Sunday, November 26, 2006

News roundup, November 26, 2006

Anti-war Democrat has ties to U.S.' prewar Iraq claims talks about a surprising winner of Pennsylvania's 10th district. The winner, an "Anti-War Democrat", had worked in the Pentagon office that produced the cooked evidence that helped the Administration lie us into the war. Somehow he found his way to being an "Anti-War Democrat" which the newspaper finds odd and confusing. They probably aren't aware of Karen Kiatkowski who worked in that same office, has 20+ years experience in the Military working on anti-terrorism, and is totally against this war, is totally aghast at what the office she worked in produced etc. Clearly it's within the realm of possibility that two people working in that office could both be against the war.

Iraq Group a Study In Secrecy, Centrism is an examination of the Iraq Study Group. They interviewed a dozen or more of the participants to learn what was learnable. The process seems skewed to a centrist viewpoint, with neocons feeling disgruntled and left out. Hmm...

Ferocity of Iraq attacks leaves US troops helpless discusses escalating violence in Iraq. Especially as it may jeapordize a summit to be held with Iraq Prime Minister al-Maliki.

Crowd stones Iraq PM as govt calls for calm It probably isn't al-Maliki's week, a crowd stoned his motorcade as they drove through Sadr City.

U.S. Finds Iraq Insurgency Has Funds to Sustain Itself The insurgency (uh... is there just one insurgency? or are there multiple insurgencies?) has been raising money through oil smuggling and other criminal activites and is earning enough revenue to sustain its own operations. I suppose that means they don't have to depend on Iran or on Saddam's pilfered cash stockpile, eh? And just how do we know what they're earning? Did they file a 10-Q with the SEC or something?

Rumsfeld okayed abuses says former US army general Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Articles of Impeachment against GW Bush

Some latecomers to the "Impeach Bush" game have posted their Articles of Impeachment against Bush and Cheney. I called for their impeachment, Proposal: Impeachment, G.W. Bush, several years ago.

"Americans Can't Handle Another Impeachment" Is Republican Propaganda. Don't Be Deceived. is a long analysis of some debate happening among the talking heads. Apparently Republican spinmeisters are claiming "Americans Can't Handle Another Impeachment" as if we are babies needing to be coddled. Hmmmph. This Smirking Chimp story goes to great length to explain how we really are adult enough to see a second impeachment to the end.

Man collects signatures to impeach Bush is a guy in Sioux Falls working to impeach Bush.

Impeach Bush, Cheney is an opinion letter in Winona MI calling for impeachment. And in Madison WI, Janet Olsen: Dems must impeach Bush, Cheney.

Logie: It's time to impeach Bush The former Mayor of Grand Rapids MI.

Howard Dean to Jon Stewart: We Won't Impeach Bush Shows some Democratic Leadership thinking on the issue, saying they will not do it.

Impeach Bush is a columnist writing in Pittsburgh PA calling for impeachment. He gives some detailed articles of impeachment.

Amherst Town Meeting votes to impeach Bush

Champaign-Urbana Votes to Withdraw from Iraq and Impeach Bush-Cheney; Other Illinois Cities Vote to Withdraw from Iraq

So You Think You Want to Impeach? is a multi-way book review of five books, all about Impeachment. Specifically the Impeachment of George W. Bush.

Do-It-Yourself Impeachment. Seriously is instructions that an individual citizen can use to initiate impeachment proceedings. Seriously. And given what the Democratic leadership is saying, this may be the route we have to take. We just have to be careful and oust Cheney at the same time Bush is ousted or the problem will just be worse.

Impeachment Call Echoes Near Independence Hall an expert on Impeachment, who was one of the drafters of Impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, makes her call for Impeachment from the center of Philadelphia. She also appeared on Democracy Now: Fmr. NY Congressmember Holtzman Calls For President Bush and His Senior Staff To Be Held Accountable for Abu Ghraib Torture

Why Impeachment, Sadly, Is a Non-Starter while supporting impeachment, makes an interesting argument against it. In the Democracy Now interview mentioned above Ms. Holtzman said it would be hard to make a case for Impeachment of Cheney. he has no paper trail, because it's Bush who signed everything. So if we impeach Bush we get Cheney, so that may be Bush's ultimate protector, the unpalatableness of Cheney. Also there's the time consideration, unless they get right on it the impeachment would be likely occuring during the election year, 2008, and be seen as an election ploy rather than a real impeachment. Hmmm?

