We are excited to provide the following list of confirmed speakers, session leaders, and artists at the 2011 Democracy Convention. This listing will be expanded and otherwise updated in advance of the convention:
Manipulating election votes, the act of stealing an American election, used to sound far fetched. While many people weren't always confident that voters would make fully informed decisions, it was always assumed that each vote would at least be counted. Then came Florida--and the whole quaint notion of elections got tossed out the window. The final 2000 election recount showed that George W. Bush didn't win but he came close enough to move in for the kill.
That serious problems plague our new, computerized voting machines--on which 29 percent of U.S. voters are poised to cast their votes in November--has been apparent ever since $3.9 billion in federal funding for the machines was made available in 2002, in the aftermath of Bush v. Gore. In the years since, report after report has cautioned that the machines lack the security and robustness necessary to withstand the assaults of hackers or unscrupulous technicians. But no one seems likely to stop the rollout of the machines, more than 50,000 of which have been purchased by states.
On November 2 millions of Americans will cast their votes for President in computerized voting systems that can be rigged by corporate or local-election insiders. Some 98 million citizens, five out of every six of the roughly 115 million who will go to the polls, will consign their votes into computers that unidentified computer programmers, working in the main for four private corporations and the officials of 10,500 election jurisdictions, could program to invisibly falsify the outcomes.
Florida, 2000 presidential election—the vote count long will be recalled as a low point in U.S. democratic politics.
The hue and cry of electoral corruption and a stolen election compelled the U.S. Congress to act. Boldly, it committed $3.9 billion in matching federal funds to assist states in the transition toward digital voting systems. Here, under the flag of the Help America Vote Act, was the answer for hanging chads.
Remarkably, about 30 percent of the electorate—50 million voters or so—will submit a ballot in the coming November elections using paperless machines. Be worried. The e-voting system in place is dangerously vulnerable to fraud.
THE HANGING CHADS and lost ballots of the 2000 presidential-election debacle made it seem a foregone conclusion that modernized, electronic-voting machines would be widely embraced the next time around. And so they will be. But paranoia about stolen elections and security flaws has made Nov. 2 a make-or-break event for the fledgling industry and its biggest player, Diebold Inc.
The November election may feel like ancient history, but it is still going on in North Carolina. The state has been unable to swear in an agriculture commissioner because a single malfunctioning electronic voting machine lost more ballots than the number of votes that separate the two candidates. The State Board of Elections, the candidates and the public are sharply divided on how to proceed. The mess North Carolina finds itself in is a cautionary tale about the perils of relying on electronic voting that does not produce a paper record.
Having reported extensively on the security concerns that surround the use of electronic voting machines, I anxiously awaited the results of a new study of a Diebold touch-screen voting system, conducted by Princeton University. The Princeton computer scientists obtained the Diebold system with cooperation from VelvetRevolution, an umbrella organization of more than 100 election integrity groups, which I co-founded a few months after the 2004 election. We acquired the Diebold system from an independent source and handed it over to university scientists so that, for the first time, they could analyze the hardware, software and firmware of the controversial voting system.
A laboratory that has tested most of the nation’s electronic voting systems has been temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.
The company, Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., has also come under fire from analysts hired by New York State over its plans to test new voting machines for the state. New York could eventually spend $200 million to replace its aging lever devices.
WASHINGTON - The CIA, which has been monitoring foreign countries' use of electronic-voting systems, has reported apparent vote-rigging schemes in Venezuela, Macedonia and Ukraine and a raft of concerns about the machines' vulnerability to tampering.
Appearing last month before a U.S. Election Assistance Commission field hearing in Orlando, Fla., a CIA cybersecurity expert suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his allies fixed a 2004 election recount, an assertion that could further roil U.S. relations with the Latin leader.
If anything can unite Americans across party and ideological lines, it should be the arrogant and unprecedented Supreme Court ruling that corporations are “persons” with all the protections and rights of the Constitution.
In a case trumped up by the court itself, five activist judges reversed 100 years of precedent to allow unlimited, special-interest money to be spent in our local, state and federal elections.
In its ten months of existence, California Watch, an offshoot of the Center for Investigative Reporting, which is located in Berkeley, has placed 21 stories with the San Francisco Chronicle. One of those stories, on seismic safety in California’s public colleges and universities, was distributed to more than 80 news outlets, Robert Rosenthal, the center’s executive editor, said.
It has become one of the most prominent examples of the Bay Area’s new growth industry: the non-profit news organization.
As regional newspapers have shed reporters over the years — a recent count said there are now 500 journalists covering news compared with 900 a few years ago — non-profit news groups have stepped in to cover the gap.
ON FEBRUARY 16, ABOUT 200 people gathered on the steps of the Wisconsin state capitol. “It’s fitting that we stand out in the cold,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
“That’s where the Supreme Court has left us.”
