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Democracy has been taken for granted at a time when it is most endangered. Neo-Conservatives are organized to replace it with oligarchy, to replace consent for the rule of law with fascistic allegiance to the executive branch disguised as "patriotism." As a team made up of a political philosopher and a writer, we consider otherwise repressed information from a critical perspective in the hope of elevating the quality of our political dialogue so that it is worthy of a truly democratic society.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Money Trail and Your Neighbors

Check out the following website. It gets heavy traffic, but if you can catch it when it's working it is absolutely fascinating:

www.fundrace.org

On the site, you may enter your own address to learn the political contributions made by people in your area to all candidates beginning in January 2004. Names and occupations are listed in addition to amount(s) of contribution(s) and recipient of contribution(s). You may also search by surnames and first names. Among other things, I learned what business owners in my area have contributed big bucks to GW Bush (my Nissan dealer, damnit!). You can bet I will not support those businesses ever again. Democracy!

Diebold planning to eliminate more physical evidence: They plan to get rid of the sign-in poll book.By Bev Harris, with the assistence of Kathleen Wynne
Source: www.blackboxvoting.org

I've been telling you for over a year that this is coming, and here it is in print: From the transcript of the May 3 2004 Cuyahoga County (Cleveland, Oh) Board of Elections "Question and Answer" session with Diebold:

As usual, not a single technical person or programmer answered any questions for Diebold. Testifying in this meeting, representing Diebold:

- Mickey Martin (a Diebold sales rep who has advocated selling flawed systems and fixing them later, and who sold the city of Portsmouth, Virginia a system that later proved impossible to bring up to state requirements). Martin has also been selling Diebold systems to Toledo (Lucas County, OH), encouraging the County to purchase a system that needs to be retrofitted. Maybe they can get a bargain — perhaps Ohio can become the toxic waste dump for touch screens rejected by California.

- Mark Radke a marketing person for Diebold. I recently had a run-in with Radke on the Diane Rehm show (audio link here), when he claimed, knowing it was false, that the NAACP has endorsed paperless touch-screen voting.

- Marvin Singleton, featured at some length in memos written by Jones Day, Diebold's law firm. Why Singleton is allowed to testify at all is a mystery. He is not employed by Diebold. He is not even employed by Diebold's PR firm. He is employed as a "damage control" expert, and he works for the Dallas branch of Austin-based Public Strategies Inc. Any government official who depends on testimony by a "damage control expert" employed as a consultant risks getting Grade-A egg on the face.

Here is how Mickey Martin explained why Diebold switched to the new (uncertified and patched at the last minute) card encoders, which failed in California on March 2: The new device, he says, is designed to eventually get rid of the poll book.

"We had a problem with a peripheral device. It was a brand-new peripheral device. It will be one of the standard products on the market in the future. Is it there today? Obviously not, but it will be and it will save counties, such as Cuyahoga, hundreds of thousands of dollars because you can do away with your paper poll books which cost the county a lot of money to produce. A lot of time and effort will go away. It will automatically let you update your voter registration system to that everything is seamless. "

Mark Radke confirms Diebold's plans to do away with the physical poll book audit trail:

"Why did they go with the PCM-500 instead of a standard card reader, these are very progressive contracts. The PCM-500 is a touch screen unit. I know it's -- what it's going to evolve into is an electronic poll book."

Getting rid of paper records means getting rid of auditability. What are audits? Quite simply, they are the checks and balances that help to prove that votes were counted correctly. I'll say it again: Vote counting is just bookkeeping. You have to show your work. You must be able to prove how you came up with your numbers, and you must use INDEPENDENT sources of evidence to do so.

A paper ballot, verified by the voter, provides one independent audit record. The physical poll book, where voters sign in when they come to vote, provides another important independent audit record.

Just as you balance your checkbook, state laws require elections workers to balance the number of voters who signed in to the poll book with the number of votes that show up in the machines. Indeed, with touch screen machines, it is this poll book audit that has proven many of the miscounts mentioned in Chapter 2 of Black Box Voting.

You see, the problem isn't only with electronic voting machines — We are rushing to computerize the process from start to finish, and this will produce an opaque voting system with so many attack points we'll never be able to control it at all. Here's what's coming, if we don't block it:

- Electronic voter registration (already mandated by HAVA). The companies who are providing it: Diebold, Election Systems & Software, defense contractors like Northrup Grumman...

