Sunday, March 09, 2008

What Will It Take?

In the photo, President Nixon greets released POW Lt। Commander John McCain, future U.S. Senator, upon his return from years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, 1973.
Our lives are lived in intense and anxious struggle, in a swirl of speed and aggression, in competing, grasping, possessing, and achieving, forever burdening ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations.

---Sogyal Rinpoche

Awareness of emptiness brings forth the heart of compassion.

---Gary Snyder

Simplifying our lives does not mean sinking into idleness, but on the contrary, getting rid of the most subtle aspect of laziness: the one which makes us take on thousands of less important activities.

---Matthieu रिकार्ड

We were sitting out Saturday afternoon, trapped in our house by the storm that buried the Ohio Valley in rain, flood, sleet, hail, ice, inches of new snow, and a whopper of a thunderstorm in the middle of the night. Only emergency vehicles were allowed on the roads. We were putting off clearing the driveway yet again and hauling more wood for the stoves...maybe until the power went down as the final stroke of doom. But the electric stayed on for some unknown reason, so Dana was on the computer hunting the blogosphere for news of potential Diebold corruption of primary results. There had been increasing rumors through the week about this, and everywhere I went the buzz was Republicans crossing over to vote on the Democratic side. Some were doing it because they were fed up with their own party, but others were trying to screw the results so that Hillary will go up against McCain. I figured who knows who is who...and it's hopeless, and I was trying not to think about it.

But I also knew Diebold was being mentioned again, the company that makes the legislatively mandated voting machines. The business suffered such colossal blowback from corruption charges after 2004, that they changed the name to Premier. But what, if anything, was done about it? Some states, like California and Ohio, got busy and started throwing them out. But was Diebold at work controlling who wins? Blogs were saying it was Diebold and not the voters that delivered Tuesday's results to Clinton. The satirical site got the biggest laughs of the week, claiming Diebold accidentally leaked the results of the '08 Presidential race. The New York Times combined its story of the spoof with the news that mighty defense contractor United Technologies is trying to buy out Diebold. If the military runs the elections, what do we have? And is there any significance in the fact Hillary's chief pollster is CEO of the public relations company that Diebold uses? So what have the bloggers come up with?

Of course continues to hammer away, as he has done for the past 4 years, on stolen elections through computer tinkering. The one Dana found yesterday though is by some guy who used to work as an engineer in a company for 15 years, until he uncovered dark, inner secrets at the place. His name is Bill Noxid, and it's possible he's part of . His blog entry Thursday seeks to prove Diebold handed Ohio to Clinton. In that article is a referenced link to his analysis of the New Hampshire primary, which has a county-by-county statistical breakdown. One flustered reader at the blog left the comment I decided to use as a title: What will it take?

Well yeah, that's what I've been waiting for! When is the Congress or some reputable news organization going to go after this? (I get accused of being naive a lot.) It was at this point that an interesting coincidence occured. While Dana was working the computer, I was in the next room watching the commentary by Oliver Stone for his 1995 film Nixon. There are TWO commentaries by Stone in the collector's edition which restores 30 minutes of footage to a film already about 3 hours long. The purpose of the commentaries is for the director of such films as Salvador, Wall Street, Platoon, JFK, and Born On The Fourth Of July, to provide documentation for his extraordinary biography of the 37th President of the United States. What scenes are word-for-word transcripts, what are composites, and what did Oliver Stone actually make up "out of wholecloth," as he says? The coincidental point shows, early in 1969, the Cabinet is floating around on a yacht, and Nixon announces he's going "to give history a nudge" and bomb Cambodia. Somebody worries, "What about congressional oversight?" and Nixon replies, "F--k congressional oversight!" Stone maintains, in the commentary reportedly recorded in 1999, Nixon actually said it.

The implication for the matter at hand, of course, is that Congress hasn't been able to control the Executive Branch for 40 years---and if we count J. Edgar Hoover and CIA overthrows, longer than that. All that's in the restored film, plus the hazy, secret budgets of those organizations and the Pentagon, and the crucial downfall of Cambodia to further plans for restored relations with China. Many credit that move with the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union during Reagan's tenure. What finally undid Nixon and brought forward the Watergate Hearings was not Congressional oversight. It was 2 years of seige upon the White House by student and activist demonstrators. And with that mood to bolster them it was 2 relentless journalists. Blogging's not the same and it won't do it. Even the bumper sticker I saw the other day and like a lot ("Sorry W, I'M the decider: Vote Democrat '08") isn't going to do it. It's what it's always been. It's what tyranny cannot avoid. People in the streets.

Last month Scientific American, which I imagine is reputable enough for anybody (except believers in "church science"), published an article about E-voting technology. Below the title the editors remind us, "Eight years after the controversial 2000 presidential election, electronic voting systems still fail to deliver on their promise of accuracy and security." The article concludes~~~
Whereas certain technology—such as pacemakers and other medical devices—are heavily regulated and must adhere to strict design and construction standards, voting machines are still mostly unregulated. "There's no validation of how the software for these systems is designed and built," (Seth) Hallem (CEO of Coverity, Inc., the San Francisco–based maker of the source code analysis software that SAIT used during its probe of Diebold's system) says, adding that this is "surprising given the importance of voting machines to our national infrastructure."
This has caused problems throughout the U.S. as different states attempt to assess the effectiveness of their e-voting technology. Following a review of e-voting machine security vulnerabilities and source code, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen in August decertified all e-voting machines in her state, other than those designed for disabled voters. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner recently released the results of a probe into her state's electronic voting systems that concluded they, too, were riddled with "critical security failures" that could impact the integrity of elections.
"In the year 2000, when the Florida election went nuts, there were some electronic systems, but by and large the vast majority was done on handwritten ballots and punch ballots," SAIT co-director Yasinsac says. In the wake of the controversy, e-voting was held up as a way to restore integrity to the process. "We pushed this technology even though it was not ready," he adds. "Much of the software that the machines used is more than 10 years old and has been revised heavily, making it harder to review."
Any significant changes in election technology will come too late for this year's bid for the White House. In states such as Maryland, where Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed spending $6.8 million to buy new optical-scan machines to improve the accuracy of that state's elections, the technology will not be ready to go until 2010. Meantime, legislation introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives last year by Rep. Rush Holt [D–N.J.] that would require voter-verified permanent paper ballots (amending the tech-friendly but misguided Help America Vote Act of 2002) is languishing in committee and will not impact this year's elections.

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