New Congress should stay focused on war Hmm.. an editorial by John Yoo. That name sounds familiar. Scroll..scroll..scroll.. Oh, he's a former Bush Administration official. Hmmph.

Contract with America Reminds us of the Constitution and the trampling thereupon by the Bush Administration.

Impeachment 'Off the Table,' Conyers Says Conyers, who has been itching for a few years to Impeach Bush, now doesn't want to do it. Hmm... Conyers said, "To be sure, I have substantial concerns about the way this administration has abused its authority, but impeachment would not be good for the American people. The country does not want or need any more paralyzed partisan government -- it wants a check and balance and real progress on the issues that matter to their lives."

Gas price drop an attempt to skew the election?

Before the November 2006 elections I wrote an article: Dropping gasoline prices, and the mid-term elections pondering whether the dropping gas prices were an attempt to skew the elections. It seemed and still does seem very unlikely. At the same time it is curious why gas prices, which had been well above $3 per gallon over the summer of 2006 fell so precipitously since then.

CNN Money noticed the same thing Gasoline prices up, end 3 month slump which led the Salon.COM war-room to ponder Coincidence? Election over, gas prices up again.

In the interest of relying on facts ...

Here is the chart from before the election, captured on October 8, 2006:

And here is the chart today, November 25, 2006, generated using the same parameters:

What's interesting is the crude oil price has leveled off, and the gasoline price has started to come back up.


gaschart.2006-11-26.png26.09 KB

Cut and Run? Withdraw? Redeploy? Stay the Course?

The Democratic win in the 2006 elections has changed the discussion about the war in Iraq. Part of the mandate won by the Democrats was to change, radically, the direction we, the U.S.A., will approach the situation in Iraq. Clearly I believe we should have not gone into Iraq in the first place, but we are there and it's a very interesting question what should be done given the situation that exists today.

There are echo's of Vietnam and other U.S. failures of the recent years. Some of the Republican talking points have, for decades, been about renewing America's honor, honor that we've lost from "losing" the Vietnam war and having had to withdraw from other conflicts. The Bush Administration has been playing this card, in saying we must stay the course. Now, the phrase "stay the course" can mean to keep at a given strategy even though it's clearly failing, or it can mean staying focussed on a goal and shifting strategies and ideas until you reach the goal.

Which raises the question of just what the heck is the goal, anyway?

For example, the goal we were given in 2002 and 2003, used to justify the war, was the Iraqi connection to the September 11, 2001 attack, the connections between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda, the danger of Iraq gaining weapons of mass destruction up to and including nuclear weapons. My earlier article, The "case" for war, goes over the claims made by Colin Powell in the Feb 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council. By the summer of 2003 I was able to show all their claims at that time were poppycock. So just what the heck is the goal, anyway?

The Bush Administration has changed tactics and now says the goal is the introduction of Democracy. That just harkens back to the plans concocted by the Project For a New American Century, which I wrote about in Background material for the second Gulf "War". Basically the PNAC is a think tank run by the Neocons who are now in positions of high power all through the Bush Administration. Their plans for the Middle East was to make a wave of change by "introducing" moderate democracies in the center of the middle east, which would then influence neighboring countries to moderate democracy.

Sounds nice in a way, but there are several flies in the ointment. For example how can you "introduce" democracy? Isn't that a choice that a population makes for themselves? In particular how can you force a country to become democratic when you're pointing guns at them? Especially when the culture in question has a long non-democratic history? So just what the heck is the goal, anyway?

I happen to think it's about the Oil. GW Bush may as well have had a sign in his campaign headquarters reading "It's about the Oil, stupid". Iraq has the second highest reserves of Oil in the world, and Iran, one of the targets of the PNAC plan for reshaping the Middle East, has significant oil reserves as well. Further, Venezuela, another country which the U.S. has been targeting, against which the U.S. launched a Coup a couple years ago, they have significant oil reserves as well, especially if you count their tar-sands oil reserves.

