Long live chad

Election re-runs: In the wake of last year’s presidential election fiasco in Florida, where hanging chads caused many citizens to doubt whether their vote really counted, California is moving to restore voter confidence.

Secretary of State Bill Jones has studied the matter, held hearings and just this week announced that the now infamous punch card ballots—which are still used in Sacramento County and eight other jurisdictions covering about half the state’s voters—would no longer be allowed.

Effective four years from now.

Say what?! Jones detailed the “confusion and damage to voter confidence” associated with these “outdated voting systems,” yet George W. Bush may be able to steal another election with these things?

Jones said it comes down to money and logistics, admitting that with a serious commitment of resources, high-tech touch-screen voting could be available in California for 2004.

But he’s not worried about California becoming the Florida of 2004, saying we have uniform standards for counting our chads and besides, punch cards have worked fine in the state for many years.

Still, it would be a shame if the overly cautious approach to modernizing elections in the biggest state in the union allows the “Commander-in-Thief” label to endure for four more years.

She’s baaaack: “I bet you are really crying now because your Arab-hating ‘activist’ friends with the Jewish Defense League who attempted to bomb an L.A. mosque, as well as try to kill Congressman Darrell Issa, are now safely behind bars.”

And so began last week’s colorful “I told you so” letter to SN&R from Michelle Kunert, a supporter of the Council of Conservative Citizens who last summer was critical of Bites for slamming that group’s decision to host a speech by a Holocaust denier. As part of that saga, Bites sought the opinion of Sean South at the JDL, which turned around and organized a confrontational protest to the event.

Now, with Southern California JDL activists Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel being arrested, Kunert is taking some glee in labeling JDL an “activist terrorist hate group” and questioning SN&R’s journalism.

So Bites decided to go right to the terrorist source. But South doesn’t consider himself a terrorist or promoter of violence, and he said JDL would never advocate this bombing plot, even if they are a bit more militant in their tactics than most Jewish groups.

So how does he explain the arrests of men that he knew and respected? South can’t, and he speculated that perhaps the U.S. government framed Rubin and Krugel to sidetrack JDL’s effort in fighting anti-Semitism.

Anything is possible, but Bites can’t help but note how similar the conspiracy theories of JDL and CCofC are beginning to sound. These are strange days indeed.

Uncivil defense: Chalk it up to a major misread of the audience. That’s the best way to explain why Sacramento Bee publisher Janis Besler Heaphy was booed and heckled off the stage during her commencement speech to California State University at Sacramento graduates over the weekend.

Now, it would be easy to criticize Heaphy for using the graduation ceremony rather than her own paper as the forum for delivering an aggressive, if didactic, attack on this country’s willingness to set aside long-cherished civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.

And it would be equally valid to criticize the jingoistic brand of patriotism that has taken hold in this country, an intolerant mindset that caused the crowd—mostly families and other supporters, not the students themselves—to vigorously cheer lines like “racial profiling, long opposed by civil libertarians, has gained support as an investigative tool.”

At that point, an experienced speaker would probably have gauged the crowd and tempered down some of the more provocative lines. Any comedian knows hecklers only get worse when ignored, which is what she did, putting her head down and plowing forward with her prepared speech.

But then again, Bites isn’t about to come down too hard on those willing to speak uncomfortable truths during a time when they are needed most.