would be announced, and then I told them the name of the book, by Mark Crispin Miller, was Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election, and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them).
I've found an email that I wrote to Mark afterward:
JB: That's discouraging. I know that Mark used to be a regular on the talk show circuit for radio and television until he started writing books about election fraud. Another indication of the extent to which the media has gone to avoid the subject. Which brings us back to 2016 and your post-election series. Have things changed in the interim? And if so, how?
JM: Mark tells a story about being invited on Jon Stewart's popular Daily Show, circa 2006.
We think of Stewart as "one of us," and his wit has speared many a sacred cow. But while Mark was waiting backstage, one of the handlers instructed him not to say anything about election theft.
So, no - it has not gotten better. By direct censorship and indirect peer pressure and self-censorship, by some means that I understand and many that I don't understand, our press has become very docile. Election theft in America is just one of the subjects they will not touch.
JB: So, mainstream media discussion of election theft is clearly taboo. But not for you and your election integrity colleagues. How did you decide on the structure of your series? Give us a sense of what went in where and what got left out and why.
JM: As part of my day job, I write a blog for ScienceBlog.com. Ben Sullivan, who runs that site, had read some of my election writings, and invited me to submit a piece on election theft for Science Blog last month. I leapt at the opportunity to reach a new audience, so I assumed nothing about political attitudes of the reader, as I certainly would have if it had been originally for OpEdNews. I wanted to keep the article factual, to start at the beginning and summarize the empirical grounds for believing our elections are being stolen.
I got carried away, and by the time I was done I had written 6000 words, mostly off the top of my head, and later went back and filled in links and references. This was much too long for ScienceBlog's format, so I made it a series.
Ben was pleased with the articles, and told me it gave him a new sense of just how corrupt our system is. But when it came to the stories about how Ohio was stolen for GW Bush, and how Clint Curtis was hired to write software to manually alter the numbers in a DRE voting machine, he lost his nerve, and didn't want to risk putting the articles on ScienceBlog. The compromise that he and I worked out was to publish the first two parts on Science Blog and then include a link to the rest on OEN.
For me, the moral of the story is that it is very difficult to bring people into a new reality. Scientists are supposed to be trained skeptics, but in practice they often make the mistake of assuming that cheating and foul play in the political world is on the same level as it is in science...and of course, cheating in politics is far more rampant than in science. (And there's plenty of unfairness in science.)
JB: I don't know much about cheating in science but I'm sure you were disappointed about Ben's limited response. Was he more afraid of losing credibility or was it that he couldn't believe it himself? Here's your opportunity, Josh. Let's reprise those two stories - Ohio and Clint Curtis - for OpEdNews readers, who for years have had access to our coverage of the varied forms of election theft.
JM: What Ben said was that he was afraid of lawsuits. I didn't press him on the point, but it doesn't make any sense to me. The only things an individual can sue for is libel or defamation, and the First Amendment barriers are quite high. There was an OEN discussion of this just last week.
The Clint Curtis story and the Ohio 2004 story were in my third election series article last month. That article also included the story of Alvin Greene in South Carolina and the "Rob Georgia" files (2002) discovered by Bev Harris when the files were left unprotected on the Diebold server.
Briefly: Clint Curtis was a computer programmer hired by Florida Congressman Tom Feeney to re-program a voting machine so that its totals could be altered by someone who knew a special code. (While actually doing the work, he believed it was a security test.) In 2003, he told the whole story in congressional testimony. All the details were covered by Brad Friedman of BradBlog. The Ohio story is about how Bush stole his 2004 reelection, using a computer hack prepared in advance on orders of Ohio Sec'y of State Ken Blackwell.
Michael Connell, the computer programmer who did the dirty work on hire, was assassinated as a "national security threat" just before he was scheduled to testify in an election integrity lawsuit. Details were reported by Bob Fitrakis at the Free Press, and here's an hour-long video from the Corbett Report. If readers don't know these two stories, I recommend reading all the gory details--they will change, once and for all, the way you think about American democracy.
I'll say this about the Ohio story: It never made headlines because the details came out in dribs and drabs. Already in November '04, we knew about the voting machines that were kept in the warehouse, the long lines at Democratic polling places only, about the many dirty tricks played by the GOP in Ohio. We also knew that the central computer in Columbus that reported the vote totals from across the state had a mysterious "glitch" in the middle of the night and went black for 100 minutes.
But it wasn't until two years later, in 2006, that the fact came out that the "glitch" wasn't fixed, but rather the computer that came back on line in place of the Columbus SoS computer was actually operated out of Chattanooga, TN, by the White House IT guru, Mike Connell. And it was another two years before Connell was assassinated by his own employer, (as Fitrakis and Corbitt convincingly demonstrate).
All of it this is well-documented and mostly reported in mainstream media, but the story came out at a lawyerly pace. This is no accident--Fitrakis and co-counsel Cliff Arnebeck brought a lawsuit in Ohio where a lot of these facts came out in a process for which the legal euphemism is "discovery" -- It would more accurately be called "obfuscation."
This story should have been featured in banner headlines everywhere, the Watergate of our time. It is a disgrace that the "liberal American press" kept this story buried on the back pages and never put the pieces to together for its readership, let alone assigning investigative reporters to get to the bottom of the matter.
