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The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...

By Brad Friedman on 1/20/2005 10:27am PT  

By Brad Friedman on 1/19/2005 6:18pm PT  

Letter just sent to Republican Majority Chairman!
By Brad Friedman on 1/19/2005 1:31pm PT  

Nine Democratic House Judiciary Committee members (Conyers, Nadler, Scott, Lofgren, Jackson Lee, Meehan, Waters, Wexler, Schiff) have just requested that the committee "hold hearings and investigate the vital issue of protecting our citizens right to vote".

The text of their letter (without footnotes) to the Republican chair of the committee is as follows...

January 19, 2004

The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner
Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

We write to you at the very outset of the 109th Congress, to request that our committee hold hearings and investigate the vital issue of protecting our citizens right to vote. The right to vote is the very foundation of our Democracy and is at the core of our Committee's jurisdiction, and we can think of no more important or urgent issue before us than protecting our democratic rights. While the election is settled, however, our job as legislators on the Judiciary Committee to make sure that the constitutional right to vote is protected is just beginning.

In congressional forums many of us participated in Washington D.C. and Columbus, Ohio, we learned of significant voter irregularities in Ohio. These irregularities are included in a 100 page report Mr. Conyers issued, and include the following:

� The misallocation of voting machines led to lines of ten hours or more that disenfranchised scores if not hundreds of thousands of predominantly minority and Democratic voters. In Franklin County, 27 of the 30 wards with the most machines per registered voter showed majorities for Bush, while six of the seven wards with the fewest machines delivered large margins for Kerry.

� The Ohio Republican Party's decision to engage in preelection �caging� tactics, selectively targeting 35,000 predominantly minority voters for intimidation had a negative impact on voter turnout. The Third Circuit found these activities to be illegal and in direct violation of consent decrees barring the targeting minority voters for poll challenges.

� The Ohio Republican Party's decision to utilize thousands of partisan challengers concentrated in minority and Democratic areas disenfranchised numerous legal voters, who were not only intimidated, but became discouraged by the long lines in the adverse weather. Shockingly, these disruptions were publicly predicted by Republican officials: Mark Weaver, a lawyer for the Ohio Republican Party, admitted the challenges �can't help but create chaos, longer lines and frustration.�

� Numerous instances of intimidation and misinformation occurred across the state of Ohio that would appear to violate the Voting Rights Act. For example, the NAACP stated that it received over 200 calls regarding incidents of suspected voter intimidation or unusual election related activities, particularly actions taken by challengers who intimidated poll workers and voters. Other specific incidents involved a caller who reported that someone was going door-to-door telling people they were not registered to vote. A voter in Franklin County received information in the mail identified as being from the state that said he would have to vote by provisional ballot because he had moved; in fact, the voter had not moved and had lived at the address for 10-15 years. One polling place worker was reportedly only asking African American voters for their address.

� In Franklin County, a worker at the Holiday Inn observed a team of 25 people who called themselves the �Texas Strike Force� using payphones to make intimidating calls to likely voters, targeting people recently in the prison system. The �Texas Strike Force� members hotel accommodations were apparently paid for by the Ohio Republican Party, whose headquarters is across the street. The hotel worker heard one caller threaten a likely voter with being reported to the FBI and returning to jail if he voted. Another hotel worker called the police, who came but did nothing. There were also reports of phone calls incorrectly informing voters that their polling place had changed.

� The Cleveland Plain Dealer found that several Lake County residents received an official-looking letter on Board of Elections letterhead informing them that their polling place had changed or that they were not properly registered to vote. A fake voter bulletin from Franklin County Board of Elections was posted at polling locations, and fliers were distributed in the inner city, telling Republicans to vote on Tuesday and Democrats to vote on Wednesday due to unexpected heavy voter registration.

� In Cleveland, the Washington Post reported that unknown volunteers began showing up at voters' doors illegally offering to collect and deliver complete absentee ballots to the election office. The Election Protection Coalition testified that in Franklin County, voters received fliers informing them that they could cast a ballot on November 3. Also, in Franklin County there were reports that about a dozen voters were contacted by someone claiming to be from the county board of elections, telling them their voting location was changed, and �door-hangers� telling African-American voters to go to the wrong precinct were distributed.

