CONTENTS DECEMBER 20, 2000
Click. Recall election in May for Marin District Attorney Kamena.
Click. GW Bush: "It Would Be Easier If I Was Dictator"
by Robert Lederman.
Click. WACKENHUT'S CYBER-TERRORISM TEAM.
Click. Luck of the Draw (The Kleroterion!)
Recall election in May for Kamena
By Guy Ashley 12/19/00 Marin Independent Journal.
Marin's chief elections officer says he will request the Board of
Supervisors to call a special election for next May asking voters whether
District Attorney Paula Kamena should be recalled from office.
Registrar of Voters Michael Smith said he will make the request at the
board's next meeting in January, after an official count of recall petitions
found enough signatures to necessitate sending the county's first-ever
district attorney recall drive to the voters.
Smith said five employees of the elections office finished two weeks of
counting 19,911 signatures yesterday afternoon. They found the recall drive
produced 13,942 valid signatures on Kamena recall petitions - 186 more than legally required.
Smith said he would ask the board on Jan. 9 to call an election for May
within 14 days. If the board declines to do so, Smith said he would be
obligated by law to set the election himself. He said elections officials
are considering a special election date of May 15 or 22.
The petition drive targeting Kamena was launched in May amid a surge of
community resentment about decisions in the Marin courts in cases involving child custody disputes. These cases included the prosecution by the District Attorney's Office of a Novato woman who attempted to take custody of her own daughter in violation of a court order.
Four judges were also targeted in the recall effort. But as the campaigns
against the judges dissipated, a second wave of opposition descended on
Kamena, led by critics of her office's marijuana prosecution policies.
The medical pot forces, led by a handful of paid signature gatherers, put
the Kamena recall campaign over the top.
Kamena said she was disappointed to hear of the petition drive's success,
and she reiterated her suspicion that recall backers used misleading tactics in gathering signatures.
She also accused opponents of using the recall process to strong-arm her
into adopting more lenient policies for people claiming a medicinal need for marijuana. Kamena claims the recall grows out of longstanding opposition by the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana to county efforts to launch its own licensing process for medical marijuana patients.
"This is not about medical marijuana," Kamena said. "This is about someone or some group with one issue trying to misuse the political recall process to get their way.
Kamena's critics, led by Lynnette Shaw of the Marin Alliance, raised an
estimated $15,000 to hire signature gatherers and otherwise support the
Kamena recall. Shaw delivered three boxes of recall petitions to Smith's
office last month.
News of the submissions prompted some people to call in complaints,
claiming they were misled into signing petitions by people who spoke only of support for medical marijauna and nothing about a Kamena recall.
Despite indications that it was the medical pot forces that led the
petition drive to success, Smith said it's likely ballot arguments in next
May's special election won't mention medical marijuana.
He said that instead, arguments supporting the recall likely will be
limited to claims of abuse by Kamena's office in the recent prosecution of
Carol Mardeusz, a Novato mother who was convicted by a jury of attempting to abduct her own daughter in violation of a court order forbidding her from contacting the girl. That's because recall petition circulated in Marin this summer and fall mentioned only the Mardeusz case, Smith said.
Kamena said complaints of misleading tactics led her to believe voters who signed the recall petitions didn't know what they were supporting. She said she had been contacted by a man at a San Rafael shopping center who urged her to sign the petition, without mentioning a recall.
But she said she won't be taking any action to challenge the recall
campaign in court. Instead, she said she will reactivate her campaign
committee and focus her energy on urging voters not to support the recall.
"If the citizens of Marin County want to have an election I will do
everything I can to show that I'm doing an excellent job and that the recall
is a bad idea," Kamena said.
Shaw could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.
Prosecution guidelines adopted by Kamena's office last year made county
certification a central requirement for people seeking a medical exemption
to avoid prosecution for possession or cultivation of marijuana.
Shaw has said the guidelines were no good because some local police
departments disregarded them by seizing any marijuana they found and sending cases to the district attorney even when the D.A.'s guidelines had been met.
According to Shaw, some Alliance members have since had their plants
seized and destroyed, even after Kamena's office has accepted their claims of legitimate medical use and declined to file charges.
Kamena said that much of this criticism is better put to local police
agencies that take action against pot growers.
She said her office's medical marijuana policies are among the most
progressive in the state and make a good-faith effort to recognize a
person's rights to medical marijuana under Prop. 215, the medical pot
initiative passed by state voters in 1996.
Smith said the recall election would cost an estimated $500,000 to hold.
He said these costs woud go toward the printing of ballots and ballot
booklets and staffing all 113 polling places in Marin on the day of the
Kamena, who swept into office in 1998 with the support of 56 percent of
Marin voters, said it's a shame the county will have to bear such a high
cost, especially since she would have to run for re-election in March 2002
"Instead of wasting taxpayer money on this, they could just wait 10 months
and tell people not to vote for me," she said.
Contact Guy Ashley via e-mail at
Brought to you by The Marin Independent Journal
WACKENHUT'S CYBER-TERRORISM TEAM.
P R E S S R E L E A S E
ACC Accuses Wackenhut International Corporation
EMPLOYEEs of Tortuous & Criminal Harassment.
