Gary Coleman, 1968 - 2010
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There are no mistakes. As fate, or someone's idea of a joke would have it, I find myself, by complete coincidence, at the Creekside Inn in Northern California today, on totally unrelated work, on the first anniversary of the sudden and tragic death of my friend and colleague John Gideon.
John, for those who may not know, particularly for those of you who have only found The BRAD BLOG over the past year, was for many years an integral part of this place. He was the co-founder of VotersUnite.org, the author of their indispensable Daily Voting News, which we ran virtually every single day here since Election Day of 2005, an irreplaceable friend, partner and frequent contributor here at The BRAD BLOG and an indefatigable and unwavering champion of Election Integrity, reform and voters' rights --- particularly of the right not only to cast a ballot, but to have that ballot counted accurately and transparently as per the voter's intent.
It was here at the Creekside Inn, a serene, modest hotel in Northern California set around a quiet ivy-lined creek, towering old tress and a lush green courtyard, that I, John's long-time Voters Unite co-founder Ellen Theisen and a small number of other dedicated folks from the Election Integrity movement in this country (shown here), crafted a deceptively simple mission statement of sorts, which we vowed to use as a yardstick for any and all future election reform initiatives. We came to call it The Creekside Declaration:
While John was not there in person, he certainly was in spirit. After hearing of the declaration, he began using the short statement of principle as his email signature line right up until his sudden passing one year ago today. He is here again, in both spirit and my heart, at the Creekside Inn today. That mission now continues in his honor.
His loss to us at the blog, in the EI movement, and to voters across the country cannot be adequately or fully described --- at least not by this writer.
And so, for whatever reason, one that I certainly couldn't even guess at right now, fate has returned me here today --- just the second time I have ever been here.
Well, may be I can take a guess. Perhaps it's John's handiwork somehow, trying to mess with my head, force me to remember how much I miss him on this day --- not that I need any such reminders on any day --- so that he can laugh and laugh and laugh about it all at my expense from the after life. If so, glad I could bring my old friend, confidante, partner and hero one last hearty chuckle.
Has anybody here seen my old friend John?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good they die young.
I just looked around and he was gone...
"Granny D" was surely one of the greatest Americans of all time. In 2005 we were "moved beyond words" when she helped to launch VelvetRevolution.us, the activist organization co-founded early that year by The BRAD BLOG.
More on this extraordinary patriot who, at the age of 89 walked 3,200 miles from coast to coast to draw attention to the need for campaign finance form, and kept up the fight until the day she died, right here and here.
This nation could use millions more like her. Our loss today is immeasurable.
A few personal observations... I doubt that I'd be involved in radio at all these days myself, were it not for the many late nights, as a child, in the dark, when I should have been sleeping, listening to Jim White broadcast over the 50,000 watt KMOX blow-torch in St. Louis, MO. Back in the days when talk radio was something very different than what it has now become...
On a personal note... Aside from the obvious reminder that Cronkite's death offers about what the news media were once --- but no more --- all about... I had a brief chance meeting with Cronkite years ago when, in the late 80's, I was working as an in-store demonstrator for a new board game over Christmas. He was shopping at the great flagship FAO Schwarz toy store on 5th Ave. in New York City.
Even then, some twenty years ago, he seemed surprisingly frail to me. Don't know whether it was because I'd only seen him on TV decades earlier or not. As I recall, I demo'd the game with him and beat him (I had quickly become an expert at the game for all of the hours I'd spent playing it with shoppers, even beating the inventor of the game when I'd met him one day). Cronkite, if I remember correctly, bought a couple of the games for his grandkids or nephews that day.
Not a particularly insightful story, other than for me, at that time in my life, I felt as if I had been in the presence of greatness. It was certainly the highlight of my holidays that year. He will be missed. So will the once-great American news corp which he left, and which left all of us, too long ago.
UPDATE: For more thoughts along those expressed in the last sentence above, and video, etc. we're happy to associate ourselves with Jill's take over at Brilliant at Breakfast.
Today, we remember, the 2,979 killed in both the terror attacks of 9/11 and in the oft-overlooked anthrax bio-terror attacks on American soil which occurred in the following weeks, along with all of those who have given their lives in defense of this nation and its Constitution, including the 5,679 U.S. troops who have been sacrificed so far in George W. Bush's (and now Barack Obama's) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan --- a number which does not include the countless U.S. contractors who have also perished in those conflicts.
As a veteran of Vietnam, my friend and colleague John Gideon, whom we tragically lost late last month, was a champion not just of voters' rights, but of all the causes of his fellow veterans and active-duty brothers and sisters.
Today, The BRAD BLOG's first Memorial Day without his valued presence, we dedicate this day to his memory, his undying fight, and his soaring spirit.
I thought it would be appropriate today, then, to offer the recent Part 2 of Talk Nation Radio's moving audio tribute to the legacy of our friend John. As in Part 1 of Dori Smith's radio special, I appear once again, along with VotersUnite.org's Ellen Theisen and John himself, in both voice and memory. Also, good friend and longtime election integrity advocate Pokey Anderson, of Houston Pacifica's KPFT, speaks about John and his legacy in this part as well. All four of us are seen in the photo below, taken by Desi Doyen, last summer during a few hours of wonderful retreat up in Washington state. It would be the last time all five of us would be together in person.