In our view, this course of events is not consistent with the right to vote as we understand it. The fact that many of these instances appear to be focused particularly on minority voters is all the more disheartening, and triggers even more clearly our jurisdiction involving civil rights.

We look forward to full and open hearings concerning these instances of disenfranchisement in Ohio and around the Nation. We very much would like to work with you and your staff to insure that allegations of improprieties by both Democrats and Republicans are looked into and considered.

More Respondents Told Pollsters They Voted for Kerry Because More Respondents Told Pollsters They Voted for Kerry.
By Brad Friedman on 1/19/2005 11:34am PT  

Well, now we get a whole new story about what was "wrong" with the Exit Polls on November 2nd.

As you may recall, the original explanation for the disparity between the Exit Poll results and the Final Results was attributed to the theory that pollsters oversampled female voters. The results at the time, were therefore re-weighted to reflect that theory.

But today, according to CNN's report on a new "internal review" by the Exit Polling Consortium, we find that it was actually due to the fact that "more Kerry supporters participated in the survey than Bush voters".

In other words, had only more voters told the Exit Pollsters they had voted for Bush, the Exit Polls would have matched the Final Results.

In other words, there continues to be no explanation for the Exit Polls not matching the Final Results.

Quoting from CNN's report on the report:

Exit polls overstated John Kerry's share of the vote on November 2, both nationally and in many states, because more Kerry supporters participated in the survey than Bush voters, according to an internal review of the exit-polling process released Wednesday.

The report said it is difficult to pinpoint precisely why, in general, Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit poll than were Bush voters. "There were certainly motivational factors that are impossible to quantify," the report said.

Could it be that Kerry voters were more likely to paricipate in the exit poll because there were more Kerry voters than Bush voters? The report, apparently, would like you to not believe that could be the case.

In other words, there continues to be no explanation for the Exit Polls not matching the Final Results.

But lest we determine that there is any reason to be skeptical of CNN's analysis of the report, let's take a look at this graf:

CNN did not air those inaccurate results or post them on its Web site, and CNN's projections of winners on election night were accurate.

That, of course, is true.

Unless you look at actual evidence which shows they are lying. (While you're there, please notice in the two screenshots how the Male/Female support for Bush/Kerry changed from one screenshot to the next posted just an hour and twenty minutes later with only 57 new respondents added to a poll of 2,020 respondents. Please also note that the percentage of Male vs. Female respondents stayed consistent over both screenshots at 47%/53%.)

But such unexplained phenomon simply didn't occur according to CNN, so it must be beside the point.

So if the problem was not oversampling of Female voters, what exactly was the problem that leads the consortium to instruct us that the Exit Polls were wrong but the Final Results were right?

CNN's report on the report seems to indicate that there is no reason. Above and beyond the fact that more Kerry voters said they voted for Kerry than Bush voters who said they voted for Bush.

And apparently this occurred --- by a complete freak of nature --- in 26 of 30 states polled:

The new report shows that exit polls overstated Kerry's support in 26 states, while estimates overstated Bush's support in four states.

Clear on all of this yet?

If not, CNN has neatly identified a few more helpful factors to look at:

The report identified several factors that may have contributed to the discrepancy, including:

  • Distance restrictions from polling places imposed upon the interviewers by election officials at the state and local level. {ed. note: Bush voters shot straight up out of the polling place and down into their car, unlike Kerry voters who walked by the pollsters as they crossed the long distance from the poll to their cars}
  • Weather conditions, which lowered completion rates at certain polling locations. {ed. note: It rained more on the top of Bush voters heads than on the top of Kerry voters at the same polling locations.}
  • Multiple precincts voting at the same location as the precinct in the exit poll sample. {ed. note: We have no clue what this would have to do with anything, and can't come up with a joke to make it more absurd than it already sounds.}
  • Interviewer characteristics, such as age, which were more often related to the errors last year than in past elections. {ed. note: Bush voters don't like talking to younger people. Or, they don't like talking to older people. Whereas Kerry voters, not that there were more of them, will talk to anybody. Or they're making all this bullshit up outta whole cloth.}
  • Well, I'm glad that's all settled.

    UPDATE: MSNBC continues the whitewash, declaring "Exit polls say Bush won fair and square: Report on surveys finds system worked, even with errors". Though their article similarly gives no explanation for what happened...other than saying it happened. Sometimes a headline is enough to sell the messaage apparently.