- Electronic sign in at the polling place, eliminating human-verified physical evidence of how many people voted.

- Electronic casting of the vote

- Electronic recording of the vote

- Centralized electronic tallying of the votes, using central tabulators at the county courthouse. (This is already in place).

- Computer-aided redistricting

Now, let me give you a clearer picture: The genius of democracy is that real people run the system, out in the open, in a transparent manner. This is somewhat messy, but also quite stable, when done properly.

MUCH MORE IS TO BE READ AT THEIR SITE. CHECK IT OUT!

Note to Lisa: My mom was here for a week, and that was great for me. Also, I found a new job in town and will be moving into a larger and cheaper (!) new place by the end of next month. I think I'm on an upswing, so I am keeping fingers crossed for that. I hope you are well and that the garden grows . . . ew

Friday, May 07, 2004

A Wretched New Picture Of America
Photos From Iraq Prison Show We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 5, 2004; Page C01

"Among the corrosive lies a nation at war tells itself is that the glory -- the lofty goals announced beforehand, the victories, the liberation of the oppressed -- belongs to the country as a whole; but the failure -- the accidents, the uncounted civilian dead, the crimes and atrocities -- is always exceptional. Noble goals flow naturally from a noble people; the occasional act of barbarity is always the work of individuals, unaccountable, confusing and indigestible to the national conscience.

"This kind of thinking was widely in evidence among military and political leaders after the emergence of pictures documenting American abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. These photographs do not capture the soul of America, they argued. They are aberrant.

"This belief, that the photographs are distortions, despite their authenticity, is indistinguishable from propaganda. Tyrants censor; democracies self-censor. Tyrants concoct propaganda in ministries of information; democracies produce it through habits of thought so ingrained that a basic lie of war -- only the good is our doing -- becomes self-propagating.

"But now we have photos that have gone to the ends of the Earth, and painted brilliantly and indelibly, an image of America that could remain with us for years, perhaps decades. An Army investigative report reveals that we have stripped young men (whom we purported to liberate) of their clothing and their dignity; we have forced them to make pyramids of flesh, as if they were children; we have made them masturbate in front of their captors and cameras; forced them to simulate sexual acts; threatened prisoners with rape and sodomized at least one; beaten them; and turned dogs upon them." [...]

Read the full essay here.
Thanks to my friend, Joe, for passing this stuff along to me!

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

100 Mistakes for the President to Choose From

(There are a ton of links in these 100 items, and I have linked to the first batch. I'll try to link to everything as I get time. Still, this is a fascinating read).

From The Democratic Newsgroup:

100 Mistakes for the President to Choose From

Center for American Progress

May 3, 2004

During a prime time press conference on April 13, President Bush was asked to name a mistake that he has made since taking office and what he has learned from it. Bush, who was unable to answer the question, admitted "maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with [a mistake]." But weeks later, Bush still hasn't answered the question. In the interest of assisting the President with this surprisingly difficult task we've compiled this list of 100 mistakes he has made since taking office:

Iraq


1. Failing to build a real international coalition prior to the Iraq invasion, forcing the US to shoulder the full cost and consequences of the war.

2. Approving the demobilization of the Iraqi Army in May, 2003 - bypassing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and reversing an earlier position, the President left hundreds of thousands of armed Iraqis disgruntled and unemployed, contributing significantly to the massive security problems American troops have faced during occupation.

3. Not equipping troops in Iraq with adequate body armor or armored HUMVEES.

4. Ignoring the advice Gen. Eric Shinseki regarding the need for more troops in Iraq - now Bush is belatedly adding troops, having allowed the security situation to deteriorate in exactly the way Shinseki said it would if there were not enough troops.

5. Ignoring plans drawn up by the Army War College and other war-planning agencies, which predicted most of the worst security and infrastructure problems America faced in the early days of the Iraq occupation.

6. Making a case for war which ignored intelligence that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

7. Deriding "nation-building" during the 2000 debates, then engaging American troops in one of the most explicit instances of nation building in American history.

8. Predicting along with others in his administration that US troops would be greeted as liberators in Iraq.

9. Predicting Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction.

10. Wildly underestimating the cost of the war.

11. Trusting Ahmed Chalabi, who has dismissed faulty intelligence he provided the President as necessary for getting the Americans to topple Saddam.

12. Disbanding the Sunni Baathist managers responsible for Iraq's water, electricity, sewer system and all the other critical parts of that country's infrastructure.