The November 17, 2006 episode of On The Media has an interesting discussion of the way this debate is spinning in the news media. Somehow the word "Withdraw" has been made to equate with "Cut And Run" which the Republicans have successfully made out to be cowardice. As a political tactic it makes anyone talking of Withdrawal out to be a Coward, who can then be Swift-Boat'ed to death.

For that matter one of the troubling considerations is, would a withdrawal send Iraq into a tailspin of violence between the various factions. It would create a power vacuum, which might well cause the various parties to struggle among each other to be the top dog. But can we really foretell the future well enough to say for certainty that's what would happen?

Since this whole mess is based on preventative war .. the idea that you can foretell that a given country is planning on attacking another country, so therefore you have the right to attack the first country to prevent their attack on the second country .. well, to continue fighting the war in Iraq means you are continuing this preventative war strategy, and in this case it's about preempting a civil war.

Cut and Run, the Only Brave Thing to Do ...a letter from Michael Moore .. well, it's about his explanation why "Cut And Run" is exactly what we should do, and that it probably won't result in the horror story we've been fed. An interesting factoid to consider is that we have now been in Iraq fighting this war for longer than U.S. forces were fighting in World War II. Yup, beginning in 1942 we built up an armaments industry, trained a large army, went to war, and defeated Japan, Italy and Germany, sweeping enemy forces from North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific. And that took the U.S. less time than the time we have spent mired in Iraq.

Something is wrong with this picture.

He points out that a country can successfully be liberated only when the populace themselves rises up in some form. It hearkens back to the U.S. Revolutionary war, or the non-violent uprising in India, etc. The Iraqi's did not do so against Saddam Hussein, he claims. Except that, after the first Gulf War, President Bush (the other one, not the current one) told the Shia and Kurds to rise up and we will support you, but when they did our "support" did not come through, and the Hussein government crushed their rebellion. Somehow Michael Moore fails to mention this.

But it does given an interesting spin with which to interpret the current mess. To an extent the fighting in Iraq is against U.S. forces, because they want US to be GONE. Michael Moore does quote some polling statistics showing heavy Iraqi support for insurgency against U.S. forces. And that does make it look very bad for the U.S. plan in that if the population you're supposedly liberating wants nothing to do with the liberators, then how can the liberators hope to be of any use?

There are many who are saying we should send in more troops. I suppose the idea is that to "win" you must "crush" opposition, and that if a given number of troops hasn't been successful in crushing the opposition then more troops is what's needed. Hmm...

If the will of the people is strong enough, is there any number of troops that are enough?

And, consider that we have zero justification to be there in the first place. The proof? The rebellion against our presence should be enough proof. But if you go back to the discussion I laid out above, both of the stories we've been told justifying this war have been proved to be false. WMD? Al Qaeda? All false. The hope for democracy? A ridiculous quest in the first place, and fading quickly anyway.

Michael Moore does present an interesting argument.

If you were to drive drunk down the road and you killed a child, there would be nothing you could do to bring that child back to life. If you invade and destroy a country, plunging it into a civil war, there isn’t much you can do ‘til the smoke settles and blood is mopped up. Then maybe you can atone for the atrocity you have committed and help the living come back to a better life.

And he goes on to point out the Soviet Union was able to withdraw from Afghanistan in 36 weeks, relatively painlessly.

But is there any hope of this happening? The Republicans will fight this tooth and nail. Their whole reputation is based on succeeding at this war. They are not about to admit defeat, and offering atonement is very foreign to them since they are bound to see it as defeatist.

It will remain to be seen what will come from the Democrats versus the Republicans in this regard. One thing that's clear is the power has shifted dramatically in Washington.

The last thing I want to point to is: Howard Zinn on The Uses of History and the War on Terrorism. This is a speech he gave in Madison Wisconsin, and rebroadcast on Democracy Now on November 24, 2006.

It is a long speech full of ideas. I think the thrust of it is that for any country the political leadership is not of the people of that country. Even the U.S. where we have government By The People and For The People. Instead political leadership is this insular group who sees their role as convincing the population to following agenda's decided by the political leadership.

He tells of an interview of Hermann Göring during the Nuremberg trials. He was asked how the Nazi's were able to convince their people to do those horrendous things.

