Veteran blogger Brad Friedman of The BRAD BLOG is perhaps the most well-known and respected advocate on the Internet for free, fair and accountable elections. He’s in Denver attending Democratic National Convention events and was kind enough to stop by Lime, S&R’s Convention headquarters, to chat with Mike Sheehan. (Photo by Jack Shaftoe)
MS: You’re the guy to ask: have you seen any progress in election certification on a national scale, or is it strictly regional improvements, or are you not seeing any improvements at all?
BF: I would pretty much say no improvements at all. And I hate to say it. On a federal level, there is sort of an incremental improvement, in that the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has put in place a new certification process which is much more stringent than the previous one. That said, apparently it’s so stringent that none of the machines have passed testing. And yet, one of the two Democratic appointees to the EAC, Gracia Hillman, wants to do away with that testing, wants to say “forget about this new procedure and let’s just let the machines work anyway.” And this is a Democrat, a Democratic appointee. So no, it’s not good. There have been incremental changes: states like California, you got a better secretary of state; Ohio, better secretary of state. But then you get Colorado here, and you got this yutz Mike Coffman who’s forced by a judge to test all of the machines, finds that none of them works, so he decertifies them and then he recertifies them. So you guys are in the same mess you were in four years ago here.
MS: He just won his primary and he’s potentially on his way to Congress.
BF: Yeah, he’s running for a different office. So you guys are held hijacked to these crappy machines that don’t work and Colorado’s gonna be a very serious… could be a very, very close state this year. Good luck! I mean, really… there’s gonna be no way to verify what happens here in Colorado. … And the media seems to have gotten no better. I mean, suddenly they’ve started reporting on these stories that they could’ve reported on two, three years ago — we could’ve made a difference between then and now — they didn’t. They always do this, just before the election, when there’s no time to make any actual changes. And what do we have last week? Diebold is forced to admit that all of their machines — all of them, not just ones in Ohio — all of them lose votes. Seems like a problem to me; apparently not a lot of other people give a damn for some reason.
MS: I notice that too. Let’s talk about the Internet itself, the “state of the Web” I suppose. Speaking in a broad sense, have you seen your readership or your influence grow, or has it waned, or has it stayed the same? How’s the Web treating you these days?
BF: Well I suppose influence is different than traffic, and you can’t necessarily measure one by the other. For example, we had huge traffic back in January when we had the New Hampshire primary and we had this result that made no sense, and I came out and said, “Well, don’t you think we should count those ballots, since we’re lucky enough to have paper ballots? Don’t you think we should actually count them?” since they were all counted on voting systems that are known to be hackable as we saw in HBO’s Hacking Democracy.
MS: Kucinich made an effort…
BF: Kucinich tried, but he had to go in and pay for it. He could only afford… I think he counted 40 percent of the votes. We found all kinds of miscounting errors. So my traffic goes through the roof. At the same time, I got these guys over at Daily Kos saying “Brad Friedman is crazy and he’s saying that Hillary Clinton stole the election.” And we never said any such thing, never said it was stolen, certainly never said it was Hillary Clinton if it was stolen. And it turns out one of the front-pagers he has over there who blogs under a pseudonym, turns out his name is Dana Houle, and he was chief of staff for the congressman from New Hampshire. So he’s sitting behind his little mask of anonymity. You ask, does your influence go up? Does your traffic go up? I’m not sure if you call that influence, I don’t know if you call it traffic, I don’t know. But obviously people are paying attention to guys like you and me. You know, important people, I guess. Elected people are paying attention. Media are certainly paying attention to what you and I do, we’re driving them crazy, the corporate media.
MS: I’d like to think so, yeah.
BF: We are. They’re jumping out of buildings. They really are… they’re like so depressed that the readership is going down and that guys like Scholars and Rogues, and BRAD BLOG, and Raw Story, consistently scoop them. I’ve talked to a lot of them… they’ve gotta rewrite stories suddenly, because we beat them to it, so they gotta figure out new angles to cover it.
MS: I hope that continues.