    By Brad Friedman on 1/18/2005 10:11pm PT  

    ...All for a good cause, however.

    So until further notice, consider this just a plain old open thread tonight.

    Chat away. Though play nice, or I will pull this car over right now...

    (P.S. Didja notice how the boys on the right are coming positively unhinged lately? Seems they'd be in a better mood with their man being re-coronated in a few days...but maybe that's just me. Discuss.)

    PLUS: Bush's Number One Sun
    By Brad Friedman on 1/18/2005 12:58pm PT  

    And speaking of Inaugurals...Behold ye which Messiah it is that hath granted President Genius a cool $250,000 in order to help purchase his balls (as if he hadn't already done that via his ownership of the official White House organ The Washington Times "newspaper"):

    Speaking for all Americans, I couldn't be prouder.

    A Winter Patriot Speaks up for America and a Wingnut Meets his Match!
    (Though how hard could that be really?)
    By Brad Friedman on 1/17/2005 7:59pm PT  

    Not that we condone this sort of thing...but...since we're rather busy for the moment...and...since this exchange includes quite a bit of educational and historical material...and...since it's always nice to see an arrogant wingnut put into his proper place (back under the bridge with the rest of the trolls)...We elevate the following BRAD BLOG comments exchange (smackdown) to full-fledged blog item.

    In our recent article introducing Velvet Revolution to the world, commenter "des" made the notable point that many of the revolutionaries who fought for America's freedom from King George (the original one), were ordinary working-class folk who had set aside their simple lives to take up the fight against corruption and oppression.

    That notion did not sit well with commenter/Freeper/wingnut/historical-revisionist "Paul" who opined:

    The Founding Fathers were not ordinary men. They were extraordinary! They were Christians, deists, and inspired by Godly principles like liberty and other inalienable rights. The [sic] put everything on the line. Almost all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence died in poverty. They were not conspiracy theorists. The were not liberals. The Pilgrims rejected communal farms. They rejected Communism. They came here for religious freedom, not freedom from religion.

    Never mind that neither the concept, nor word "communism" (small "c") even existed until the French Revolution of 1830. A fair number of years after said Founding Fathers would have "rejected" such a concept in Paul's World o' Make-Believe History. Or that the Communist (capital "C") Party didn't come into existence until several years later (under "Paul's" brilliant oratorical logic, we'd also have to conclude that both the Founder Fathers and the Pilgrims similarly "rejected cell phones")... It was the great American, and BRAD BLOG staple "Winter Patriot" who gave our confused and brain-addled and washed friend "Paul" the humiliating historical spanking that he so self-righteously deserves...

    The Founding Fathers were NOT all Christians. And the United States was NOT intended to be a Christian country. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

    I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.

    And Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, drafted in 1796 (President Washington's last year in office), passed unanimously and signed into law in 1797 by President John Adams, says:

    "...the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

    So there's that. But let's not dwell on one solitary lie. Let's look at some of the other nonsense which our friend Paul has so graciously posted...

    For example, If LIBERTY is a GODLY idea, then why is our supposedly Godly so-called president leading an administration which is so determined to keep taking away of our [former] civil liberties?

    And did the Pilgrims REALLY reject communism? That's a good one! People of the 16th century rejected a concept that didn't appear until the 20th century? How did they do that, Paul? Did they have a TIME MACHINE?

    The Pilgrims came here for religious freedom? Good! We finally agree on something. But religious freedom means religious freedom for EVERYBODY. Not just for fundamentalist Christians!

    And if the Founding Fathers weren't conspiracy theorists, then they must have been CONSPIRACY REALISTS, because they surely recognized a conspiracy when they saw one. Their writings make this abundantly clear.

    The Founding Fathers would be UTTERLY HORRIFIED by what has happened to their country, and by what their country has done to the rest of the world. And they would be appalled if they knew that their names and their memories were being abused in an attempt to justify it.

    So, Paul: Why don't you go sell your horse manure somewhere else? Maybe you should try to find a less educated audience, because we have a bunch of people around here who know horse manure when we see it. And we're looking at some right now!

    (Brief pause while the applause dies down...)

    And so, another Freeper is sent back to his cave with tail between his legs. Though he will no doubt return to "fight" another day towards yet another ignominious defeat at the hands of the educated and not-easily-cowed.