Finds Wackenut's Security Force Website's Digital Signatures on Fraudulent Messages being placed on ACC's Website by Hackers, who had allegedly engaged in months of interference in ACC's operations. Suggests that Wackenhut might be operating a CYBER-TERRORISM TEAM on the WEB.
Cranford, NJ. April 25, 1997
After discovering digital signatures it couldn't identify on its web server
in bulletin board messages and access records, ACC installed updated remote host detection code in an effort to determine who or what was behind a concerted effort to interfere with its operations, and that of its
Publication Department's On-Line Investigation into the Science of Space
Travel, Aerospace Science, and such interesting commentary topics as the
alleged 1947 Roswell, NM crash of a UFO, and public reaction to it, and
theories about the tragic Kennedy, King and Rabin assassinations.
Round the clock surveillance of its own equipment for three months finally
paid off when, after isolating the pattern of fraudulent access to its
servers, a message left by a member of the group of hackers
engaging in what ACC called "pre-planned, well organized harassment of ACC by wire fraud, email fraud and telephonic threatening", revealed the
original digital signature of that user's WEB HOST, and what is now believed to be the origins of the entire group hacking ACC's equipment.
The message, one of hundreds from the same small group of hackers,
originated on the servers maintained by Wackenhut International Corporation's "Mail1" server, part of the Gateway used by Wackenhut, a billion dollar International Security Force provider to the US Government, to gain access to the Internet. Wackenhut's equipment is not set up for Public Anonymous usage, and has extensive security, precluding the possibility that the hackers had hacked into Wackenhuts equipment to use it as a shield, stated an Internet Security Expert
employed by ACC.
"This is consistent with a pattern of deliberate abuse of ACC's Web Servers and Email accounts: employees at Wackenhut, using its internal Web Server access accounts and equipment, have apparently been SPAMMING and TERRORIZING the American Computer Company
'Publications Department' which has been pursuing a journalistic
investigation of the issues regarding Wackenhut's CLIENTs involvement in an alleged cover-up of the capture of a Crashed UFO, kept supposedly at Area 51, which Wackenhut provides inside security services to for the US Air Force," stated a forum supervisor known to the Internet Public only as
'Morpheus' through the On-Line "Alien Science and Technologies Forum",
maintained by ACC's Publications Department.
"The real question is, which of Wackenhut's very visible CLIENTs may have
commissioned this alleged CYBERWAR against ACC," he added.
The Alien Science and Technology Forum is a light, satiric, educational
investigation of scientific issues involving space travel, aerospace
science, electronic science, physics, and other areas of research, politics,
commerce and human sociology. Among its topics are the infamous Roswell UFO Crash, in the public spotlight recently due to the 50th Anniversary of Roswell held during the Summer of 1997.
During the period, ACC issued a light commentary about the allegations made by one Lt. Col. Philip Corso, Nuclear Physicist Stanton Friedman and an anonymous Consultant, that started an inquiry as to whether they were correct or not in suggesting such 1940's engineering marvels as the Bell Transistor, were in reality derived from Alien Technology taken off the
allegedly downed Roswell UFO.
Within a week of publishing its original story, ACC indicated, its offices
had been broken into, it had received classified materials leaked it
deliberately by a "consultant" and faxed to it without solicitation, and
extensive sabotage of its Web Equipment was already underway.
"We got a reaction to what we thought would be responded to as a humorous story, that we did not expect!" stated ACC President Jack Shulman. "In fact, we have had millions of visitors come to our web site to find out more (http://accpc.com/roswell.htm is the page on which the strange story of Roswell 1947 is posted) and have by investigation found inconsistencies in the stories about technology transfer both at the Bell System in 1947 surrounding the origins of the Transistor, and at the operation of the Z-Division - which today consists of our Nuclear Defense programs, plus Sandia Corporation, and a half dozen National Laboratories, including Lawrence Livermore, Alamagordo, Sandia, Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Hanford and others. The whole thing has become an exceedingly strange story. The more we try to look away from the odd allegations by Corso, Friedman and others of strange goings on at the National Labs, the more the story draws us back."
"During the time period, the web warfare against ACC by what looked for all the world like a concerted group of fanatical hackers, took on global
proportions, including the illegal use of multiple proxies by the hackers to
hide their identities from us as they alternately tried to topple our
equipment, tie up our staff and equipment, and harassed us with insults,
defamation, libel, out and out nonsense, and telephonic and electronic death threats. This was accompanied by the posting of libelous email to millions of email boxes, all of it very well orchestrated, with, at its epicenter,
one or two people using phony names who claimed to be 'UFO investigators', whose source web sites have one unique attribute: the hackers possess extremely rare links to the old-style inward Darpa-net that can not be communicated with by those of us in the outside world easier, perhaps linking them to some unknown Defense Advanced Research Projects site of which we and the Public are unfamiliar, perhaps one used to surveil and coordinate their efforts on the Internet."
"It wasn't until we finally were able to penetrate a web of proxy
misdirection, that we began to get suspicious of WACKENHUT, as they provide security services to the laboratories, Area 51 and commercial providers such as Bell Labs, Rockwell and others, and to the Armed Services and Correctional Centers throughout the US."