He was referring to the court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which granted corporations the right to spend unlimited funds on so-called independent expenditures to influence the outcome of elections. The crowd heartily agreed with McCabe. Signs said: “No Corporate Takeover of Elections,” “Free Speech, Not Fee Speech,” “Money Is Not Speech, Corporations Are Not Persons.” And a chant went up: “Overrule the Court.”
The newspaper industry is struggling. According to a March 2010 report from the Pew Research Center’s annual Project for Excellence in Journalism, the American newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000. In the last three years, the newspaper industry has cut thousands of full-time reporting and editing jobs.
The rapid decay of traditional for-profit news media is not because the public is less hungry for news. Indeed, the Pew study shows that Americans are avidly interested in news. What has changed is that Americans for the most part aren’t willing to pay for news, mostly because they believe they can get all the news they want without paying for it.
So how will America fill the growing void in journalism as traditional for-profit media models fail?
As many writers and activists have declared for some time now, Canadians -- and citizens in all English-speaking developed countries -- are facing a crisis in democracy. Another way of putting it is that we face a democratic deficit. That term harkens back to a book written 35 years ago called the Crisis in Democracy, commissioned by the Trilateral Commission (TLC), an international neo-liberal forum of CEOs, former and current heads of state and free market academics. The crisis they were talking about was different. As Samuel Huntington, a prominent American neo-liberal wrote in the book, there was "an excess of democracy." Too many people were asking governments for too many things -- and, even more dangerous, beginning to believe they were entitled to them.
Since 2003, the organization Reclaim Democracy has pushed the ACLU to rethink its claim that money = speech regarding investments in political campaigns and its position equating corporate communications with free speech, beginning when the ACLU took Nike Corporation's side in the infamous "corporate right to lie" dispute (Nike v Kasky).
Something important is happening in Cleveland: a new model of large-scale worker- and community-benefiting enterprises is beginning to build serious momentum in one of the cities most dramatically impacted by the nation's decaying economy. The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry (ECL)--a worker-owned, industrial-size, thoroughly "green" operation--opened its doors late last fall in Glenville, a neighborhood with a median income hovering around $18,000. It's the first of ten major enterprises in the works in Cleveland, where the poverty rate is more than 30 percent and the population has declined from 900,000 to less than 450,000 since 1950.
"I never thought I could become an owner of a major corporation. Maybe through Evergreen things that I always thought would be out of reach for me might become possible."
Fremont County must stop using its existing at-large system to elect commissioners because it violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the strength of the Indian vote, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
Instead, county officials must submit a voting plan to the court by June 30 to create five districts in the county so residents on the Wind River Indian Reservation can better achieve fair representation on the five-member commission, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson wrote.
The ruling comes more than three years after a nine-day bench trial in February 2007 before Johnson in which five enrolled members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes stated their case against Fremont County, its commissioners and the county court clerk.
Three weeks ago, attorneys for the Indians asked the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to force Johnson to make a decision.
If George W. Bush – notorious for skipping his Texas Air National Guard drills during the Vietnam War – were in the Guard today, he’d be up in the air without a propeller.
That’s because today’s National Guard has become virtually indistinguishable from the nation’s active-duty forces in the war zone. The majority of these so-called part-time soldiers have served combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many– if not most – deployed more than once.
As of April 24, 622 members of the Guard have been killed [.pdf] in the two-front war since 2001. Forget the whole bit about “weekend warriors” – reservists have become indispensable to the ongoing overseas operations since Bush himself launched the country into war nine years ago.
MINNEAPOLIS — Amy Goodman, host of the syndicated "Democracy Now!" news program, and two of her producers filed suit against the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and other defendants Wednesday over their arrests while covering the 2008 Republican National Convention.
The three were among an estimated 40 to 50 journalists who were arrested covering street protests at the convention in downtown St. Paul, along with about 800 demonstrators and bystanders.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Minnesota, alleges that authorities violated the First Amendment freedoms of Goodman, her producers and other journalists by interfering with their right to gather news.
Goodman's daily program airs on over 750 radio and TV stations in North America.
Making the drive up to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point once again on Monday, pro-democracy advocate and attorney Ben Manski returned to the campus he had visited in his college career. Only this time the faces had changed, but the message was the same. At 8 p.m. in the Dreyfus University Center’s Theatre, Manski delivered a multimedia presentation on “Winning Democracy,” in the hopes that it would inspire students to do just that.
“I hope that I helped to broaden some perspectives about what other students are doing around the world: what they’ve done in recent generations, that it wasn’t all just in the 60’s. I’m a little bit older, but in my generation student activists, we accomplished a lot,” said Manski. “In my experience, when people think big, they dream big and they work to accomplish those big goals. They sometimes succeed, and if you don’t try at all, then they’re not going to happen and that’s not acceptable.”