Göring said, “Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country.”

It works the same in any country. In the U.S. the Republicans have been telling us for years this same story line. The Terrorists are coming to get us, and anybody who argues against this obvious truth gets demonized and shouted down for lack of patriotism.

It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. But should that be the way things occur? In this country Of the People and By the People and For the People, who should be determining the agenda? The leaders or the people? And what about when the leaders are so completely isolated from the people, as are our leaders?

Car event data recorders, a silent privacy invasion?

When an airplane has a crash one of the biggest considerations is finding the "black box". The black boxes (on airplanes there are two of them) record data about events just before the crash, and are able to help crash investigators figure out what the heck happened. For example was there an airplane failure, bad weather, or poor piloting, etc? They sound great when put into an airplane, right?

Event data recorders (EDR), also known as crash data recorders, are being installed in many new cars. Generally we the people do not know about them, but they are installed in our cars, and they record a short period just before airbags deploy. The purpose is similar, to record some data about an accident, hopefully to make better airbags, and hopefully to help a traffic crash reconstructionist do a better job of reconstructionisting.

According to a CNN report I just watched, the EDR's are sometimes inaccurate and as a result people have gone to jail over the inaccuracies. See, what happens is if the EDR shows the person was driving recklessly, e.g. at 114 miles/hr in a neighborhood, then the driver can be placed at fault in the crash, and could go to jail on manslaughter charges.

Harris Technical: Crash Data Recorders: gives a good explanation as well as pointers to lists of cars containing these devices, case law, etc.

The NHTSA Event Data Recorder Research Web site is the official, National Highway Transportation Safety Agency, web site concerning EDR's. This includes research articles, media articles, history, and more.

The Canada Safety Council calls them reliable and points out that while these have been used at times to help establish guilt, they have also been used to establish innocence. The CNN report I saw above portrayed two people who were convicted and felt they were innocent.

Big Brother: Should it be in your car? is an article from the Detroit News, with an overly sensational headline, discussing these things. The article describes that 20 U.S. states have laws about the use of the data, and in most cases the law says the owner of the car is in control of when or if the data is to be disclosed to law enforcement or insurance companies. There are also requirements to inform car owners, to have a section in their owners manual, etc. has an information page and suggested lobbying material.

2006 Privacy Legislation Related to Event Data Recorders ("Black Boxes") in Vehicles by the National Council of State Legislatures lists the 2006 legislation in the U.S. states regarding these devices. Their 2005 list.

Black Boxes: Event Data Recorder Rulemaking for Automobiles is a book about these devices. The author is widely recognized as a leading researcher on vehicle black box technologies. The book provides useful information for motorists, attorneys, public safety advocates, public policy administrators, engineers, automotive professionals, journalists, and insurance executives.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a Q&A page.

Do-it-yourself car-monitoring devices is a Consumer Reports article describing and testing aftermarket event data recorders you can add to your car. One use case they discuss is if you have a teenager driver, are they driving safely?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Iran Nuclear threat a hoax? Or not?

Iran. Nuclear weapons. Sigh. Iran is part of the so-called axis of evil, which included Iraq and North Korea. North Korea has been pronounced to be a threat, they recently set off a small nuclear weapon of some kind, and this week Pres. George W. Bush was reported to have repeated the statement that growth of nuclear capabilities in North Korea is a major problem. Ditto the growth of nuclear capabilities in Iran.

Yet, the same week Congress finally voted approval for a deal Pres. Bush made with India to provide them with some nuclear technology. It's funny how India has nuclear weapons, is not a signatory to the non-proliferation treaties, and the U.S. is providing them with nuclear technology. It's especially funny how Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaties, has not yet created nuclear weapons, yet the U.S. is threatening to invade Iran. Oh, and Pakistan, the country that was the worst proliferator of nuclear technology, without whom North Korea would not have gotten anywhere, is a partner to the U.S.

Very strange.

The process with Iran is seemingly the same as it was for Iraq leading up to the 2003 invasion of that country. There are shady exile groups making bold claims against the Iranian leadership, just as there were for Iraqi leadership. There are pronouncements and demonization by the U.S. leadership, just as there was for Iraq. etc. Yet we learned later that the whole story spun about Iraq was a total fabrication, and that seemingly the U.S. leadership knew they were lying while they were spinning their web of lies. The question is, how truthful are they being about Iran, or is this story just another big web of lies?