    Until then, dear friends, we leave you with the sage words from whence our friend "Winter Patriot" takes his apt pseudonym (as posted at the top of his fine blog):

    "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
    -- Thomas Paine, "The Crisis", December 23, 1776

    Thank you to all the Winter Patriots out there in Bradville and beyond. You do indeed have our love and thanks for your brave and unshrinking service to your country in this time when the sun seems too-often darkened and the chill winds of winter sweep across the fruited plains.

    Fight on Winter Patriots...

    No WMD's, A New Terrorist Training Ground and No Regrets!
    By Brad Friedman on 1/16/2005 10:23pm PT  

    (So I'm a little late with this news. Sue me. I'm busy...)

    While Washington Post broke the news that the hunt for WMD's ended not with a bang, but without even a whimper a month ago, without our Government even informing us (they certainly had no trouble telling us that there was WMD in Iraq, and thousands of dead bodies later...well, don't get me started), it seems that our "Christian" "President" Bush has "no regrets":

    From ABC News:

    The invasion of Iraq, which ousted Saddam Hussein and has cost the lives of some 1,300 U.S. military personnel and billions of dollars, was 'absolutely' worth it, despite the absence of any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, President Bush told ABC News' Barbara Walters in an exclusive interview.

    So with no WMD's, and no regrets, what do we have? According to WaPo again, we have nothing but trouble...

    Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.

    Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."

    "At the moment," NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, Iraq "is a magnet for international terrorist activity."

    But as instability in Iraq grew after the toppling of Hussein, and resentment toward the United States intensified in the Muslim world, hundreds of foreign terrorists flooded into Iraq across its unguarded borders. They found tons of unprotected weapons caches that, military officials say, they are now using against U.S. troops. Foreign terrorists are believed to make up a large portion of today's suicide bombers, and U.S. intelligence officials say these foreigners are forming tactical, ever-changing alliances with former Baathist fighters and other insurgents.

    No doubt, the minority of Americans who voted for Bush couldn't be prouder of this tremendous body of accomplishments.

    Or as Chris in Paris, of AMERICAblog said --- from whom the above link was gleaned --- "Mission Accomplished, George".

    To be fair, Dubya's not the only genius in the administration...

    "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
    -- Dick Cheney, Speech to VFW National Convention, 8/26/2002

    ...And before you wingnuts start copying and pasting your Clinton quotes about Saddam, Iraq and WMD's, allow me to cut that yawn off at the pass by reminding you that Clinton, while he may have believed WMD's in Iraq, was damned smart enough not to go to war over it.

    ...And before you same wingnuts start explaining to me why somehow it was all worth it anyway, please save your breath, your fingers and my bandwidth, and go tell it to the families of the 1,364 (at least) dead American Troops. Perhaps it would be more of a comfort to them than to me.

    Though somehow I doubt it.

    By Brad Friedman on 1/14/2005 7:35pm PT  

    We're moved beyond words, frankly.

    Activist Doris "Granny D" Haddock, best known for her cross-country walk for Campaign Finance Reform speaks out today with extraordinary eloquence about "Our Velvet Revolution".

    (A RealPlayer slideshow of some of her heroic efforts over the last several years is available here.)

    She will be participating in several of the upcoming Counter-Inaugural events in DC, and her 95th birthday will be four days later. Her statement, published by Democracy Week today, are meant as her 95th birthday remarks.

    Having seen and done as much as she has in her lifetime, only a fool would disregard her wisdom.

    And so, on velvet revolutions and the freedoms and pursuit of happiness, we'll quote just a few of her words from her beautiful piece:

    We remember and honor the poet revolutionary Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia, where Charter 77 rendered the flowers and songs of a velvet revolution more powerful than the guns of oppression. We remember the shipyard hero, Lech Walesa, of Poland. We remember those who stood non-violently in Russia, in Yugoslavia, in Tiananmen Square, in East and West Germany.