Download MP3 or listen online [appx. 30 mins]...
Post-Script: I just noticed that this article's permalink happens to be BRAD BLOG item number '7176' --- an oddly appropriate 'anagramatical' coincidence for you numerologists out there. Make of that as you will...
Dori Smith of Talk Nation Radio has put together a wonderful tribute show to our late friend John Gideon. Ellen Theisen, his partner at VotersUnite.org and I --- and John --- join Dori in her remembrance. It was good...no, great...no, heartbreaking...but wonderful, to hear his voice again...
Download MP3 or listen online [appx. 30 mins]...
Dori, in addition to being a first-rate investigative broadcaster, is also a great election integrity advocate herself in Connecticut. She has a blog item, describing her beautiful tribute show, in honor of John, right here.
UPDATE 5/25/09: Part 1 of TNR's report is above. Part 2 of Dori's moving tribute is now posted here, in memory of John, on Memorial Day 2009...
I'm certain that John would have been simply flabbergasted at the outpouring of emotional response and moving tributes upon his passing --- in particular from various public officials, many of whom he'd been at odds with at various times over the years.
The latest comes this morning in the form of condolences, and a very moving statement on his loss, from OH Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner via her Director of Communications, Patrick Gallaway...
It's been of some comfort seeing statements from public officials who John Gideon worked with --- sometimes in collaboration with, sometimes in opposition to --- issuing statements on his tragic passing.
Among the first I received was the following statement and note of condolence this morning from Nicole Winger, spokesperson for CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen...
Update 4/27, 11:54pm PT...
It was a very lonely time for advocates of democracy in the U.S. when John Gideon posted his first guest blog here in the dark days of October 2005, and when we began to carry his vital "Daily Voting News" on Election Day, one month later, in November of that same year.
While the fight for democracy in this country has become somewhat less lonely as the Election Integrity movement has grown since then, thanks in no small part to the tireless, daily contributions of John, it feels very lonely again today. My good friend passed away this evening in a Seattle hospital, having succumbed to a surprise and sudden bout with bacterial meningitis.
John held on as long as he could, but tonight he'll rest with his beloved wife who passed some years ago.
He was 62, and a Vietnam veteran who never stopped fighting for his fellow veterans and in service of our country. He is survived by his son Rick and grandson, and a life-long legacy of fighting in defense of his nation, and for all that it stands for. He has left that legacy behind as a gift --- and challenge --- for us all.
John's always-understated "Daily Voting News" --- which he filed, often seven days a week, for well over five years --- provided simple links to news of election reform, failure and success from around the nation, as culled from papers, blogs, press releases and official and academic reports around the country, and even the world. In so doing, he connected the seemingly disparate dots of local stories, and apparently anecdotal woes, into a cohesive tale of a nation struggling to regain footing on the pedestal on which it had once, and still hoped to stand.
The compelling narrative the DVN slyly wove together daily --- almost, as if in slow-motion, with each passing day --- was clear: We were, and are, a country whose promise of public, transparent democracy threatens to slip away forever beneath a cynical and foolish crush of ill-considered corporatism and greed, self-imposed expediency and often well-meaning, yet destructive naivete. In short: Unless we take care --- every single day --- what's left of our democracy will further wither to the whims of cold, disinterested privatization no longer resembling the self-governance our founders envisioned, and that we have convinced ourselves still remains.
If there is anything we can give back to the man, in thanks for his selfless service, over so many decades, on so many fronts, it is to continue to carry the torch of the man who fought for democracy until he had nothing more he could give...
Pat Tillman's mother Mary said in 2005, about the Bush Administration's unforgivable cover-up, exploitation of her son's death by "friendly-fire" in Afghanistan before the 2004 Presidential Election...
And, as she reminded us again last spring:
Marcy Wheeler has much more, in memory of the man who shoulda been there today...
The Associated Press is reporting that Ohio Congresswoman Rep. Tubbs Jones died today at 6:12 p.m., in Cleveland.
She stood up for America in 2004, by courageously challenging the seating of Ohio's electors in the U.S. House of Representatives. She will be greatly missed.
UPDATE: Friend of The BRAD BLOG Matthew Segal of the Student Association of Voter Empowerment (SAVE) was among those students at Kenyon College in Knox County, OH, where the last vote was not cast in 2004 until well after 2am. He sent us a video of an Election Integrity event that both he and Tubbs Jones spoke at just weeks ago in Ohio, and noted, "Her discussion of the Ohio election (and electoral vote certification) was riveting." The clip is longer than the YouTube-allowed 10 mins, but we'll try to get it posted somewhere.
With the video, he emailed the following personal thoughts this afternoon while we were on the road, and as the Congresswoman was still clinging to life...
Student Association for Voter Empowerment
[UPDATE: Matthew now has more at HuffPo...]
She was a hero. Congress (and America) could use another 534 like her.
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