Friday, July 11, 2003

Gov. Dean is campaigning in New Hampshire today. Click here for some pictures from the road in Hopkinton, NH and click here for a newspaper story about that campaign stop.

Sign the petition demanding that those responsible for misleading the American people into the war with Iraq resign. I'm looking at you, Rummy.

Stories are starting to emerge about BIG problems that the new computerized voting machines are having. Seems that they're easy to hack in to:
This story cuts to the bone the machinery of democracy in America today. Democracy is the only protection we have against despotic and arbitrary government, and this story is deeply disturbing.

Imagine if you will that you are a political interest group that wishes to control forevermore the levers of power. Imagine further that you know you are likely to implement a highly unpopular political agenda, and you do not wish to be removed by a ballot driven backlash.

One way to accomplish this outcome would be to adopt the Mugabe (Zimbabwe) or Hun Sen (Cambodia) approach. You agree to hold elections, but simultaneously arrest, imprison and beat your opponents and their supporters. You stuff ballot boxes, disenfranchise voters who are unlikely to vote for you, distort electoral boundaries and provide insufficient polling stations in areas full of opposition supporters.

However as so many despots have discovered, eventually such techniques always fail – often violently. Hence, if you are a truly ambitious political dynasty you have to be a bit more subtle about your methods.

Imagine then if it were possible to somehow subvert the voting process itself in such a way that you could steal elections without anybody knowing.

Imagine for example if you could:

- secure control of the companies that make the voting machines and vote counting software;
- centralise vote counting systems, and politicise their supervision;
- legislate for the adoption of such systems throughout your domain, and provide large amounts of money for the purchase of these systems;
- establish systems of vote counting that effectively prevent anybody on the ground in the election – at a booth or precinct level - from seeing what is happening at a micro-level;
- get all the major media to sign up to a single exit-polling system that you also control – removing the risk of exit-polling showing up your shenanigans.

And imagine further that you;

- install a backdoor, or numerous backdoors, in the vote counting systems you have built that enable you to manipulate the tabulation of results in real time as they are coming in.

Such a system would enable you to intervene in precisely the minimum number of races necessary to ensure that you won a majority on election night. On the basis of polling you could pick your marginal seats and thus keep your tweaking to a bare minimum.

Such a system would enable you to minimise the risks of discovery of your activities.

Such a system would enable you to target and remove individual political opponents who were too successful, too popular or too inquisitive.

Diebold, the people who are making these new machines, have found some bugs in the system:
Recently, technicians and programmers for Diebold Election Systems, the company that supplied every single voting machine for the surprising 2002 results in the state of Georgia, the company that is preparing to convert the state of Maryland to its no-paper-trail computerized voting, admitted to a file-sharing system that amounts to a colossal security flaw.

"Technology transfer for updates!" This is among the benefits in the Diebold PowerPoint sales presentation given to the State of Georgia. Easy updating -- too easy, apparently.

The files on the Diebold FTP server are sensitive. If you want to tamper with election results, you either want to change the program or change the data file. That is why the program files, which control how the votes are tabulated, and the data files, which contain the actual vote count, should not be available for swapping back and forth like recipes on a cookbook site.

Diebold Election Systems, which builds the AccuVote machines, both optical scan and touch-screen, has been parking files on an unprotected public Internet location. Thousands of files were available: election files, hardware and software specifications, program files, voting program patches.

It's important that we demand that if we are going to use these machines that they leave a paper trail to verify the results in case something goes wrong with the programs. Congressman Rush Holt has introduced legislation to require all voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper trail:
Washington, DC – Rep. Rush Holt today responded to the growing chorus of concern from election reform specialists and computer security experts about the integrity of future elections by introducing reform legislation, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003. The measure would require all voting machines to produce an actual paper record by 2004 that voters can view to check the accuracy of their votes and that election officials can use to verify votes in the event of a computer malfunction, hacking, or other irregularity. Experts often refer to this paper record as a “voter-verified paper trail.”

“We cannot afford nor can we permit another major assault on the integrity of the American electoral process,” said Rep. Rush Holt. “Imagine it’s Election Day 2004. You enter your local polling place and go to cast your vote on a brand new “touch screen” voting machine. The screen says your vote has been counted. As you exit the voting booth, however, you begin to wonder. How do I know if the machine actually recorded my vote? The fact is, you don’t.”