Hersh: CIA Analysis Finds Iran Not Developing Nuclear Weapons Reports that a classified CIA document finds there is no developing nuclear threat in Iran. Further, the Bush Administration realized before the election that it's likely they would lose, and that Cheney threatened that their loss "would not stop the administration from pursuing a military option with Iran" that "the White House would circumvent any legislative restrictions" preventing Congress from getting in their way.

Hurm.. sounds like a constitutional crisis brewing here.

The system of checks and balances are supposed to keep one branch of U.S. government from riding roughshod over the others. But the last few years we've had a Congress that rubber stamped everything the administration told them to do. And among those things were suspensions or deletions of some of the checks and balances.

The Next Act is a New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh that was used as the source for the above article.

35-nations meet on denying Iran nuclear assistance "A push by Western nations to deny Iran technical help in building a plutonium-producing reactor has gathered enough support to be approved by the 35-nation board of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, diplomats said. Still, differences both within the Western camp and more broadly among different factions on the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on how harshly to punish Iran for its nuclear defiance persisted on the eve of the opening meeting Monday, the diplomats said. "

IAEA likely to block Iran atom aid at meeting "The U.N. nuclear watchdog is likely at a politically charged meeting this week to put on ice Iran's request for help with a heavy-water plant due to fears it could yield plutonium for atom bombs, diplomats say. The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation governing board urged Iran in February to "reconsider" the Arak reactor project. But Tehran vows to complete it and applied for IAEA technical expertise to ensure the plant meets safety standards. Although IAEA approval of such requests is usually routine, Western board members say the Arak case must be rejected given Iran's record of evading IAEA non-proliferation inspections and its defiance of U.N. demands to stop enriching uranium. "

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Senator Dodd acts to restore Habeas Corpus

Waycool! Senator Dodd of Connecticut has found some cajones, and has introduced a bill that would, among other things, restore Habeas Corpus. However the bill has a bunch of other aspects, so maybe we should carefully look at the rest of it to make sure he's not bringing in some nefarious other stuff under the guise of restoring something we all want restored.

Dodd Introduces Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act; Brings Terrorists to Justice, Honors America's Good Name

The Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act is said by Dodd's web site to have these nice sounding characteristics.

  • Restores Habeas Corpus protections to detainees
  • Narrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants
  • Bars information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials
  • Empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable
  • Authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military commissions
  • Limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight
  • Provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionally of its provisions

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq

The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq is a new book exploring the echo chamber constructed by the Bush Administration that lied the U.S. into the war in Iraq. The echo chamber forms when politicians lie to journalists, and then believe the lies when they are printed in the newspaper. Technologists call this a positive feedback loop, and such loops only do one thing. They spin out of control until the machine blows itself apart.

The election this year is perhaps the first concrete symptom of the Bush echo chamber of lies blowing apart.

THE BEST WAR EVER is a video clip from the author of the book explaining the gist. .. home page

Defense Department funds massive speech recognition and translation program

Defense Department funds massive speech recognition and translation program describes U.S. government research spookily like the The Total Information Awareness System. TIA was a research program bent on developing a wide range of technologies that would be put together to vastly upgrade the U.S. Intelligence gathering abilities. The TIA system was noticed by the public, a hue and cry was raised, some Congress people harrumphed and caused DARPA to make some changes that appeared like they shut TIA down, but most of the projects that TIA was made of continued on.

Global Autonomous Language Exploitation (GALE) is simply the continuation of that research, under a different name. I am surprised arsTechnica missed the connection.

They describe it as automatic speech recognition of any spoken language, and automatic language translation of written text into English. The third component is a "distillation" engine which can answer questions and summarize information.

The stated goal is to capture all the public communications like TV broadcasts, newspaper articles, blog postings, etc, and sift them through a giant computerized mixmaster. The software would automatically sift through the massive quantities of information and they supposedly hope to find terrorists or other threats more easily. All communications have to be translated to English because of the lack of linguists to manually translate these communications.