    When people stand united with certain courage, they get their way.
    [T]he pursuit of happiness? There it is, a phrase central to the world's idea of America. If some people in this country could erase those words from our Declaration, they would do so--and replace them with something more religious or otherwise authoritarian and demanding of obedience instead of the nurturing of our human potential. But the words remain there on that parchment, and indelibly upon our hearts and imaginations. That is why there is a velvet revolution brewing, and it is not the whining of spoiled children, but the song of freedom of brave men and women who are prepared to let the bales upon their backs fall and mix with the old tea in the harbor.
    I have long admired the Europeans for the fact that they discuss politics constantly. The sidewalk cafe conversation is superior for the maintenance of democracy, when compared to our sitting in front of endlessly dumbed-down news broadcasts and newspaper accounts. Even during this recent disclosure of election fraud in Ohio, the news channels all but ignored it, and the main story in the New York Times, even as Senators stood against a sham election, was a long report on the disruption made to Congress's mindless train schedule.

    The sharing of email and our occasional standing together in protests is the best we Americans can do to create the community of democracy and raise the barricades of its defense. Or is it?
    This is our Velvet Revolution, American style. We resist what we must and what we can, but our victory is not in defense, but in a cultural offensive made irresistible by the power of love and courage, pulling our people together, and our own lives together, over time.

    We have tried this before in America. Things got in our way: drugs, wars, fears. We became parents. We became distracted. It is now time to get it right.


    Dennis Burke of Democracy Week, who joined Granny D on her walk, follows up her article on the Democracy Week blog with a piece on our Velvet Revolution featuring a short interview with yours truly.

    Despite our frequently self-promotional flair here on The BRAD BLOG!!! we assure you it is but a satirical literary device. Of sorts. And in fact even we find ourselves a bit too modest to quote somebody quoting us...At least this evening.

    So a link to Burke's fine coverage on how VR came about and a bit on what we hope to accomplish will have to suffice.

    We thank both Democracy Week and the inimitable Granny D for both the coverage and the inspirational words of wisdom.

    The Velvet Revolution continues...

    So Let's Make Sure the WHOLE WORLD Knows About Him!
    PLUS: A New Tom Feeney Fun Fact!
    By Brad Friedman on 1/14/2005 12:17pm PT  

    Yes, we love Congressman Tom Feeney (R-FL)! And hope the rest of the world can learn to love him as much as we do!

    But they can't love him if they don't know him!

    So to help, we'd encourage BRAD BLOG readers who may be familiar with many of the interesting facets of the Republican Congressman's life to share some of that interesting information on the Wikipedia page devoted to educating millions about Mr. Feeney!

    The Wikipedia, for those who don't know, is a public domain encyclopedia of sorts, where you --- dear, BRAD BLOG readers --- can add information on the life and accomplishments of patriotic Americans such as Mr. Feeney, so that citizens and school-children the world over may learn about one of the wonderful and impressive elected officials we have in our country!

    Speaking of "elected" --- here's a fun fact you may wish to add to the Wikipedia on Mr. Feeney --- did you know that Mr. Feeney just "won" "re-election" on November 2nd to the United States Congress without a single vote being cast for him?!

    That's right! He won a prestigous post in the United States Congress without ever even appearing on the ballot! He even gets to sit on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee!

    How did he do it?! Due to the wonderfully streamlined ballot system in the State of Florida --- as helpfully legislated by (guess who?!) Tom Feeney who served for years in the Florida State legislature before become its House Speaker! --- a candidate who runs unopposed in his or her district won't even appear on the ballot!

    According to Section 101.151 of the Florida Statues, "...the names of unopposed candidates shall not appear on the general election ballot. Each unopposed candidate shall be deemed to have voted for himself or herself."

    Isn't that wonderful?!

    This convenience saves time for the busy American Florida voter, and keeps election officials from having to decipher any of that messy handwriting that --- in other, less sunshiney states --- might end up as a write-in vote against such an unopposed candidate!

    That small annoyance won't be happening in Florida anytime soon! Hoo-ray for Mr. Feeney!

    But don't worry, even though he was running against nobody, Mr. Feeney was able to raise (and spend nearly all of!) $928,127 to finance his 2004 campaign! All of it from individuals and businesses and political action committees who were simply interested in seeing the finest legislator for Florida's 24th Congressional district that money could buy!

    You may even know the names of some of those contributing individuals and businesses! Names like Yang and O'Quinn and the like!

    Winning a U.S. Congressional seat without even having a single vote cast for him, is just one of the many interesting facts about Congressman Tom Feeney from Florida that you --- devoted BRAD BLOG readers --- now know!

    Why not share that knowledge --- and all the rest you may have learned --- with the world via the Wikipedia's Tom Feeney page right now?! You can even add links to your favorite sources and articles on Tom Feeney!