BF: I hope they do something.
MS: You mentioned elected officials, I wanted to ask you your thoughts on this. Do you have any theories…
BF: Can I add that Barack Obama could’ve recounted the entire state of New Hampshire for $2,000 because the race was so close?
MS: I heard his campaign’s really low on funds.
BF: [chuckle] Yeah, right.
MS: Has he been asked why he hasn’t…?
BF: I haven’t been able to ask him. Have you?
BF: I wish somebody would.
MS: Can’t get close to the guy.
BF: Yeah, I know.
MS: You mentioned elected officials, I wanted to ask you: any theories or ideas or guesses as to why John Conyers, of all people, is pushing back so vigorously on impeachment?
BF: You know, I haven’t asked him directly. I just saw him about an hour ago…
MS: That’s right, he was here.
BF: We chatted quickly about election issues.
MS: Because I’ve seen reports in the media where he’s been confronted by voters and he always commiserates, but nothing happens.
BF: All I can give you is the same speculation that everybody has, which is that I think that as tough as he is, he’s also a good, loyal Democrat. And if Nancy Pelosi — actually I think it’s more Steny Hoyer, frankly, and Rahm Emanuel than anybody else — but if those guys say to him, “No, we’re not doing impeachment,” I think that’s what he does.
MS: I wanted to get your thoughts on the Convention itself. You’re here from L.A.
MS: Your general impressions about how Denver’s handling things? Have you noticed the rampant security? Any surprises? What are your general impressions?
BF: I’m surprised it’s 90 degrees in Denver. What the hell is up with that?
MS: And then tomorrow it could drop to 70 all of a sudden.
BF: Why don’t we have the conventions in the winter and the elections in the summer? Why do we have the elections when it’s freezing cold and then we have to have these conventions, and now you can’t move anywhere and it’s 90 degrees?
MS: Maybe the parties just like the crazy, when everybody gets rabid with heat…
BF: There seems to be Obama fever in town, people seem to be having a good time…
MS: Well, he’s the Messiah, haven’t you heard?
BF: That’s right. Walk-on-water Obama. The SWAT teams are out, but so far everybody seems to be in a good mood. As long as FOX News doesn’t keep taunting demonstrators, perhaps they’ll be no riots. My hope here is to find this Griff Jenkins, this jerk who was asking all of these demonstrators, “Why are you demonstrating?” and they didn’t want to talk to him because he’s FOX News, and he would say, “Don’t you believe in free speech?” Does he not understand the concept? Just because you believe in freedom of speech, it doesn’t mean you have to talk to FOX News, it means you get to not talk to them. So anyway, if I can track him down, we’ll take a videocamera out there, we’ll do some ambush interviews with Griff Jenkins and we’ll find out if he believes in freedom of speech.
MS: I think he’s probably trying to ask Barack Obama why they won’t put Hillary on the ticket.
BF: Idiots. God, are they idiots… and it’s gonna be a real tough time for Democrats, now and forever, until they do something about the media. And it’s not just FOX, they’re emblematic. We drove here, we drive all around the country… you turn on the radio, it’s four levels deep of right-wing talk radio. Good luck finding any progressive radio. And if you can have that kind of coverage, that kind of ownership of the media by the so-called “right wing,” you know, you’re gonna have this every single time. Turn a war hero like Kerry into a raving pansy.
MS: Max Cleland.
BF: …Max Cleland. They’re doing the same job on Obama. And the Democrats need to really start paying attention and do something when it comes to media reform and election reform.
MS: Well there’s a little glimmer of hope with Rachel [Maddow] over at MSNBC.
BF: A glimmer. But she’s not [big] on the radio, and that’s what people are listening to driving home from work. And every single station reporting the same bullshit, repeating the stuff that comes up from wingnut Associated Press…
MS: Rupert Murdoch sitting on the board and all that.
BF: Yeah, yup.
MS: I just want to get your thoughts on this: Do you have any remarks or any opinion on the apparent “Hillary subterfuge” that’s underway? I’m really not hearing it from citizens and seeing it myself, but if you watch the media, apparently Hillary is…
BF: Ron Fournier at AP?