It's a three step process. Stage one is to capture all capturable communications, and translate it into written text. Stage two is to translate the written text to English. Stage three is to sift through the massive piles of data and make sense of it.

If they only apply this program to public communications there isn't much to quibble about. Public communications are, well, public. And there is a lot of valuable intelligence that can be gathered by reading foreign newspapers and the like.

But are they likely to stop at public communications? This is the government that launched illegal wiretapping of U.S. Citizens in direct violation of federal law, and then lied to Congress.

It's well known the U.S. government has been tapping e-mail and other forms of "signals" intelligence for a long time. Supposedly these taps have to be associated with court orders and have to be targeted at specific individuals. But those legalisms assume the government agents are going to act with integrity and do only what the law allows them to do. Again, our current government administration has proven over and over they have no qualms about ignoring and violating U.S. law.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Democrats sweep into power, Rumsfeld resigns, and Gates as new Defense Secretary

Maybe I'm too much of a geek but the name "Bob Gates" brings to mind another Gates who runs a certain evil software company who I do my best to avoid. Anyway, before one spends all their energy cheering the departure of Rumsfeld from power one ought to think about Bob Gates, his anointed replacement. It's been long enough since last hearing his name that I'd forgotten what he'd been involved with in the past. It seems he is another in the string of Bush appointments that veer to the dark side of the Force.

Fortunately Democracy Now has a long memory. Their show of November 9, 2006 is a great non-mainstream analysis of the power shift, and in particular remembering the prior history of Mr. Gates. When he was proposed as Director of Central Intelligence by GHW Bush (#41) he received more NO votes than all the prior DCI appointments before him. During the 1980's he was heavily involved in the impeachable Iran-Contra activities, that directly violated laws passed by Congress which directly demanded that Administration not do what they ended up doing. Oh, and to enrich the irony the Nicaraguan leader that the Reagan administration was fighting, Daniel Ortega, has just been re-elected as President of Nicaragua. And finally on the show they allege he was involved with politically skewed Intelligence, rather than presenting Intelligence that shows the Truth whatever the Truth actually is.

If true, and if this fellow is accepted by Congress, then we can look forward to a couple more years of irresponsible leadership at the Pentagon. Oh, and the Bush Administration wants this appointment to be handled by Congress during the "lame-duck" session that happens before the swearing in ceremonies in January. It is during this lame duck session that Congress is still Republican-controlled and despite the sweeping rejection of the Bush agenda, that isn't in legal effect until the new Congress is sitting.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The danger of voting for "Anybody but 'X'"

The Democrats have won the 2006 elections. Yay? In 2004 I made an interesting posting, The energy of "anybody but X" that seems even more appropriate today.

Okay, the Bush administration has done abysmally especially in the last two years. They go from one unconstitutional act to another. When will someone wake up and get the nerve to impeach these traitors to America? Finally with the Democrats taking control of Congress we could possibly see that happen, if they get up the courage to do so.

But, in the voters rage against the Bush administration .. what are they getting. This is clearly a vote against Bush and his failed policies. But .. what are we getting?

As I noted in 2004, if you vote against X you have not made a positive statement. There are a zillion people who are not GW Bush. But in your rush to rid yourselves of the Bush administration, have you instead ushered in a different set of crooks and liars?

Maybe you think all Politicians are crooks and liars, and it doesn't matter who's in charge. I like to think there are upstanding people in every profession, just as there are crooks and liars in every profession. While it seems the power of holding office tends to corrupt, not everybody falls prey to the enticing voice of the dark side. Some remain the upstanding people they were going into office.

What this leaves us with is still needing to be activists standing for the world we want to have around us. Rather than sit back and think, "We won, the Democrats are in power, they'll take care of everything" we should instead take the attitude of "We have an opportunity, with the sea change of power structure, to have real change happen, so let's work with the new power structure and cause change to happen".

Otherwise it's a "The King is dead, long live the King" situation where no real change happens, just a change of the names filling the grey pinstriped suits with red ties.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Voting machine glitches in 2006 election

Given yesterdays posting, "Hacking Democracy", an HBO special looking into election fraud in the U.S.A., I want to do a compendium of voting machine glitches in todays election. This is the mid-term election in the fall of 2006.