    As it says on his website (Where you can still donate to his 2004 campaign!): "...It takes courage...It takes Tom Feeney!" It sure does! So let's all show that same kind of courage, and share what we know with the whole wide world!

    Requesting Special Prosecutor for Illegal Use of Great Seal as Originally Reported by BRAD BLOG!
    (Paging Mr. Starr...Paging Mr. Starr...Please Report Back to DOJ Immediately)
    By Brad Friedman on 1/14/2005 11:47am PT  

    RAW STORY first reported this morning that Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee will deliver a formal request shortly to the Deptartment of Justice asking them to begin a criminal investigation into the activities of Ohio Sec. of State and Co-Chair of the State's Bush/Cheney Re-Elect Committee, J. Kenneth Blackwell!

    That request has now been made, and is available to read [PDF] via the Democrat's U.S. House Judiciary Committee website.

    In addition to the criminal investigation, they are asking that Justice Department Head John Aschcroft assign a special prosecutor in the matter of the Blackwell's apparently illegal use of the Great Seal of the United States as first reported by The BRAD BLOG on Wednesday!

    According to RAW STORY's report...

    Among other matters, the referral is to request an investigation into voter intimidation, improper voter purging, perjury, tampering with voting machines during Ohio's recount and Blackwell's misuse of the Great Seal of the United States in a campaign letter.

    In the matter of misusing the Great Seal in violation of federal law, which was reported first by the Brad Blog earlier this week, the congressmen and women are seeking a special prosecutor.

    Here is U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 33, § 713 on the "Use of likenesses of the great seal of the United States, the seals of the President and Vice President, the seal of the United States Senate, the seal of the United States House of Representatives, and the seal of the United States Congress".

    By Brad Friedman on 1/13/2005 7:16pm PT  

    Cannot vouch for the reality of this photo sequence, but it certainly is amusing! And a fine reminder that no matter how bad things seem now, they could always be worse (which may, or may not, be comforting to you depending on whether you happen to be a glass half-full or half-empty person).

    Just a quick personal note to beg your indulgence during the less-than-usual blogging I have been able to do on BRAD BLOG of late due to necessary work getting the Velvet Revolution under way.

    There is much to get done --- and in fact getting done --- behind the scenes, both on the website itself and concerning policy matters and organization. As usual, everything takes more time than I would hope, and revolutions are no exception.

    So, I beg your indulgence in the meantime if I am taken away from BRAD BLOG a bit more than I would like for the moment. If that's the case, I hope it won't be for long as we are quickly gathering resources and folks are jumping in to handle much of the work that there are still only a few of us handling at the moment.

    I trust you will understand it is for a good cause.

    To that end, my apologies to those still awaiting Email or Comment replies from me. I'm doing the best I can to climb the mountain. As usual, I will attempt to get to everything, and please forgive if I am unable to answer in a timely matter (or occassionally at all!)

    For those who have asked, yes the Clint Curtis investigation continues, and there should be much to report on in that regard in the near future. The events of the last week or two have taken much of my time for the moment, but not my focus. There will be more...much more report on the matter coming up! So continue to stay tuned!...

    (BTW, I have been invited to interview Curtis on-stage in a Live Event currently being scheduled to close the Freedom Cinema Festival which takes place in Park City, Utah during this year's Sundance Film Festival. The FCF is a BRAD BLOG advertiser! So please click their ad on the left to check 'em out!

    Their "Clint Curtis/Brad Friedman" event is currently scheduled to take place on Saturday, Jan. 29th, and I am hoping to be able to get there for it, but still working out a few details. If you are near the area, or planning to go to Sundance this year, please be sure and stop by! It will be the first time Curtis and I will have met in person, and I'd be thrilled to say hello to many of you guys there as well! I'll make an announcement in a separate item when I can confirm for certain that I will be able to make it...Which will, of course, keep me away from BRAD BLOG even more in the process!... But again, hopefully you will understand...)

    (Are we sure he's a Democrat?!)
    Sends Letter to Blackwell for Reform Help, Asks GAO for Investigation of Long Lines!
    By Brad Friedman on 1/13/2005 1:22pm PT  

    BRAD BLOG's 2004 Man of the Year, Rep. John Conyers (Ranking Minority Member of the House Judiciary Committee) is not letting go.