"Fortunately for us, their employees got clumsy this week, and when posting the usual round of Cyberwar Transmissions, our equipment was able to identify, for the first time, that these hackers were operating from
WACKENHUT's WEB SYSTEMS, hosted for them by Florida Internet (FLINET) near WACKENHUT's West Palm Beach, Florida Mega-Corporate Headquarters. At this moment it is not clear to what extent Wackenhut's management is involved, were aware, or whether Wackenhut's close affiliation with its client's computer equipment was simply being used as a vantage point to harass ACC from."
"We have asked the Justice Department and the National Security Agency to look into the hacking and intrusion for the possibility that Wackenhut
should have its 'sensitive top secret' security clearance revoked until we
get to the bottom of this, as the security violations also included one
breach into our passwords file by what appear to be a security operative
directed by Wackenhut, along with depicitions of our executives on the
Internet with rifle sight cross hairs added to their images, filing of false
registrations with the Internic, and sending of threatening audio
transmissions to our voice mail. It appears likely that intrusions into our
web server from what we determined are Classified websites at Wright
Patterson Air Force base during the past few months, may also have involved the company's personnel. We commenced a lengthy criminal investigation of the harassment when the individuals involved started posting the telephone numbers and names of Family Members of ACC's executives, encouraging others to harass what turned out to be 80 year old senior citizens and spouses and children. At that point we decided to catch the harassers and seek punitive damages."
"If it turns out that Wackenhut did this thing for a client of theirs, we
are going to seek State or Federal punitive damages against Mr. George
Wackenhut, the company's chairman, as I am going to hold him personally
accountable for the millions of dollars in financial damages he may have
caused ACC and for the emotional impact of the threats on my elderly
parents, who are in their late 70's and 80's, enfeebled and ill, and I am
sure others here who have been harmed by the Hackers are going to do
likewise." added Mr. Shulman.
"Its one thing to respond to a humorous look at the lighter side of
technology, Space Science and UFOlogy, by posting equivalent information on the Web in your own name. Its another thing to use anonymous user names to go about deliberately trying to destroy someone, and that's what these hackers are trying to do. It became quite clear that these were no ordinary group of typical 'hacker youth' - they have been too disciplined, too regimented and too well advised on using psychology to try to set their opposition off balance. To some degree they have recruited a few hacker youth to assist them, but thats been done through a SPIDERWEB of lies and deceit. We have been gauging and studying them for a long time, and we have coined a new phrase to describe what may ultimately turn out to be Wackenhut's alleged INTERNET Hacker Team: Cybermercenaries, or CyberMercs for short. Of course, we want to give Wackenhut a chance to respond in their own defense, perhaps in Court, but since this may involve one of their 'Sensitive Military Area' clients disinterested in our Probe into the Science of UFOlogy and Space Fligth and the Science of the US Nuclear Defense Program, we are doubtful they, Wackenhut, will do anything but remain silent or threaten us further. Last week, someone cloned one of our WEB ADDRESSES using libelous terms in the registration, and one of the Suspected WACKENHUT hackers then posted it to millions of Web Users in an effort to further harass ACC and suppress people publicizing about us. The Internic transferred the fraudulent registration to our control, but has yet to change its defamatory content, despite our legal protests. This could get very ugly, if ACC has to take further strong legal action and could ROCK the Internet."
American Computer is located at "http://american-computer.com" on the
Internet. Its products include advanced PCs, Laptops, Supercomputers and
Web Servers. Its VALKYRIE series supercomputer, starting at only $350,000 is one the lowest cost Supercomputer available in the world, and its products are notable in that they are accompanied generally by a 5 Year
Warranty and optional on-site service. ACC also provides UNLIMITED
TECHNICAL SUPPORT with its products at no extra charge.
Contact: Jim Peterson
American Computer Company
6 Commerce Drive
Cranford, NJ 07016
(c) Copyright 1998 American Computer Company. All Rights Reserved.
GW Bush: "It Would Be Easier If I Was Dictator"
by Robert Lederman
It is now clear why a visibly nervous Dick Cheney is always looking over GW Bush's shoulder when his President-elect protege addresses the media without a carefully-worded script. Like a child, Dubya says the darndest things.
Take his photo-op with Congressional leaders on 12/18/2000. As broadcast on CNN and available in transcript on their website, a
goofily-grinning GW managed to put the entire election controversy into a unique perspective. Standing besides bipartisanly-compromised Democratic Congressional leaders Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, GW-or as he is known within the Bush family-Dumbya-had this to say:
"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." See CNN transcript from 12/18/2000
Since the sole difference between a dictatorship and a democracy is that the leaders are popularly elected by the masses of people rather than by seizing office by force, being appointed by an elite or by assuming power via a fixed election there can be no other way to describe the GW Bush administration than as a dictatorship.
The mechanisms whereby the Bush dynasty has seized power and the real agenda they mean to institute become more evident each day. Can conservatives see through the Bush propaganda and beyond their hatred of Clinton/Gore?
His cabinet appointees are so far without exception men and women whose entire careers involve being groomed by the military-industrial complex, his father's criminally-motivated business circles, far right think tanks with a history of CIA involvement or by the most corrupt channels of Texas oil politics. Rather than being an expression of bipartisanism, the
Bush appointees far more closely resemble what police call, the usual suspects.