13. Failing to give UN weapons inspectors enough time to certify if weapons existed in Iraq.

14. Including discredited intelligence concerning Nigerian Yellow Cake in his 2003 State of the Union.

15. Announcing that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, below a "Mission Accomplished" banner - more U.S. soldiers have died in combat since Bush's announcement than before it.

16. Awarding a multi-billion dollar contract to Halliburton in Iraq, which then repeatedly overcharged the government and served troops dirty food.

17. Refusing to cede any control of Post-invasion Iraq to the international community, meaning reconstruction has received limited aid from European allies or the U.N.

18. Failing to convince NATO allies why invading Iraq was important.

19. Having no real plan for the occupation of Iraq.

20. Limiting bidding on Iraq construction projects to "coalition partners," unnecessarily alienating important allies France, Germany and Russia.

21. Diverting $700 million into Iraq invasion planning without informing Congress.

22. Shutting down an Iraqi newspaper for "inciting violence" - the move, which led in short order to street fighting in Fallujah, incited more violence than the newspaper ever had.

23. Telling Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan about plans to go to war with Iraq before Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Counterterrorism

24. Allowing several members of the Bin Laden family to leave the country just days after 9/11, some of them without being questioned by the FBI.

25. Focusing on missile defense at the expense of counterterrorism prior to 9/11.

26. Thinking al Qaeda could not attack without state sponsors, and ignoring evidence of a growing threat unassociated with "rogue states" like Iraq or North Korea.

27. Threatening to veto the Homeland Security department - The President now concedes such a department "provides the ability for our agencies to coordinate better and to work together better than it was before."

28. Opposing the creation of the September 11th commission, which the President now expects "to contain important recommendations for preventing future attacks."

29. Denying documents to the 9/11 commission, only relenting after the commissioners threatened a subpoena.

30. Failing to pay more attention to an August 6, 2001 PDB entitled "Bin laden Determined to Attack in U.S."

31. Repeatedly ignoring warnings of terrorists planning to use aircraft before 9/11.

32. Appointing the ultra-secretive Henry Kissinger to head the 9/11 commission - Kissinger stepped down weeks later due to conflicts of interest.

33. Asking for testimony before the 9/11 commission be limited to one hour, a position from which the president later backtracked.

34. Not allowing national Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to testify before the 9/11 commission - Bush changed his mind as pressure mounted.

35. Cutting an FBI request for counterterrorism funds by two-thirds after 9/11.

36. Telling Americans there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

37. Failing to adequately secure the nation's nuclear weapons labs.

38. Not feeling a sense of urgency about terrorism or al Qaeda before 9/11.

Afghanistan

39. Reducing resources and troop levels in Afghanistan and out before it was fully secure.

40. Not providing security in Afghanistan outside of Kabul, leaving nearly 80% of the Afghan population unprotected in areas controlled by Feudal warlords and local militias.

41. Committing inadequate resources for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

42. Counting too heavily on locally trained troops to fill the void in Afghanistan once U.S. forces were relocated to Iraq.

43. Not committing US ground troops to the capture of Osama Bin Laden, when he was cornered in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in November, 2001.

44. Allowing opium production to resume on a massive scale after the ouster of the Taliban.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

45. Opposing an independent inquiry into the intelligence failures surrounding WMD - later, upon signing off on just such a commission, Bush claimed he was "determined to make sure that American intelligence is as accurate as possible for every challenge in the future."

46. Saying: "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories."

47. Trusting intelligence gathered by Vice President Cheney's and Secretary Rumsfeld's "Office of Special Plans."

48. Spending $6.5 billion on nuclear weapons this year to develop new nuclear weapons this year - 50% more in real dollars than the average during the cold war - while shortchanging the troops on body armor.

Foreign Policy

49. Ignoring the importance of the Middle East peace process, which has deteriorated with little oversight or strategy evident in the region.

50. Siding with China in February, 2004 against a democratic referenda proposed by Taiwan, a notable shift from an earlier pledge to stand with "oppressed peoples until the day of their freedom finally arrives."

51. Undermining the War on Terrorism by preemptively invading Iraq.

52. Failing to develop a specific plan for dealing with North Korea.

53. Abandoning the United States' traditional role as an evenhanded negotiator in the Middle East peace process.

Economic

54. Signing a report endorsing outsourcing with thousands of American workers having their jobs shipped overseas.

55. Instituting steel tariffs deemed illegal by the World Trade Organization - Bush repealed them 20-months later when the European Union pledged to impose retaliatory sanctions on up to $2.2 billion in exports from the United States.