Voting machine glitch causes big delays, county says problem fixed: "Encoder" problems in Utah County, Utah, caused long delays at all 118 precincts in the county.

Coffee spilled on voting machine, otherwise voting is smooth I think the title says it all, this is in MINNEAPOLIS. It caused a small problem at one precinct and the article reports voting elsewhere in Minnesota is fine.

Jean Schmidt's voting problem A Congresswoman, Jean Schmidt, filmed having troubles managing to vote for herself.

Voting machine problem reported at St. Antoine In Louisiana some mechanical problems.

Ohio, Indiana Source of Early Voting Problems; More Surface Throughout States A compendium of voting problems published by FOX News.

Voting Problems Reported In Allegheny Co. In Pittsburgh but the article doesn't say how many precincts nor the type of problem.

Voting Machine Glitches Found During Early Voting South Florida has some broken machines, and they're nervous about conspiracy theorists overreacting.

Glitch to keep polls open until 9 p.m. Lancaster County PA has widespread problems. They are planning to keep the polls open until 9 PM. The optical scan machines (eScan) are the ones with problems while the eSlate (touch screen?) are working fine.

Plan in place to address vote machine time glitch Volusia County, FL, the clocks in the voting machines were 6 hours incorrect. It leaves them scratching their heads, but apparently won't interfere with the conduct of the vote.

Voter advocacy groups report electronic glitches statewide (Maryland) "Poll monitors and lawyers in Maryland reported statewide problems with the electronic voting machines today, indicating that the machines sometimes failed to select the candidate the voter picked for U.S. senator or governor."

Some glitches on Election Day In Toledo Ohio they report it went well overall. The glitches were that in one polling place the workers overloaded the electrical circuits, and in other places they had to scramble to have enough printed ballots.

Diebold machine glitch fixed quietly In Maryland it's reported that Diebold repaired hardware problems, without telling Maryland officials about the problem.

Some Texans Won't See Full Candidate Name on Ballots and Electronic voting machines "hack" off Democrat Jim Webb's name from November ballot and F.C. Election Chief Says Problem With Voting Machines Identified a Year Ago The voting machines will be unable to display the full name for some candidates. In Virgina they reported the problem a year ago.

Will Your Vote be Counted? Not Necessarily, says Princeton Team A team of Princeton Univ researchers managed to create a "virus" which could undetectedly alter voting results. They claim this only requires a "good" but not "great" programmer to repeat what they did.

`Brave New Ballot' Author Attacks Electronic Voting: Interview Computer security expert, Avie Rubin, is interviewed talking about the dangers of electronic voting. He claims the danger is the results can be altered without it being detected.

Voter smashes Diebold machine as e-voting problems crop up nationwide A rundown by of some voting machine problems. The title is a demonstration of conspiracy-minded thinking gone too far. A voter, believing the machines are a wide ranging Republican conspiracy, took matters into his own hands and attacked a machine.

Monday, November 6, 2006

HACKED! High Tech Election Theft in America


HACKED! High Tech Election Theft in America presents to the American people the work of eleven experts on the issue of electronic vote fraud, stolen elections, and best solutions to the crisis. It explains how electronic voting has stolen our democracy; how elections in American have been privatized by large corporations; and how imperative it is that Americans start TODAY to reclaim their elections.

Black Box Voting


A citizen activist group investigating the credibility of elections in the U.S.A. Black Box Voting investigates election problems, communicates the problems to the citizenry, and teaches citizens how to manage their own government -- which means teaching citizens how to identify elections problems and providing citizens with the tools to oversee elections. Black Box Voting takes the position that being a citizen means taking an active role in government oversight. Elections procedures must be fair, they must be inclusive, they must prevent voter disenfranchisement, they must protect each individual's vote by reducing the ability to tamper or miscount. Systems do not achieve quality automatically -- citizen oversight is the key ingredient to fair and accurate elections . Because We, the People are the owners of our government, we citizens should expect to take an active role in managing the quality of the government systems we have created.

"Hacking Democracy", an HBO special looking into election fraud in the U.S.A.