What conservatives don't yet fully realize is that the Bush family-including GW-are neither genuine Republicans nor are they genuine conservatives. What they are is genuine corporate-fascists.
If one examines the core beliefs of genuine conservatives-being against abortion, being for the right to own guns, being against Federal intervention in States rights, being against the UN or other multi-national organizations intervening in US affairs or challenging US sovereignty, being against welfare, being against illicit drugs and being against affirmative action-one will find little if anything that resonates with either the conservative agenda or with the ideologies of the prospective appointees of the new Bush administration.
The Bush family are long time advocates of family-planning, population control, sterilization of the poor, corporate welfare, increasing UN power, importing drugs into America, the New World Order and Eugenics.
Numerous members of the Bush family including his father and brothers and at least one of GW's prospective cabinet appointees-potential GW Bush Attorney General Mark Racicot-have a history of alleged involvement in drug running at the highest levels. We're not talking about buying drugs for personal use here but massive importations of heroin and cocaine
with the full involvement of foreign dictators like George Bush pal Manuel Noriega and the Mafia.
The Contra arms/cocaine scandal was fundamentally a VP George Bush program. Little brother Jeb Bush is Governor of Florida, the cocaine- saturated State with more drug money at play in politics than any other. For articles on potential US Attorney General Mark Racicot and drugs see
The recent election was no different than the phony elections held in third world dictatorships. At least four of the US Supreme Court justices who gave Bush the presidency were either appointed by his father, had sons working for law firms representing GW in the contested election lawsuits or had publicly stated that they had a strong personal commitment to making sure Gore never became President.
Justice Scalia said he'd resign if Gore became President. Justice O'Conner said she could not retire if Gore became President because a liberal Justice would replace her.
Both Justices Rhenquist and Scalia have sons working for Bush lawfirms involved in the election. Justice Thomas' wife works for both the far right Heritage Foundation and the Bush transition team. These Justice's flawed and highly partisan ruling trashed the entire idea of States rights-the very same conservative ideology they have so vigorously defended-not to mention the rule of law, equal protection and the idea of judicial impartiality
Many of the men and women Bush is nominating for cabinet positions are direct beneficiaries of affirmative action and would arguably never have risen to their current status without it-a fact that Colin Powell proudly admits in public. The minimally qualified GW is a man whose entire career is based solely on his father being George Bush and all the helping hands that connection brought into play. GW could serve as a textbook example illustrating the conservative ideology that affirmative action leads to mediocrity.
While General Powell, Texas Supreme Court Justice Al Gonzales and Condolezza Rice may be excellent and highly qualified people, they are being nominated solely because of their ethnicity in order to offset the widely held belief that GW is a racist whose campaign disenfranchised African American and non-Cuban Latino voters. Getting a job based on your race is the textbook definition of affirmative action.
The Bush family have been using this same reverse-thinking ploy for decades. To offset their reputation as WWII traitors former President Bush joined the US airforce after the US Congress seized his father's banking assets in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act. I would like someone to explain to me how to reconcile Bush family support for the NAACP with being Hitler's American bankers and longtime advocates for Eugenics-a pseudo science which believes African-Americans are inferior genetically
and should be exterminated.
Republicans who make the argument that even if true this is tantamount to accusing GW for the sins of his ancestors, are deliberately ignoring a crucial fact. The entire idea of compassionate conservatism was invented for GW by the Manhattan Institute-a far right think tank in NYC created by
former CIA director William Casey. This same Manhattan Institute spent eight years sponsoring social scientist Charles Murray while he wrote his influential work, The Bell Curve-a book which advocates that African Americans are inferior to whites in IQ as a justification for eliminating both welfare and affirmative action.
Murray's funding at the Manhattan Institute came from the Pioneer Fund, a far right group which has advocated Eugenics and the inferiority of minorities since the time it was a major supporter of Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s. [See ABC expose on the Pioneer Fund, Charles Murray and
Eugenics http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45/049.html ].
For many conservatives the idea that GW Bush is a born-again Christian may the most significant factor in supporting him, yet this too is a carefully-contrived propaganda ploy.
His CIA trained political handlers-expert as they are in the art of deception- understood that being an alcoholic, a drug user, an AWOL air force pilot, the inheritor of a fortune derived from running banks for Adolf Hitler and having membership in the ultra-elite atheistic power conspiracy, Skull and Bones were going to be major negative factors in how conservatives viewed a GW Bush candidacy. The beauty of representing oneself as a
born-again Christian is that no one can ever prove you are not a born again Christian.
Convicted murderers, war criminals and former Watergate burglars have used claims of being born-again as a means to cleanse their record and deflect criticism. Even a number of the death-row inmates Bush has had executed made these same claims. Apparently, GW did not give them the same benefit of the doubt he would expect from us in this regard.
It is also a bit hard to reconcile the idea of being born again or claiming that Jesus is your favorite philosopher-as GW has-with being the US Governor who holds the Guinness record for ordering executions. On the other hand, enthusiastic support for the death penalty fits perfectly with the Bush family being long-time proponents of Eugenics. Christians may want to note
that Hitler-who claimed to be a devout Christian himself-had millions of Christians imprisoned in concentration camps, gassed and used as slave laborers working for some of the very corporate interests which now support GW.
