Heiser Christmas Letter 2004
Warning: contains explicit political content!
Stop it America!
When the Supreme Court said that Guantanamo Bay prison is not outside the rule of law, I took my homemade "close guantánamo" sticker off my car. Six months later, the prisoners still don't have access to lawyers, family or courts. So I've put the sticker back on.
After Bush insisted on Dick Cheney's company for his 9/11 Commission testimony, I think that bulge in his jacket during the debates was a radio receiver, his secret "lifeline" to Karl Rove.
Several public-interest organizations have sprung up to protect the integrity of elections. voteprotect.org is my favorite. They publish comprehensive questionnaires on their website. You can learn a lot by just reading the questionnaires. I was astonished that the elite researchers at Caltech and MIT focused only on overvotes and undervotes rather than possible massive manipulation of the machines or the tabulation software.
Last year, I praised California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley (but misspelled his name) for insisting on voter-verifiable paper audit trails for electronic voting machines. County registrars of voters didn't agree audit trails were needed, since "the machines are so accurate." Now, several newspapers have called for Shelley to resign. I don't like the looks of this. On the touchscreen machine where I voted, the individual votes can't be audited.
November first, I visited the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office in Norwalk, and watched them digitize about 300,000 absent voter ballots. The local election workers were very professional, and security was good.
November second, I answered a hotline at Democratic Party headquarters. The phone never stopped ringing except once when I hung up wrong. Some people just needed help finding their polling places, but there were also minor irregularities at polling places. Two polling places failed to materialize.
I hope you voted to fix California's three strikes law. Most of us realize it is too severe; more than half of the 25-years-to-life third-strike sentences are for non-serious, non-violent crimes. Reform was doing better than 70% in the polls. Then, at the last minute, some billionaire paid for a stream of misleading commercials claiming reform would dump thousands of dangerous felons onto the streets. Our DA, Steve Cooley, spouted nonsensical statistics too, and Governor Schwarzenegger recruited several former governors; they turned opinion around overnight; reform failed. California is the only state where you can get 25-to-life for shoplifting.
I've just begun visiting inmates at the county jail. It's huge. There's little rehabilitation, little education, little preparation for release. I highly recommend Life on the Outside by Jennifer Gonnerman. It tells about the obstacles prisoners face after release. Parole can be even more depressing than being locked up. California sends a huge fraction of parolees back to prison.
Loretta has been trained by the Arthritis Foundation to lead exercise classes. She's also learning to crochet in order to replace the love-worn afghans that her grandmother and mother made.
Our young friend Moshe is graduating from Cal State LA in January. He's been living with us since June and we have been having good times with him and his girlfriend, Nelissa.