Amy Goodman, the toughminded and hardworking host of Democracy Now!, is coming to campus. Amy and her show are one of the very few number of things you can call honest, dedicated journalism. So of course I went to go see her interview some Stanford faculty.

What I didn’t expect was to see a packed auditorium. I’m forced to sit on the floor, but then floor fills up and I have to scoot back so they can fit in even more people. (A few minutes after this I realize how I scooted back without even thinking about it, just because a policeman asked me to.)

I now find myself sitting next to some people who are apparently Republicans and, incredibly, Michael Savage fans. Michael Savage is an interesting character in his own right — “an anti-Semitic, homophobe gay Jew” is I believe how Mark Crispin Miller refers to him — but for now suffice it to say Savage’s show is the third-most-popular talk radio show and features comments like “we need more” prisoner abuse, Arabs are non humans, “When you hear ‘human rights’, … think only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son [gays]”. I wanted to ask them a few questions but they left before I got a chance.

Amy’s first guest is Larry Diamond, from the right-wing think tank the Hoover Institution, which just happens to be here on campus to torment us. (Posters around school quote a Hoover fellow as saying “I am now convinced AIDS is not a disease at all — it is a government program”.) Not only is Diamond a Hoover fellow, he’s a senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, recently back from visiting Iraq to help them out.

And yet, even he is very sad about this election. He fears we’re about to have a “massive, massive” attack on Fallujah (which won’t work, Al-Qaeda isn’t stupid enough to hang around there) in the next few days, at the same time that the Bush administration has just received an open letter with some pretty reasonable requirements about what an election must have. In other words, we’ll be invading with the knowledge there was a peaceful solution. In the next few days we face a very fateful choice, he says.

Amy notes that he doesn’t sound like a Hoover Institution man. He says you’d be surprised — many people there opposed the invasion to begin with and he implies many are voting for Kerry.

Senior Pentagon leadership, he says, are guilty of “felony criminal negligence” for how they conducted this war and its aftermath. He doesn’t see any evidence of war crimes but he thinks we need to follow Abu Ghraib all the way up the chain of command.

Next up: David Dill, the Stanford Computer Scientist who runs, a group opposing paperless touchscreen voting machines.

He says he got into it because as a computer scientist he knew that computers were no way to run an election, but as he learned more and more about how we vote in America, he realized the system was rotten almost to the core. He hasn’t seen clear proof this election was stolen but he doesn’t think we can be confident that it wasn’t. As you know, paperless electronic voting machines — which were used in Ohio — can be used to steal the election undetectably.

Even with paper printouts though, he thinks that the optical scan ballots (where you fill out your vote like a standardized test and feed it to a machine which verifies it’s valid and counts it) are much better than computer voting — and much cheaper too.

Why do election officials like touchscreen machines? Well, because it’s so easy to do recounts: just press a button and the computer spits out the same results as it did last time. (The audience laughs.) It’s not a joke — these people really hate the pressure of being watched by the whole world while they recount the ballots; not being able to do a recount really makes things easier for them.

There are some bills in Congress to solve the problem. You can support them at their website. They got one bill (HR 2239) introduced in Congress and someone told him, “Even if you got a hundred co-sponsors it’ll never go anywhere”, as if one hundred co-sponsors were completely impossible. The bill now has a hundred and fifty. This is a bipartisan issue and people care about it.

The media is more powerful than any weapon the military has, Amy notes. By using our public airwaves, a national treasure, the Pentagon has been able to manufacture consent for their wars. The final guest, John McManus of Stanford’s Graduate Program in Journalism, comments on the media.

What he is really concerned about, he says, are political ads. They are powerful, short, calculated images that short-circuit our thinking. They are a form of “air pollution” we can’t afford anymore. The solution is to do what other countries have done: give candidates free airtime, but limit them to simply speaking directly to the audience.

The same study that found three quarters of Bush supporters think Iraq had WMDs and gave al-Qaeda “substantial support” also found that similar numbers thought Bush supported labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (74%), participation in the land mines treaty (72%), the nuclear test ban treaty (69%), the International Criminal Court (54%), and the Kyoto treaty (51%). Needless to say, Bush opposes all of the above. (The Internation Criminal Court one is especially bizarre, since Bush stressed several times how he opposed it in the debates, which seemed to me like a bad political move (and these numbers seem to confirm that).) Newspapers, he said, need to take citizenship as seriously as they do sports.

There’s also going to be a lot of muckraking in the next four years — muckraking is always easier when there’s a large supply of muck.

Larry Diamond adds that when he was in Iraq with the CPA he had to sneak out of his building through a back-alley to meet with an NPR reporter on background because the CPA’s PR department was very careful about such things.

McManus also noted that we need a network of media outlets that expose the stories not being told by mainstream media. Amy Goodman noted that getting Democracy Now! on more stations had forced major news sources to try to cover stories she covered (she gave some examples) — it’s “trickle-up journalism”.

Amy closed by encouraging people to get Democracy Now! on their local public access station (for a limited time, DN! will pay for the cost of getting the satellite equipment needed to receive the show’s broadcast) or, better yet, start their own show. The only way we’re going to change things is if people get involved.

posted November 05, 2004 05:33 PM (Education) (4 comments) #


Stanford: Day 45
Stanford: Day 46
Stanford: Day 47
David Boies on the Dispensation of Justice
Stanford: Day 48
Amy Goodman (and guests) on the Election
Stanford: Day 50
Stanford: Day 51
Donald Knuth writes Condi Rice
Stanford: Day 52
Stanford: Day 53


The results of the PIPA study you reference are unsurprising.

However, the question on the International Criminal Court was phrased as follows:

Should the US participate or not participate in the International Criminal Court that tries individuals for war crimes, genocide, or crimes against humanity if their own country won’t try them?

Had the question been:

Should the US participate or not participate in the International Criminal Court that tries individuals for war crimes, genocide, or crimes against humanity if their own country won’t try them even if it could put American citizens on trial without a jury on foreign soil?

I believe the responses would have been slightly different.

Disclaimer: I think American war criminals not tried by the United States should be tried by the International Criminal Court.

posted by Jorge at November 5, 2004 10:47 PM #

Little tidbit concerning the Hoover Institution: it’s also home to former secretary of state George Shultz and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman. Whether or not these guys are one’s cup of tea in general, they should be given much credit for their vocal opposition to our failed and vastly destructive “War on Drugs.”

posted by Ethan Straffin at November 7, 2004 03:19 AM #

the Bush administration has just received an open letter with some pretty reasonable requirements about what an election must have

Can you post a link to this open letter? I’d like to read it.

posted by at November 8, 2004 09:24 PM #

He hasn’t seen clear proof this election was stolen but he doesn’t think we can be confident that it wasn’t.

Man, and this guy is teaching at Stanford? I don’t have any clear proof the rosicrucians are running the world, but I don’t think we can be confident they aren’t.

posted by bryan at November 11, 2004 09:14 PM #

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