Notwithstanding my own very strong feelings about the Bush family legacy as Hitler's Wall Street bankers, as anti-Semites and as Eugenicists, even I would begrudgingly accept a GW Bush Presidency as legitimate if he had actually won the election. The problem is that we will never know who won.
Bush surrogates like New Jersey Governor and Bush cabinet wannabe Christine Todd Whitman are publicly advocating that all ballots be sealed-uncounted-for the entire length of the Bush presidency. This insures that his presidency will always be in doubt. Such a decision can only be understood in light of the Bush family knowing for certain that he did not in fact win in Florida and is therefore not a legitimate president.
In other words, Bush is a dictator in every sense of the word and must, as a gross violator of the US Constitution, be impeached. If not impeached, then let us stop pretending that everything is back to normal, that we will proceed with a bipartisan agenda or that this election was a playing out of the wonders of democracy and of our Constitution-as Fox, CNN and other media sources keep instructing us ad nauseum.
We now live in an open dictatorship organized by corporate interests and supported by both the Republican party and our cowardly Democratic party-which is anxious to get back to the business of fleecing the American public and collecting donations. Gore was a terrible candidate but Bush was even worse and the American people, as always, are screwed.
All hail our new American Furhrer, GW Bush and the real President of the United States, Mr. Dick Cheney. They are the best fascists money can buy.
If you would like to read detailed information by a very wide variety of writers and researchers from both the left and the right on the Bush family visit the following websites. I would advise downloading and saving anything you find of value and storing it on a disk rather than on your hard drive. This information is very likely to be censored out of existence in the near future. Possession of it may lead to your imprisonment or eradication.
http://www4.stormfront.org/posterity/ (a pro-Nazi, pro-eugenics site)
Also see: CIA, Nazis & the Republican Party http://www.bartcop.com/nazigop.htm
Washington Post Friday, September 16, 1988 ; Page A16 BEHIND SCENES, DAMAGE CONTROL HAS BECOME VITAL WEAPON FOR BUSH
"When Republican presidential nominee George Bush took the lectern before the B'nai B'rith convention last week, a damaging news release was being distributed to reporters in the rear of the hall detailing new charges that members of a Bush ethnic coalition had made anti-Semitic remarks and promoted revisionist views of the Holocaust."
Sarasota Herald-Tribune 11/11/2000
Head of Florida holocaust Museum links Bush family to Nazis
3/1992 James Baker speaking to then Pres. Bush: "FUCK THE
JEWS. THEY DON'T VOTE FOR US!"
THE BUSH CAMPAIGN AND THE RISE OF THE POLITICAL
UNDERWORLD News & Analysis: North America: US Elections
Robert Lederman, President of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists™ Response To Illegal State Tactics) (718) 743-3722
Past articles by Robert Lederman can be found at:
West Nile Virus, Bush, Giuliani, Manhattan Institute, Eugenics
Street artist info http://www.openair.org/alerts/artist/nyc.html
Please forward and post widely-Thanks!
"Anarchy doesn't mean out of control. It means out of 'their' control."
From Feedmag.com 12/18/00
Luck of the Draw (The Kleroterion!)
By Julian Dibbell
What if the purpose of voting machines wasn't to get an accurate count,
but to randomly choose a victor? Julian Dibbell looks at the technology
of electoral chance, from ancient Greece to Palm Beach.
ARGUE WHAT YOU will about states' rights, equal protection, partisan
courts, mob violence, Ralph Nader, Katherine Harris, and/or the sacred
will of the American people. In your heart of hearts you know it was
really, in the end, all about a gadget: the Votomatic, that four-decade-old punch-card system without whose impressive failure rate we would never have known the poetry of chads or the agony of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney v. Albert Gore, Jr., et al. You also know, of course, that the Votomatic's pivotal role could have been played just as well by a roulette wheel. Connoisseur of polling data that you and all good postmodern Americans are, you understand that whichever way the counts and recounts might have gone, the margin of error in the Florida presidential vote was wider than any possible margin of victory. Whichever side you were on, therefore, whatever democratic principles you claimed to stand for as you shouted at the television screen, you will never quite be able to explain away the simple, Heisenbergian fact that haunted the election from November 7 on:
No tally of the Floridian ballots -- not the first and not the hundredth
-- will ever determine the people's choice more authentically than a coi
n toss would have. The Votomatic's error-ridden output thus served not
so much to muddy the truth as to wrest some serviceable facsimile of it
from the jaws of chaos -- the way the randomizing mechanism in any game
of chance will do.
And, naturally, you're sickened that it came to this. For haven't you
been taught that political choice is a matter far too weighty to be left
to chance? Or to the design of a piece of technology? Don't you believe,
as you've been taught, that the essence of democracy has nothing to do
with machinery, much less the machinery of casinos?
Of course you do. But what if you've been taught wrong?
IT'S CUSTOMARY, when seeking out the essence of democracy, to begin with a visit to ancient Athens. So let's. Nowadays, you can't get any closer
to the birthplace of Western democratic theory and practice than the
well-tended ruins of the Agora, the ancient marketplace where Socrates
discoursed and citizens gathered to (among other public duties) vote him
dead. A fine museum stands there now, and in it, as you might expect,
visitors find themselves surrounded by artifacts of Athenian antiquity's
busy political culture. You might also expect that these artifacts would
include high-minded stuff like statues representing the gods and
goddesses of civic life, or stone tablets recording the timeless
precepts at the heart of classical democracy, and you'd be right: a few
such things remain.
