Saturday, April 10, 2004
Happy Easter!
Some holidays visits and a broken DSL connection add together to equal a few days off for me. DSL is supposed to be fixed Tuesday afternoon sometime, so I'll probably not be posting much until late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

On the bright side, this will give me some time for some off-line projects as well as time to get my second computer back together. Who knows, ... maybe I'll even be able to get my "voodoo" home network (a cross-over cable) working at long last. It never wanted to work quite right last time, and if you've ever had a home networking problem before, you know how very little help the manufacturers provide.

In the meantime, have a good holiday!

Wednesday, April 07, 2004
From Benedict@Large:
The Perfect Alibi
I've been absent for a few days. I've been working on a malor article over at Benedict@Large, my other blog. At about 5,000 words, these things take a few days to write. It doesn't have anything to do with "black box" issues, but I think that you may find it interesting.

Largely unreported or under-reported at least in the U.S. press, the Bush administration last Thursday partially declassified a document called "National Security Presidential Directive 9". With falling polls, this is a massive gamble on the administration's part, and the success of this gamble depends entirely on whether or not the U.S. press can "connect the dots". So far, they have not.

Allow me to do that for you.

P.S. I'll be back to my regular routine tommorrow. Thanks for staying with me in the meantime.

Sunday, April 04, 2004
"AN UNPRECEDENTED criminal enterprise designed to impermissibly affect a presidential election." That was the heated accusation leveled last week by the Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee against the Kerry campaign, an array of outside Democratic groups working to defeat President Bush and several big donors to those groups. The complaint, filed with the Federal Election Commission, involves groups created by Democratic activists to collect and spend the huge "soft money" contributions now off-limits to political parties.

The Republicans argue that "this illegal conspiracy of donors and shadowy groups" is improperly spending soft money on television ads and other activities to defeat Mr. Bush. They say that the groups are illegally coordinating their activities with Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign and the Democratic Party. And they say the situation is so dire, and the FEC's processes so cumbersome and ineffective, that the agency should take the unprecedented step of dismissing the GOP complaint so that the Republicans can obtain an immediate hearing before a federal judge. ...

* * *
But the complaint does not provide the slam-dunk evidence of a "massive conspiracy to corrupt the federal campaign finance system" that its proponents contend. It's far from certain that the groups, known as 527s for the section of the tax code under which they are organized, are violating the law. ... Nor does the complaint prove illegal coordination. ...
* * *
You don't have to cheer what the Democratic groups are doing to believe that the extraordinary remedy proposed by the Republicans -- removing the matter from the agency with expertise in the law and dumping it in the lap of a federal judge -- is neither sensible nor warranted.
n last month's Florida presidential primary, Fort Myers polling places had signs saying voters could not vote without photo ID, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida The problem is, the signs were wrong. ...
* * *
Voter ID laws must strike a balance between preventing voter fraud and not making it unduly difficult to vote. Without a national ID card, it isn't easy. Many Americans do not have driver's licenses, particularly city residents, old and young people, and some members of minority groups. The rules for what is acceptable ID vary widely by state. The Help America Vote Act, the law passed after the 2000 election mess, added new federal ID rules, some making it easier to vote, some making it harder.

Above all, election officials should enforce the law accurately. Their record, however, is troubling. ...

View article index.
The complete New York Times index of articles
from their "MAKING VOTES COUNT" series.
Saturday, April 03, 2004
Too many questions, too little time, too much riding on the outcome.
Clarke's book is bad news for Bush.
"It's not who votes that counts. It's who counts the votes."
~ Joseph Stalin    
It should be all over for the Bush administration by now. Richard Clarke's damning testimony in front of the 9/11 commission has stood up to scrutiny, and been corroborated by others privy to the inner workings of the White House. His apology to the families and friends of 9/11 victims drew a standing ovation and eliminated the one issue Bush could have conceivably stood on: national security. Attempts to malign this 30-year veteran of public service -- rather than simply answer the charges -- were both vicious (National Security Adviser Condi Rice declassifying e-mails to find one to slime him) and childish (White House flak Scott McLellan saying, "It's Dick Clarke's American Grandstand"). Happily, these gambits backfired as badly as the flyboy-on-the-aircraft-carrier stunt or the "bring 'em on!" taunt.

The nail in the Republican coffin was delivered by Bush himself at a press event last Wednesday. Though he makes a joke of the press every time he opens his mouth -- and they report verbatim what he says --this time Bush really was trying to be funny for their benefit. In the course of pretending to narrate a slide show, dubbed an "election year album," Bush screened several shots of himself looking under his desk, behind curtains, and out windows, all the while saying -- with his frat-boy smirk -- "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere." The press laughed right along with this sociopath.

John Kerry didn't. When told of Bush's antics, he said, "If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he's even more out of touch than we thought. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. Five-hundred and eighty-five American soldiers have been killed in Iraq in the last year, 3,354 have been wounded and there's no end in sight. George Bush sold us on going to war with Iraq based on the threat of weapons of mass destruction. But we still haven't found them, and now he thinks that's funny?"

In a nutshell, the "Dukakis in the tank" ad was handed to the Democrats. All they need to do is run footage of Bush doing his slideshow with Kerry's words as the voiceover. Game, set, match.

As stated, it should be over by now.

Yet, one troubling thing remains. Since even members of his own party are expressing doubts that Bush can't win on the issues, his only hope may be to rely on, as Malcolm X once said, any means necessary. Just like last time.

Indeed, after the election debacle of 2000, when the state of Florida made up rules as it went along to assure the governor's brother of victory, Republican-controlled Congress crafted a piece of legislation that they said would prevent a replay. To be fair, some of their motivation was above-board -- to make voting more accessible to the disabled, to end voter fraud and eliminate broken or outmoded equipment -- and many Democrats voted for the bill, as well.

However, the result, called the Help America Vote Act, may as well be called the Help America Vote Republican Act; one needn't have a conspiratorial bent of mind to understand why. One need only follow the money trail and ask the obvious question: Who stood to gain financially from this legislation?

The answer: Diebold, an Ohio-based manufacturer of touch-screen computerized voting machines. Diebold's CEO, Wally O'Dell, is a proud pioneer (read: he donated more than $100,000 to the GOP's reelection bid) who has publicly announced he "is committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president." His company, in a Halliburton-like deal, received a lucrative government contract to manufacture 8 million of these touch-screen machines for the 2004 election (according to figures cited in The Progressive , 20 percent of America's voting machines are now touch screen; 31 percent optical scan; 24 percent punch-card; 15 percent lever; 1 percent paper ballots; the remainder "a combination").

To add to the inherently partisan worries, Diebold's machines are said to be easily hacked. According to one software engineer, "The security of a Diebold voting machine is inexcusable. It's not at all complicated. All you have to do is open Windows Explorer, locate the Diebold folder, double-click the Microsoft Access file and read, and modify, access to all votes recorded on that machine."

Most conveniently, Diebold's machines leave no paper trail. And attempts to examine or audit the machines have been thwarted by Diebold's contract language in the states where the machines are used ("proprietary trade secret").

As a friend of mine put it, "Help America vote? I think America is voting just fine. It's the accurate and honest counting of votes that is in dire need of help."

Joe Stalin figured this one out way back in 1935, long before Bill Gates or Wally O'Dell were born.