56. Promoting economic policies that failed to create new jobs.

57. Promoting economic policies that failed to help small businesses

58. Pledging a"jobs and growth" package would create 1,836,000 new jobs by the end of 2003 and 5.5 million new jobs by 2004-so far the president has fallen 1,615,000 jobs short of the mark.

59. Running up a foreign deficit of "such record-breaking proportions that it threatens the financial stability of the global economy."

60. Issuing inaccurate budget forecasts accompanying proposals to reduce the deficit, omitting the continued costs of Iraq, Afghanistan and elements of Homeland Security.

61. Claiming his 2003 tax cut would give 23 million small business owners an average tax cut of $2,042 when "nearly four out of every five tax filers (79%) with small business income would receive less" than that amount.

62. Passing tax cuts for the wealthy while falsely claiming "people in the 10 percent bracket" were benefiting most."

63. Passing successive tax cuts largely responsible for turning a projected surplus of $5 trillion into a projected deficit of $4.3 trillion.

64. Moving to strip millions of overtime pay.

65. Not enforcing corporate tax laws.

66. Backing down from a plan to make CEOs more accountable when "the corporate crowd" protested.

67. Not lobbying oil cartels to change their mind about cutting oil production.

68. Passing tax cuts weighted heavily to help the wealthy.

69. Moving to allow greater media consolidation.

70. Nominating a notorious proponent of outsourcing, Anthony F. Raimondo, to be the new manufacturing Czar-Raimondo withdrew his name days later amidst a flurry of harsh criticism.

71. Ignoring calls to extend unemployment benefits with long-term unemployment reaching a twenty-year high

72. Threatening to veto pension legislation that would give companies much needed temporary relief.

Education

73. Under-funding No Child Left Behind

74. Breaking his campaign pledge to increase the size of Pell grants.

75. Signing off on an FY 2005 budget proposing the smallest increase in education funding in nine years.

76. Under-funding the Title I Program, specifically targeted for disadvantaged kids, by $7.2 billion.

77. Freezing Teacher Quality State Grants, cutting off training opportunities for about 30,000 teachers, and leaving 92,000 less teachers trained than the president called for in his own No Child Left Behind bill.

78. Freezing funding for English language training programs.

79. Freezing funding for after school programs, potentially eliminating 50,000 children from after-school programs.

Health

80. Not leveling with Americans about the cost of Medicare - the president told Congress his new Medicare bill would cost $400 billion over ten years despite conclusions by his own analysts the bill would cost upwards of $500 billion over that period.

81. Silencing Medicare actuary Richard Foster when his estimates for the Administration's Medicare bill were too high.

82. Letting business associate David Halbert, who owns a company which stands to make millions from new discount drug cards, craft key elements of the new Medicare bill.

83. Underfunding health care for troops and veterans.

84. Allowing loopholes to persist in Mad-Cow regulations.

85. Relaxing food labeling restrictions on health claims.

86. Falsely claiming the restrictions on stem cell research would not hamper medical progress.

87. Reducing action against improper drug advertising by 80 percent.

Environment

88. Abandoning the Kyoto Treaty without offering an alternative for reducing greenhouse effect.

89. Counting on a voluntary program to reduce emissions of harmful gasses-so far only a tiny fraction of American companies have signed up.

90. Gutting clean air standards for aging power plants.

91. Weakening energy efficiency standards.

92. Relaxing dumping standards for mountaintop mining, and opening the Florida Everglades and Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest to mining.

93. Lifting protection for more than 200 million acres of public land.

94. Limiting public challenges to logging projects and increased logging in protected areas, including Alaska's Tongass National Forest.

95. Weakening environmental standards for snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles while pushing for exemptions for air pollution proposals for five categories of industrial facilities.

96. Opposing legislation that would require greater fuel efficiency for passenger cars.

97. Reducing inspections, penalties for violations, and prosecution of environmental crimes.

98. Misleading the public about the Washington mad cow case and the likely effectiveness of USDA's weak testing program.

99. Withdrawing public information on chemical plant dangers, previously used to hold facilities accountable for safety improvements.

Other

100. Cutting grants to state and local governments in FY 2005, forcing states to make massive cuts in job training, education, housing and environment.

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