    Yesterday he, and Rep. Henry Waxman (Ranking Minority Member of the House Gov. Reform Committee) requested a new GAO Investigation of the long voting lines, and other related issues that kept Americans from voting as should be their right on November 2nd of last year. His letter to the GAO is here [PDF]. An AP story on same is here.

    And today, Conyers sent a new letter to his best-friend and reported two-time (at least) lawbreaker Ohio Sec. of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell (who also served as Ohio's Bush/Cheney Re-Elect Committee Co-Chairman while studiously assuring a "free, fair and transparent" election in the Buckeye State).

    Conyers asked for Blackwell's help in reforming our flawed election system.

    Dear Secretary Blackwell:

    Attached for your review and response, please find a comprehensive Report regarding Ohio election law irregularities prepared by the House Judiciary Committee Minority Staff. Given the importance of election reform, and the key role Ohio has played in recent elections, I believe it is imperative that you, as the leading election official in Ohio, provide Congress with your reactions to the attached report, including in particular the factual and legal conclusions and legislative recommendations set forth therein.

    I recognize that in the past you have been unwilling to respond to any inquiries regarding the irregularities in the Ohio presidential election or your office's role in them. However, I am now hopeful that since Congress has certified the results of the electoral college, that you will be more forthcoming in assisting Congress in developing a record and legislation that will allow the nation to avoid a repeat of the voting irregularities reported in your state.

    In this regard, it is important to recognize that voting reforms are now supported by key members on both sides of the aisle.

    Conyers goes on to spell out supportive statements from both Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Republican Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH).

    In a related item, and perhaps the biggest "No Duh!" issue to be discussed this year, the Associated Press is reporting that Secretaries of State will be gathering to discuss whether their roles as state election overseers might be a conflict of interest with their partisan roles in campaigning for nominees on the same ballot they are overseeing:

    The public must be assured "that we are not participating in any type of manipulation at that level," said Rebecca Vigil-Giron, New Mexico's secretary of state and president of the national group.

    The ideas have been tossed around since Florida's disputed presidential election in 2000. The latest discussion was prompted by possible federal legislation seeking to ban campaigning by state elections officials, as well as calls for change by some editorial boards, said Meredith Imwalle, spokeswoman for the national secretaries of states group.
    Blackwell drew new criticism last week with the revelation that he sent a letter to Republican donors thanking them for helping deliver Ohio for Bush.
    Blackwell "pushed the envelope as hard as any secretary of state ever," said James Ruvolo, the Ohio chairman of the Kerry campaign. [ed. note: That's our link, not AP's]

    We realize this is a very radical and conspiracy-theorist idea to hope that those overseeing elections would not have a personal or professional stake in them.

    But whadduweknow? We're just dissidents, we guess.

    UPDATE: Just minutes after posting the above item, RAW STORY reported that they were finally able to get a response from Blackwell's office on all of the above. It was just one line: "I think Rep. Conyers' inquiry and motivation speaks for itself." More than one line on this at RAW STORY...

    Senator's Office Confirms use of Great Seal in Fundraising Letter Violates FEDERAL Law!
    (His Ohio STATE Law Violation in Letter is Last Week's News)
    By Brad Friedman on 1/12/2005 1:10am PT  

    It appears that Ohio Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (who served as both the state's Election chief and Co-Chair of the state's Bush/Cheney Re-Elect Committee) may not only have violated Ohio state law by asking for illegal corporate contributions in a recent fundraising letter for his gubernatorial bid, but it appears that he may have broken the federal Rule of Law as well!

    Blackwell's use of a facsimile of The Great Seal of the United States in his constituent fundraising letterhead and on its envelope (both shown in the graphic at the bottom of this article) is in apparent violation of Title 18 of the U.S. Code which states, according to an official U.S. State Department publication [PDF] available on its website, that "all* uses of the Great Seal and the design...are official"

    The State Dept. document discusses the Great Seal, its history, and is quite clear on its illegal uses according to United States Code:

    Title 18 of the U.S. Code, as revised in January 1971, prohibits use of the likeness of the Great Seal or any facsimile in...any advertisement, circular, book, pamphlet, or other publication, play, motion picture, telecast, or other production...for the purpose of conveying a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the U.S. Government under threat of a fine of not more than $250 or imprisonment of not more than 6 months, or both.