Let Rep. Holt know you support his legeslation. This is really important. Go do it.....

The Washington Post has some thoughts on the direction of our Democratic Party. Left seems to be the CW:
Ten years after Bill Clinton proclaimed a centrist "New Democrat" revolution, the left is once again a driving force in the party.

They do not call themselves "liberals" anymore; the preferred term today is "progressives." But in other ways, they are much the same slice of the electorate that dominated the Democratic Party from 1972 to the late 1980s: antiwar, pro-environment, suspicious of corporations and supportive of federal social services.

In recent weeks, the progressive left has: lifted a one-time dark-horse presidential candidate, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, into near-front-runner status; dominated the first serious Internet "primary"; and convened the largest gathering of liberal activists in decades.

The liberal is the fastest-growing political action committee in the Democratic Party. Left-leaning labor leaders, such as Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, are taking a more assertive part in mapping the all-important union role in party operations.

Well if we're all going to come together and vote the Chimp out of the WH we the DLC has got to get it's act together and get on-board with the rest of us:
The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) has made its way by sowing division in the Democratic party. So it comes as no surprise that on July 2, its founder Al From and new president Bruce Reed ventured yet again into the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal to warn its readers of the perils of a liberal Democratic presidential nominee. Given its location and its platitudes, the article should be viewed more as a fundraising pitch to the DLC’s corporate sponsors than a serious political analysis.

From and Reed argue that Democrats can win only if they "seize the vital center, not veer left." By definition, a winner of an election has forged a coalition that represents the center, if that is defined as the group with the most votes. The question, of course, is what is the content of that "center" -- that is the contested terrain.

Helen Thomas thinks the Dems have a good shot at taking back the WH if they can find a course and stick to it:
WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential aspirants might have a monumental issue for their 2004 campaign against President George W. Bush -- if they don't go wobbly.

It's based on growing doubts that Bush was on the level when he tried to whip up public support for a U.S. attack on Iraq by claiming that the Saddam Hussein regime had a huge arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. It's a question of presidential credibility and reflects on the character of the American people and the country. Understandably, the Democrats may calculate that voters will always rally to the commander-in-chief in wartime. And, like columnists, they should always recognize the possibility that those weapons will eventually be found.

But that should not stop them from raising the question of whether Bush initiated the Iraq war on the basis of possibly flawed, politicized or flimsy information.

Of course, the Democratic aspirants run the risk of being called "unpatriotic" or "un-American" -- labels that go with any dissent. But if they spout a "me-too" foreign policy in their bid for support, what choice will the voters have? If the Democrats remain timid and duck a serious debate on the war, they will be endorsing the president's policies of preemptive war. Those policies have alienated us from much of the world and erased our image as a peace-loving nation.

Are the Democrats willing to assume that the public doesn't care if the WMD threat was exaggerated? As the argument goes: Does it matter? After all, Saddam Hussein has been deposed.

Well, it does matter -- a lot. With Iraq now occupied, Bush's hawkish advisers have begun to pinpoint North Korea and Iran as the next potential targets because those countries are defiantly plunging ahead with their nuclear programs.

Watching history every day from a ringside seat in the White House, I have become convinced that a president's greatest stock in trade is to be believed. That quality is the key to the ability to convince, persuade and govern. Two presidents -- Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon -- found out the hard way that their support vanished when they attempted to deceive.

Finally, Buzzflash has an interview with Molly Ivans which is worth a read:
BUZZFLASH: As a long-time observer of Texas politics, you wonder in your book that you put out shortly before the 2000 election, "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush," why Bush even wanted to be into government. He had no interest in policy, in reading. He was impatient with meetings.

IVINS: Bush still amazes me about this. You know, he's just not terribly interested in government.

I must say that Louis Dubose and I are almost insufferably smug about how well "Shrub" has held up. And in fact, the predicted value of it I think has been pretty extraordinary. As I say, we're just disgustingly complacent, or self-complacent, about that. In fact, we were tempted to start the new book off by saying that "if you all had read the last one we wrote, we wouldn't have had to write this one."

What we did was just look at Bush's record in "Shrub." And consequently, I think we were less surprised than anybody in America when Bush started governing from lies.

Go read the very smart Crooked Timber.