Urban lawmakers across the country say their counterparts in rural areas have gotten an unfair advantage from an unlikely group: prisoners.
Now, lawmakers in Maryland are changing that by having inmates counted as residents of where they last lived — typically urban centers — not the rural areas where they're often imprisoned. Nine other states are considering similar legislation. Advocates say the way inmates are tallied when redrawing election maps has skewed how people in all areas are represented in Congress, legislatures and other elected offices.
Hundreds of community groups and local residents from across the country urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week to strengthen local democracy, media diversity and public safety by supporting the nation's largest network of community-based media organizations -- Public, Educational and Government (PEG) Access cable TV centers.
"As local newspapers close, media companies consolidate, and national broadcasters dominate radio & television, PEG Access centers are increasingly the only source of community news, civic programming, diverse views and local emergency information," said Alliance for Communications Democracy (ACD) President Rob Brading of MetroEast Community Media in Gresham, Oregon.
At a story meeting for California Watch, the nonprofit investigative news startup, employees sit around a conference table as Robert Salladay, the organization’s senior editor, begins to describe the findings of a six-month investigation by one of his state capital reporters. “It gives me chills,” Salladay tells the group. “Each paragraph could be its own story.” Robert Rosenthal, the founder of California Watch, peers over his glasses at an open laptop, then nods in agreement. “The reporting is so amazing,” he says.
Jill Drew is a 2009-2010 Encore Fellow at Columbia Journalism Review. She was an associate editor at The Washington Post until August 2009. For nine of her fourteen years at the newspaper, she was assistant managing editor for financial news.
Original article here... http://www.cjr.org/feature/the_new_investigators.php?page=all
In Puerto Rico, an ongoing strike by students at the University of Puerto Rico is coming to a head. Riot police have surrounded the main gates of the university’s main campus and are trying to break the strike by denying food and water to students who have occupied the campus inside. The strike began nearly four weeks ago in response to budget cuts at the university of more than $100 million. On Thursday, a mass assembly of more than 3,000 students voted overwhelmingly to continue the strike. The next day, riot police seized control of the main campus gates. We go now to Puerto Rico, inside the occupied campus at the university.
Efforts to control undocumented immigrants challenge some of American democracy’s most basic precepts. At bottom, such efforts deal with the almost unresolvable struggle in democratic society: to locate people (most of whom are of color) who are unidentifiable for lack of records or documents without creating an apartheid police state.
The new Arizona law SB 1070 makes it a criminal offense to be an “illegal alien”— and mandates local police to identify and arrest unauthorized immigrants. In a border state like Arizona the loose legal standard of “reasonable suspicion” which some insist will restrain police power, actually translates into racial apartheid against all Latinos.
Robert Koulish is a visiting senior fellow at the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland
A few weeks ago I met Riki Ott at the Move to Amend/Campaign to Legalize Democracy national gathering in Denver. We were among two dozen people who came together to begin to develop plans to end corporate rule and abolish corporate personhood.
Ott is a marine biologist and toxicologist from Alaska who became socially and politically active following the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster which spilled millions of gallons of oil in Prince William Sound. Ott documented the environmental disaster of the spill and its impact on people and communities. She began speaking out. She wrote books. She was widely interviewed. She was involved in litigation.
Greg Coleridge is the Director of the Economic Justice & Empowerment Program of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker social action organization (AFSC.net); Steering Committee member of Move to Amend (MovetoAmend.org) a member of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD), a collective which instigates democratic conversations and actions that contest the authority of corporations to govern (POCLAD.org)
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced today that he is reducing the time that must pass, from three years to two, before a nonviolent felon who has completed his sentence can apply to have his voting rights restored. McDonnell also pledged that his office will act on those requests within 60 days after receiving information from the felon, courts and other agencies.
McDonnell said the new process is designed to speed reintegration into civil society for felons who have completed their sentences. He said the goal was to create the "fastest and fairest" process in modern Virginia history.
A Senate committee scuttled a bill Wednesday aimed at shuttering the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic that critics say would have hampered operations at all the state's law clinics.
The measure would have prohibited university law clinics that get state funding from suing individuals for damages, taking government agencies to court or making constitutional challenges.
Republican Sen. Robert Adley told the Senate Commerce Committee that Tulane accepts around $45 million in state money each year and yet runs a environmental law clinic that runs jobs out of the state by suing industry and government agencies.
Seven members of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) observed pre-electoral and election-day conditions during the Philippines’ historic election last week and found widespread irregularities, a high potential for fraud, voter machine breakdowns, military intimidation and a deadly gun battle inside the poll. NLG observers joined over 80 other observers from 12 different countries as members of the People International Observer Mission.