MS: That’s one part of it…
BF: Fox News? Are they telling you…?
MS: But all day today at CNN and FOX…
BF: The Recreate 68? They’re “taking over…?”
MS: Is that real, is it a media construct…?
BF: Of course it is. Of course it is. They want a story, I’m sure Hillary and Bill are not thrilled to not be the nominee this year, but as far as undermining the entire thing, as far as supporting some effort to… it’s these idiots who just refuse to cover the issues, refuse to cover the things that are important to America, want to cover themselves. You’re gonna see, coming out of this, the coverage of the coverage.
MS: Afterwards. “Where did we go wrong?”
BF: So, we’re going to try to cover the coverage of the coverage. We’re covering the coverage coverage. Because that’s what they do: they talk about themselves, they look for stories instead of serving America. They’re disserving America, they’re undermining our country, and we’re screwed. When you ask a question about a guy like John Conyers — a hero, frankly, a war hero, longest-serving member of the Congress, I think, at this point — when he can’t even proceed with doing the right thing because the entire party is so frightened about what the media will say about them, even though it’s the right thing… I’m quite concerned for this country. It is not business as usual, despite looking around and it appearing to be. But I don’t think it is, and I think this place is a tinderbox. I’m quite worried about where we go from here.
MS: Allright, let’s move onto something more mundane. Joe Biden: what strengths or liabilities does he bring to the ticket, if any, or is he just a safe pick…
BF: Well, he’s got great one-liners.
BF: No, seriously, and they could use that. America elects presidents based on one-liners…
MS: Yeah, he came out swinging on McCain’s “Parade of Homes.”
BF: He could use someone like that, a pit bull, like Biden. That said, I wish Biden wasn’t as much of a liar. And I should say, I used to love Biden. I was a big fan of Biden. And then he came on Bill Maher’s show once. You may remember this. He came on Bill Maher’s right before the ’06 election, might have been in ’05, during the whole Jeff Gannon thing, and he said, “Well, this is why we need to elect Democrats, ’cause if we were in charge of Congress, we’d hold hearings, we’d get to the bottom of this Jeff Gannon thing, and find out what the hell is going on, and believe me, heads would roll, and there’d be arrests, and jail time…” So he gets the chairmanship, they get the majority, and what have they done? They’ve held a few hearings, but virtually no accountability. Nothing from Joe Biden on Jeff Gannon. At that point, it seems to be that he was a liar.
MS: Maybe in retrospect now, Jeff Gannon, compared to how the media are going now, is probably more qualified than a lot of the people on the air…
BF: Yeah. He’s exactly the same as the rest of the media, except that he’s a gay prostitute as opposed to just a regular prostitute.
MS: Here’s a question I like to ask people in interviews who have political ties. Are there any circumstances under which you yourself would run for office?
BF: (laughs) Yeah! There are, in that I do think that people need to step up, citizens need to step up. And there’s a lot of folks — let me put in a plug for some of the citizens, citizen election integrity advocates who have stepped up. Ellen Brodsky and Susan Pynchon, down in Florida, they’re both running for county election supervisors. Clint Curtis, the software programmer, he’s running for Congress against Tom Feeney…
MS: Oh yeah, you’ve covered that extensively.
BF: …the guy who asked him to create vote-rigging software. Jason Osgood up in Washington, running for secretary of state. So I do think that citizens need to step up and throw these bums out and do the right thing. At this point, I think I can be more effective doing what I’m doing, which is blogging and speaking and so forth, but I think at some point we might have to look at this situation and say, “Well, how best can we serve the country?” And if the bloggers ran Congress, I think we’d in a hell of a lot better shape. So if you think you’re off the hook, Sheehan, you’re not…
BF: You’re gonna have to run. You’re gonna be in the same freshman class.
MS: Oh, God. I don’t know if that would help America or hurt America.
BF: Couldn’t hurt it any worse than the shape it’s in right now. ∞