For the most part, though, when you stand in the Agora Museum, you are standing in the midst of a different sort of object altogether. You are standing in the midst of gadgets. This is a curious fact, and one whose significance remains curiously under-recognized. These days, it seems, no discussion of Athenian democracy is complete without some shuffling apology for the Athenians' less-than-democratic treatment of women and slaves, all of whom were shut out of the political process altogether. The point, evidently, is not that Athenian democracy was inferior to ours (the women-and-slaves thing was kind of an issue for most of U.S. history, too, if you'll recall) but that it was never as pure as our cultural nostalgia for it
might lead us to imagine. Why, then, I wonder, is so little mention ever
made of the one other aspect of Athenian democracy that so plainly
distinguished it from the fantasized ideal -- namely, its dependence on
an elaborate and at times almost Rube Goldbergian technological
Wander the halls of the Agora Museum and you won't mistake it. Here are
elegantly designed bronze juror ballots, cunningly crafted official
identification cards, precision water clocks for timing public speeches,
and several other sorts of political paraphernalia. Their workings were
often ingenious, and I could easily spend this essay describing them
all. Instead, though, I'd like to focus on a single piece of ancient
political gadgetry, the main attraction of the museum and, arguably, the
technological linchpin of Athenian democracy. It is called the allotment
machine, or kleroterion. It was the Votomatic of the ancient world.
EVEN CONSIDERED PURELY as an aesthetic object, the kleroterion was a formidable thing. The museum contains just a fragment of one of the
original devices -- a roughly two-by-three-foot slab of rock with a
curious grid of dashes gouged into it. The complete machine was
typically a tall rectangular stone about as tall and wide as a grown
person, and about half a foot thick. Covering the face of the stone was
a rectangular matrix of what looked like short horizontal lines and were
in fact deep slots carved into the rock. The slots were arranged neatly
in rows and columns, usually fifty rows down and typically five or in
some cases eleven columns across. Along the left side of the grid a tube
was attached to the stone, running from the top to near the bottom of
the slab. At the top of the tube was a funnel, and at the bottom was a
small crank-driven device.
The form, as I said, was something to behold, but what remains most
striking is the function: The kleroterion was quite literally a slot
Say, for instance, that a jury needed to be put together for a trial.
Athenian juries had anywhere from two hundred members to a couple
thousand, and each jury was to be composed of equal numbers of members from the city-state's ten political subunits, or tribes. Volunteers
would assemble at their tribal kleroteria and submit bronze identity
tickets to the officiating tribe member, who would slot these into the
face of the machine, filling as many rows as he could. The officiant
would then pour a mix of black and white bronze balls into the funnel at
the top of the kleroterion -- as many balls as he had rows of tickets
and as many white ones as he needed rows selected. One by one, he let
the balls out at the bottom of the machine, flipping the little crank at
the mouth of the tube like a bingo caller. If the first ball was white,
then bingo -- the first row of volunteers marched off to the courthouse.
If the ball was black, that row went home. And so on, till the tribe's
quota of jurors was filled.
Of course, if the kleroterion had been used only for shaping up juries,
it would remain no more than a curio -- a cleverly Flintstonian tool for
a job still widespread but not exactly central to the life of modern
democracies. In ancient Athens, however, selection by lot was anything
but peripheral. Politically speaking, in fact, the lottery was just
about the only game in town. Aside from generals, who were chosen by
election, all public officers from high to low were selected by random
drawing. Sometimes a jar filled with white and black beans served the
purpose. But often as not -- and especially when members of all tribes
were needed to fill the powerful ten-man committees that oversaw the
treasury, granaries, ports, and other key public resources -- only the
sophisticated mechanisms of the kleroterion would do.
Nor was the preference for lottery simply a primitive first step toward
electoral democracy, the superstitious crotchet of a civilization not quite ready to give up petitioning for divine intervention in the affairs of men. There was solid, well-thought-out political theory behind the choice. By combining random selection with a large supply of offices, a vast pool of candidates, and stringent term limits (few positions could be held more than once or longer than a year), the Athenian system assured widespread political participation with greatly minimized risks of corruption, power-grabbing, and factionalism. In short, the lottery -- and the great Iron Age pachinko machine that was its finest expression and most powerful tool -- made the first democracy what it was. Together, the system and its technology enabled Athenians not just to recognize but to live what Aristotle, in his Politics, considered one of democracy's defining principles: "ruling and being ruled in turn."
I FIRST WROTE ABOUT the kleroterion two years ago, after I returned
besotted with it from a Greek vacation and a visit to the Agora. I posted my notes on it to the Dead Media mailing list, an online catalogue of extinct information technologies maintained at the time by science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling. From the venue you'll deduce that I did not think of the kleroterion as anything but the relic of a very ancient regime. I admired it as one admires a pressed and dessicated flower. And I certainly never thought I'd see its like come into bloom again.