And I'll say it's a credit to OpEdNews' Editor-in-Chief Rob Kall that very early, he committed OEN to telling this story. OEN has kept its leadership in reporting on election theft in America. And for many of our readers, Joan, you have been the one who pulled these stories in, organized them, and helped our readers make sense of the situation.
JB: Thanks for your kind words about me and OpEdNews, Josh! Fear of lawsuits is a huge de-motivator for those with deep pockets. For instance, look at the fate of far too many whistleblowers, who stuck their necks out for the public good: marginalized, fired, tied up in lawsuits for years, resulting in bankruptcy, broken marriages, and on and on. As you point out, there was coverage about Clint Curtis and Ohio 2004 - at BradBlog, FreePress, and, of course, OpEdNews. Thanks for providing those links.
So, here we are, with another election-go-round under our collective belt. Do you have any encouraging words as we envision four or possibly eight years of President Donald Trump ahead? What should we be doing? What can we be doing?
JM: I see lots to be encouraged about in the present situation - thanks for asking.
First is the fact that a lot of Americans are pissed off enough to get up from their sofas. Those of us who are old enough remember a surge of anti-nuclear and pro-environment activism when Reagan came into office in 1980. I think we'll be seeing the same kind of citizen engagement with Trump in the White House. For example, Obama deported 2.5 million people, far more than under any other president. Where are the massive protests from the Hispanic American community? It's hard to focus all that indignation on Obama's "liberal" African-American face. But if Trump tries to do the same thing, you can be sure that there will be an outcry.
Second, Trump has no ties to the American war machine, and we might hope that he is less likely to provoke wars or proxy wars with Russia and China. Hillary would have been a real danger in this department. (The proviso concerns Trump's cabinet appointments, which have been straight out of the neoCon lineup. Still, I hold hope that we will be see less China-bashing and Russia-bashing in the press.)
Third, the issue of electronic election theft, which has been buried for 12 years, even on many progressive web sites -- with OEN as a commendable exception -- the issue has come out to the fore and people are talking about it. Stein's recount movement began an educational process. And now we have the ridiculous charge that Russia interfered with our pristine and sacrosanct American election machinery. But, if this is what it takes to pull together an outraged public to demand protection for our voting machines, I'll take it!
And fourth, if the US has become the world's bully, throwing its bombs and dollars around to manipulate foreign governments and steal from their people, then the Nobel Peace laureate Barack Obama was an incongruous mask for that presence to be wearing. It was confusing to many around the world. With Trump's bombastic face on these policies, the world community is unlikely to be fooled, and this will hasten the day when countries around the world -- China and Russia and Brazil, not to mention England, France and Germany -- stand up to the American giant and say, collectively, "No - your imperialism is not acceptable to us."
"What can we all be doing?" I'll give you my personal response:
First, stay informed about what's really going on by getting your news from a diversity of sources, thinking critically about what powerful people want you to believe and what is actually true. It is well worth the effort to read foreign newspapers, commie rags, conservative commentators, libertarians, European and Asian and Arabic news services--they're all online and easy to find.
Second, ruthlessly question the New York Times and NPR among our own trusted circles. Each one of us should come out to our friends and relatives when we find ourselves talking to someone who tacitly assumes the truth of reports they have heard, let them know that this is not your reality. Let them know it's not their opinions that we disagree with, but the factual premise of those opinions--for example, that the Russians hacked into Democratic Party websites, or that Sanders is too far left of of the American mainstream to be elected.
Third, organize protests of the media's abdication of their Fourth Estate responsibilities, instead of protesting the government. I'd like to see picketing at the New York Times building and major broadcast stations--especially those that pretend to be liberal in their politics while reporting "facts" based on uncorroborated news releases from the government.
There are so many good and necessary causes that we're all fighting for: human rights, peace, economic justice, saving ecosystems, to name a few. We are in the habit of galvanizing voters, organizing lobbying days and protest marches and letter-writing campaigns, because these are the vehicles of democratic change. These methods have ceased to work for us because we no longer live in a democracy. We have been slow to realize that nothing can be accomplished until we restore the basic elements of a free society: transparency in government, robust diversity of news reporting, open and fair elections that are counted in broad daylight.
Our "elected" officials are not excited about changing the system that keeps them in power. We will have to make them pretty uncomfortable before they consent to a change. But one way or another, we will get our democracy back.
Somebody who has a birthday this weekend once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
JB: Happy birthday, MLK! I enjoyed talking with you, Josh. Thank you.
JM: Thanks for reminding me to mention the role OEN has played in informing the public on this issue. And thanks for the opportunity to say all these things, and especially for the skillful and perceptive guidance you gave to our conversation.
JB: You're so welcome!
Joan's coverage on Clint Curtis:
*Paul Krugman's series of articles, mentioned by Josh:
Hack the Vote 12.2.2003
Democracy at Risk 1.23.2004
Fear of Fraud 7.27.2004
Voting and Counting 10.22.2004
Faith in America 11.2.2004
Authors Website: http://www.opednews.com/author/author79.html
Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning.
While the news is often quite depressing, Joan nevertheless strives to maintain her mantra: "Grab life now in an exuberant embrace!"
Joan has been Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews since December, 2005. Her articles also appear at Huffington Post, RepublicMedia.TV and Scoop.co.nz.