A consortium of West Marin writers, thinkers and scientists has purchased the Point Reyes Light, hoping to turn the Pulitzer Prize-winning weekly paper into one of a handful of newspapers run by a nonprofit corporation.
"We have created a new model, a hybrid for-profit/nonprofit entity that I think can save a lot of small-town newspapers around the country," said Mark Dowie, a former publisher of Mother Jones magazine and journalism professor at the University of California at Berkeley who serves on the governing board of the new corporation.
The Marin Media Institute, a newly created nonprofit, will operate the paper through the auspices of the Point Reyes Light Publishing Co., a low-profit limited liability company chartered under Vermont law.
More than 30 years ago, before Stevie Moore was an activist, he did time for selling drugs.
It took several convictions before the founder and president of the anti-violence campaign Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives realized he "wasn't smarter than the system."
Getting out meant living a better life and setting a good example for his then young sons.
So Moore had his right to vote restored.
"When I got out of jail, I got custody of my boys and I raised them for eight years before I got remarried," Moore said. "It's so important that you correct it, to try to set an example for your children."
As Oakland follows in the footsteps San Francisco took six years ago and switches to ranked-choice voting for this November's election, a diverse pool of organizations are heading voter education campaigns to boost county outreach efforts.
The city of Oakland is paying the Alameda County Registrar of Voters $146,000 to administer a heavily media-based campaign that includes mailers, brochures and videos, according to city clerk LaTonda Simmons. However, foreseeing that the county’s campaign will not reach all demographics, some community groups are – or plan to begin – spreading the word about the new system that allows voters to rank up to three candidates in order of preference and eliminates separate run-off elections.
Sandy Springs, the first Georgia city to try and bail out of of the Voting Rights Act, on Wednesday drew its first public rebuke, a Fulton County Commission resolution scolding its efforts.
The resolution opposing Sandy Springs' request carried no legal weight, but it sharply defined the differences between the county and a city that incorporated four years ago, with the latter claiming its residents are not receiving proper attention and service from the former and then seeking to be relieved from federal oversight of elections.
The Massachusetts House has approved a bill intended to ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote and not by the Electoral College system.
The House voted 114-35 this afternoon for the National Popular Vote bill, sending it to the Senate.
Under the proposed bill, all of the state's electoral votes would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally. Supporters are trying to get such bills enacted in states across the nation. Once states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (or 270 of 538) have enacted such laws, the winner of the popular vote would be assured a majority of the electoral votes, no matter how the votes fall in other states.
It has been a long time since Massachusetts decided a presidential election. Presidential candidates spend the vast majority of their time and campaign funds on swing states like Ohio and Florida, and the votes of certain Americans are more sought after than others.
The Federal Trade Commission has issued a draft discussion called "Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism." The draft proposals include possible government subsidies for journalists, taxes on news aggregators, mobile phones and Internet users, more copyright protection, increased postal subsidies and public notices, and changes in tax laws to encourage nonprofit news organizations.
"Newspapers have not yet found a new, sustainable business model, and there is reason for concern that such a business model may not emerge," the report says. "Therefore it is not too soon to start considering policies that might encourage innovations to help support journalism into the future."
Original article here...
Federal Trade Commission Report: Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism, here... (.pdf)
Nearly 10 years after George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore and became president anyway, the New York State Legislature has a chance to withdraw from the archaic and unfair way this country picks its chief executives.
The State Senate has adopted, by a vote of 52 to 7, a measure requiring the state to assign all of its Electoral College delegates to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. In the Assembly, 79 of 150 members have signed on to the bill, but it remains stuck in committee. The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, should bring it to the floor this week and press all members to vote for it.
In a seventh-floor conference room festooned with framed articles and journalism awards, Managing Editor Gordon Witkin leads the morning discussion of stories his staff is pursuing.
Their latest scoop -- on members of Congress dumping their BP stock -- "was a big success," he says. "It was in an AP story that sent it everywhere, including Yahoo and Google News."
On the front burner, a dozen staffers around the table explain, is a joint series just approved by the New York Times. A piece underway with The Washington Post is being edited. There was a "tough conference call," says international director David Kaplan, with eight London producers on a 10-segment project with the BBC.
BIRMINGHAM — Some black residents in Shelby County, backed by the NAACP and ACLU, are seeking to challenge the county's attempt to have parts of the Voting Rights Act ruled unconstitutional.
The county's lawsuit contends that conditions that kept minorities from voting years ago are a thing of the past.
The U.S. Department of Justice this week responded for the first time to the lawsuit, in which the county asked for a summary judgment. The government said in a motion that the U.S. attorney general opposes a summary judgment and has had no opportunity to gather information in the case.