    Though the version of the seal used by Blackwell, is modified in the slightest of ways from the official version of the seal (there is a solid ring around the official version, instead of ring of stars for example), the use of its "likeness" or "facsimile" clearly seems intended to endow his fundraising letter with the appearance of an official notice.

    The seal, in its proper and legal use, is meant to convey the authority of the President of the United States, a fact which may raise the eyebrows of those who have suggested that alleged malfeasance in the Ohio elections by Blackwell was done in favor of his candidate and President, George W. Bush.

    However, the official State Dept. document states, "The seal can be affixed only by an officer of the Department of State, under the authority of its custodian, the Secretary of State."

    We will presume that refers to the United States Secretary of State, as opposed to the one from Ohio.

    Further the State Department document discusses requests for uses of the seal for nonofficial business (which would seem to exclude candidates seeking funds for quixotic gubernatorial bids):

    Requests To Use the Great Seal and Coat of Arms

    All of these uses of the Great Seal die and the design, or coat of arms, are official. Often private, nonofficial requests to use one or the other come to the Department of State. The Great Seal can be affixed only as provided by law [P.L. 91-651, Title 18 USC], and impressions of the seal cannot be made for display purposes or in response to requests for souvenirs or samples. This position has been applied not only to impressions made from the present die but also to impressions from earlier dies still in existence.

    The sorts of documents on which the seal may be used by the U.S. Secretary of State after countersigning along with the President of the United States include:

  • Instruments of ratification of treaties and other international agreements;
  • Proclamations of treaties and other international instruments;
  • Appointment commissions of ambassadors, Foreign Service officers, Cabinet officers, and all other civil officers appointed by the President whose commissions are not required by law to issue under another seal; and
  • Assignment commissions for consular officers.
  • Our work load of late has kept us from being able to contact Blackwell's office for comment on this second apparent disregard for the Rule of Law in a single fundraising letter. We hope, however, that other media outlets may be able to do so shortly, and The BRAD BLOG will report on any explanation Blackwell's office may have when and if they do.

    It should be noted that it was AP who originally reported on the letter's illegal request for corporate funds in violation of Ohio state law. Blackwell's campaign office attributed the illegal request to "a printers mistake." In that same article, Blackwell is quoted as saying, "I have an obligation to follow the law."

    It was, however, the Internet-only RAW STORY who exposed the letter originally even though AP failed to give them credit for their exclusive.

    An original scan of the controversial Blackwell letter, composed while the Ohio recount was still underway, can be seen at RAW STORY with both uses of the Great Seal facsimile.

    A text-only version of the full letter can be read in our earlier story on the matter.

    Ken Blackwell's conscience and regard for the Rule of Law are still elusive at this time.

    UPDATE: Confirming our report, Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ) office says use of Great Seal in campaign letter is illegal. RAW STORY has the story. Natch. Also, Stephen Koff of the Cleveland Plain Dealer seems to have been working on the same issue concurrently as The BRAD BLOG and they published their story on it this morning, which was in turn picked up by the Subscription-Only newsletter National Journal.

    A Blackwell representative is quoted in the reports as explaining that the seal is "official-enough looking to grab the letter recipient's attention" but "different enough to be legal."

    The Dept. of Justice would seem to disagree with that since they gave warnings about using the seal in this way to several Democrats and Republicans as many as 21 years ago according to the above reports. We'd urge you to read them both.

    As well, The BRAD BLOG has learned that that DoJ warning doesn't seem to have stopped the campaigns and PACS of J.C. Watts, Bob Barr and several others from using the fake seal recently on their own fundraising letters.

    One reporter with whom we spoke about this issue, when asked about the triviality of this apparently breach of Federal law has told us, "I have three words for you: 80-Pound Paper."

    UPDATE 1/14/05: HOUSE DEMS REQUEST DOJ CRIMINAL PROBE OF BLACKWELL! Requesting Special Prosecutor for Illegal Use of Great Seal as Originally Reported by BRAD BLOG! Click here for details!

    Gratingly Insipid Cartoon Inspires Hysterical Reviews!
    By Brad Friedman on 1/11/2005 8:20pm PT  

    Too funny...(and we could all use a laugh lately. Well me anyway.)

    Please see the reviews for The Family Circus before someone takes them down. Here's one such sample amongst many brilliant reviews...

    (Hat tip Corey K. for the link!)

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