But then, a few weeks after my Dead Media contribution hit the Web, I got an excited email from one Conall Boyle, a lecturer in statistics at Britain's University of Central England. "Searching on 'kleroterion' I came across your fascinating page," Boyle began. "Like you I am impressed by the wisdom of the ancients."
"But does your interest go further?" he inquired. Did I agree "that the use of the lot and rotation of offices is a form of democracy that we could aspire to? That the much-vaunted electoral democracy, which produces oligarchy and lays itself open to manipulation by the power of corporations, is NOT the last word in democracy? Do you agree that we should advocate true Athenian democracy with the lot and rotation? "If the answer to this is 'yes,'" he asked finally, "have you tried to advance the cause?"
I hadn't suspected the cause existed, of course, let alone tried to advance it. I wrote Boyle back requesting further information, and I confess I half expected him to send me a two-hundred-page attachment detailing the League of Women Voters' attempts to flood his brain with microwave transmissions. But Boyle was no nut, as it turned out. Not exactly. The movement he described to me was an eccentric one, to be sure, a good stone's throw from the mainstream of political thought. And it seemed to include its share of impassioned oddballs, like the idealistic anti-electoral Italians of the Movimento Internazionale per i Diritti dei Cittadini, whose Web site Boyle referred me to (their motto: "Even citizens, in their own little way, can get pissed off. So now what ?").
But Boyle didn't just point me to home pages. He gave me the names of
scholarly books and articles as well, and as I tracked them down I began
to understand that kleroterion-inspired notions had been percolating in the margins of modern political theory for some years now. There was Yale constitutionalist Akhil Reed Amar's 1984 proposal for what he called lottery voting, a scheme -- aimed at curbing the "overweening majoritarianism" of U.S. electoral politics -- wherein all voters would write the name of their candidate on a ballot and then a single, deciding ballot would be drawn at random, with the candidates most voted-for having the best chances of being selected but none having no chance at all. There was Ernest Callenbach and Michael Phillips's 1985 book A Citizen Legislature, suggesting replacement of the U.S. House of Representatives with a 435-member Representative House, chosen by lot from a cross-section of the American population. There was Australian philosopher John Burnheim's more radical plan to replace the democratic state with something he called demarchy, a highly decentralized, ultra-Athenian network of administrative and deliberative agencies staffed by short-term, randomly selected officeholders.
Many of these schemes had a bashful air about them, presenting themselves more as thought experiments or "modest proposals" than as
actual plans. But none were truly frivolous. All took seriously the proposition that lotteries represented not an abdication but an amplification of democratic choice -- a way of redistributing political agency toward individuals and constituencies too long denied their fair share of it. Some argued that the reduction in campaign costs alone would open the way for a more representative politics. Others emphasized the active citizen participation upon which lottery-based systems depended. Still others simply noted the statistical definition of random selection: equal chances for all.
I gave the arguments a skim. I found them on the whole to be compelling
in their critiques of electoral democracy, and moving in their faith in the average citizen's capacity to govern. I also found them, given the powerful interests and inertia behind the electoral status quo, to be almost entirely utopian.
And then I forgot all about them.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, I remember them now. And now that the appalling
spectacle of the last five weeks seems to have thrown the electoral status quo into a moment of radical question, I've decided that it's time for me to take up Conall Boyle's challenge after all, and do what I can to advance the cause.
It isn't merely that an Athenian-style lottery would never result in the kind of limbo that the Votomatic just put us through. After all, the instant run-off voting systems used in countries like Ireland and Australia would no doubt have spared us that misery just as effectively, at least in this election. Nor is it that the lottery's democratizing effects are unparalleled among possible alternatives to the existing U.S. election process. The proportional representation systems used in almost all modern democracies but ours, for instance, might go just as far toward easing the electoral tyranny of majorities.
What makes it crucial to make the case for political lotteries just now is not, finally, that they blow the doors off all the other schemes that might replace the status quo. It's that the lottery is the scheme most likely to excite and exercise our technical imagination -- which right now desperately needs the workout. As a country, we have grown peculiarly unaccustomed to applying that imagination to our mechanisms of political choice. Once the most radical experiment in democracy on the planet, we have become the democracy least willing to tinker with the machinery, conceptual and otherwise, that that experiment bequeathed us. It seems somehow to embarrass us even to acknowledge that there's anything to tinker with. How else to explain the distinctly bipartisan discomfort that lurked beneath the hostilities throughout the electoral ordeal of 2000? With its butterfly ballots, dimpled chads, safe harbors, and endless gamesmanship, the saga rubbed our noses in the technologies and technicalities upon which, to our chagrin, the functioning of our democracy relies.
Well, we've done enough squirming about it -- it's time to tinker. The
Athenians certainly wouldn't have wasted any time getting down to it. They of all people knew that successful democratic rule was as much a matter of technical craft as of political will. Indeed, if there is any one conclusion to be drawn from the startling sophistication of their political gadgetry, it's that they figured out early what we seem only just now to be learning: that democracy, the most fragile of all forms of government, is the one that most depends on elegant design.