Hacking Democracy is an HBO documentary showing the work of Black Box Voting to investigate the reliability of elections in the U.S.A. The special has been posted, in its entirety, on which you can get to on the above link or view below. The special shows several astonishing things about electioneering in the U.S.A. and shows that the vote can be changed (hacked) surreptitiously. And the special shows suspicious behavior on the part of certain election officials.

If we wish our Democratic system to remain true to the will of the people, our elections must be fair and honest. We've seen time and again that in countries where elections are not honest, the people routinely are suppressed and abused by their governments. It is our duty as citizens of a Democracy to ensure the system represents our will.

In the 2000 election one astonishing result was in Volusia County, Florida, the election showed a negative vote total for Al Gore. Negative! That's ridiculous, the count should only come out positive because when a vote is cast it can only increase the total. How could one end up with negative numbers? But because the vote recount was ended in Florida before the recount was finished, that anomaly was not investigated.

In the 2004 election Black Box Voting filed Freedom of Information requests for the polling records from across the country, so that they could investigate the results in detail. One county they especially focussed on was Volusia County, and they found strange happenings. First the results "tapes" they were given were not the official record, but were printed two weeks after the election. They demanded the original results tapes, and were told those were at the County warehouse. So they went to the warehouse, and found that the workers there were in the process of throwing out some trash, trash that contained votes, election material, and the original results tapes. By federal law the results tapes are supposed to be kept preserved for 22 months, so why were they throwing them in the trash? More astonishingly the results tapes they found, in the trash, differed from the results tapes which the county claimed were the actual results.

In other words, Volusia County was at it again, apparently, reporting fraudulent results.

The documentary showed several ways which, on the Diebold voting machines, the vote results can be easily changed without any hint of tampering.

One way is to change the results database on the central tabulator computer. The votes are stored onto memory cards which are collected from precincts. On the election night the memory cards are then read into a central tabulator computer, and software on that computer tallies the results and reports the totals. This is pretty straightforward in concept. While the tabulating software has several checks and boundaries that prevent tampering, there is nothing to prevent tampering with the data files from outside that software. The data files are just some kind of database file, probably built around Access. One can double click on the database files and edit the results tables directly. Or one can write a program that directly modifies the file contents. Both methods were demonstrated in the documentary.

Another form of tampering is to rig the memory cards ahead of time. The documentary showed a small test election conducted by Black Box Voting using the voting machines owned by a different Florida county. They set up a test election, used a rigged memory card to record the election results, filled out a known number of optical scanned ballots with known results, ran the ballots through the machine, and ended up with a fraudulent result.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Re: Neo Culpa

Neo Culpa is a Vanity Fair article giving voice to some "neoconservatives" who are having regrets about this illegal and stupid misadventure (war) in Iraq. It is by David Rose, having had several weeks of conversation with these people, who is reporting that many of them regret the nature of their involvement, and are pointing the finger of blame at the Bush Administration.

One said he assumed that the "most competent national security administration since the Truman administration" would be able to pull this off. But instead they were unable to work together and did the most incompetent job imaginable. Another said the issue is GW Bush was not a decision maker (despite his recent declaration that he's the "Decider"), and instead the government machinery he supposedly ran was really running him.


Saturday, November 4, 2006

"Tag Cloud" of U.S. Presidential speaches


This is an interesting way to browse the history of statements by U.S. Presidents through history. A "tag cloud" is a technique for visually presenting the frequency of keyword use. With a given set of text, looking at the frequency of use for the key words, if you enlarge the most commonly used ones then it's visually obvious the thrust of the text.

For example the State of the Union Address
George W. Bush, 31 January 2006
the most common word was Terrorists. In that speech GW Bush wanted to again drill home to the population the fear mongering stance he's taken since September 11, 2001 to convince us we need to support his cause because we're in fear of the Terrorists. And the relative size of the words makes this obvious with Terrorists being most commonly used, and Iraq next so.

Habeas Corpus Act of 1679


This is the full text of the Habeas Corpus law. The year given is 1679, and I know the concept goes back several hundred years before then. This is an ancient concept in European culture, and for GW Bush to throw it away just because it smells bad to him is ridiculous. Why did Congress go along with it?

The text of the law is very interesting, as it clearly is meant to avoid abuses by government officials in the form of holding prisoners excessively long without just cause.