And elegant design, of course, is almost always the product of a great deal of inelegant revision. So let's revise, and let's not be dainty about it. The one mandate to have emerged from this election is a mandate to fix the election system, and even if we scotch the Electoral College and upgrade every voting machine in the land, there will remain much that is broken. Politics will still be the province of a professional elite. Corporations will still have undue influence on decision-makers. Minority interests will still be throwing away their vote every election day.
When Vincent De Domenico first announced his "Wine Train" project to Napa
planners, he said "it will help relieve congestion." People would ride his "meals on wheels" train up the valley, thereby relieving traffic pressures.
Instead, De Domenico's marketing efforts result in significant advertising through any number of outlets, attracting yet more tourists.
Now, the State of California is rewarding his Wine Train with a portion of $36 million -- to enhance his operations as much as improve a dangerous intersection. And what's De Domenico's contribution? This is a Cal Trans "ala Disney" kickback -- an overpass at taxpayer expense. Most businesses have to pay mitigation fees in Napa County for any left or right turn lane improvements, signals, etc. What's Vinnie paying? Oh, forgot, he's one of the boys. Sorta like Fast Eddie De Bartolo with his "interests" in
restaurants in St. Helena ... (Eddie by the way is "franchising" Tomatina ventures "across the east coast" and plans five restaurants for his new hometown, Tampa, Florida).
And what does the Wine Train do? It serves wine and meals ... and continues to have visions of condemning properties to go all the way to Calistoga, and to leave off and pick up tourists. Voters have repeatedly rejected his plans. Walt Disney Corp has all but gotten the boot. But De Domenico continues to enjoy the largesse .... and use his muscle and "connections."
Some public utility, no?
Opening a door to the Wine Country - $53 million Trancas/29 project unveiled.
December 12, 2000 By Kevin Courtney © Napa Register Staff
Caltrans released illustrations last week showing the appearance of Highway 29 when it drops by 32 feet into a depression 4,000 feet long for the new interchange at Trancas Street. These computer-generated images show a broad four-lane highway with median strip that is buffered by landscaped slopes, 14-foot sound walls and a grape motif carved into concrete retaining walls. The grape vines will be large, covering a 10-foot-high band that lets tourists know they have arrived in wine country. "We're
trying to bring something to celebrate the agricultural essence of this valley. We thought it would be an elegant and an appropriate statement to do justice to this valley," Javier Chavez, Caltrans' chief bridge architect, told the City Council last week.
Because of time constraints, council members heard the half-hour Caltrans presentation without much comment, but seemed to like what they were seeing. Councilwoman JoAnn Busenbark said the depressed freeway had a brighter appearance than critics had feared. "I would just hope everyone notices there's no ditch, no tunnel," said Busenbark, who liked the "nice slope" and landscaping.
Caltrans expects to begin work on the $53.5 million interchange next fall, wrapping up construction three years later in the fall of 2004 or spring of 2005. The project will remove the conflict between local and highway traffic, allowing unimpeded flows on Highway 29 under Trancas-Redwood.
Since Trancas-Redwood traffic won't have to stop for a freeway light, congestion in this prime north Napa shopping area should be improved. The project is billed as a safety improvement. The Highway 29/Trancas intersection averages 51 accidents annually. Caltrans believes it can hold costs to $53.5 million and won't have to ask Napa County to pony up more money. The Napa County Transportation Planning Agency, representing cities and the county, is on record as supporting the project as long as local costs don't increase. This project will require $45 million in state funds that Napa County was free to spend on any project. The interchange consumes money that would otherwise be spent further south on Highway 29 to improve intersections at Highway 221 and Jamieson Canyon Road.
During the three-year construction, Highway 29 will be dropped below grade and bridges built for Trancas-Redwood, Napa Valley Wine Train tracks and a pedestrian/ bicycle crossing. Nearly two miles of Highway 29 will be affected by construction starting just north of First Street to Sierra Avenue. There will be 2,500 feet of sound walls north and south of the project, constructed of gray concrete blocks. Caltrans officials said the sound wall north of Trancas will be on the east side of the highway,
running for 1,500 feet. It will be heavily landscaped by shrubs and vines
that will cover 75 percent of it.
A second sound barrier will be built on the west side of the highway, south of Redwood. It will be nearly 1,000 feet long and covered with vines, but not as extensively landscaped as the northern wall. To keep the depressed freeway from flooding, water will be pumped the year around into Napa Creek, a mile and a half to the south.
Pumping will remove water seeping from the area's high water table and precipitation from storms.
With memories of Napa's Sept. 3 earthquake still fresh, Caltrans officials said they designed the over crossings to withstand the "maximum credible" shake expected for this area. The biggest jolt is expected from the West Napa Fault, capable of producing a 6.5 quake. Caltrans increased the bridges' carrying capacities by another 20
percent. The Sept. 3 quake was measured at 5.2 on the Richter scale, causing an estimated $60 million in property damage. Caltrans expects to maintain four lanes of traffic in each direction during construction, but there will be slowdowns due to detours. Caltrans and the city are spending $600,000 on a traffic plan to help motorists survive the many bridge projects coming down the pike, most of them tied to the Napa River flood control project. Other features of the 29/Trancas interchange include realignment of California Boulevard so it meets up with the main entrance to Bel Aire Plaza on Trancas. Also, Permanente Way will be extended past the Kaiser Clinic to California Boulevard.