Krugman – Hack the Vote

December 2, 2003 at 5:15 pm
Contributed by:



Folks,

It’s good to see
Krugman take up the issue of flawed voting machines and potential voter fraud.
The most important fix is simple: just make the machines give out a paper record
of each vote. But noises have already been made that this “enhancement” will
cost too much, or be too technically difficult, or any of a half-dozen other bad
excuses. As if a printer hooked up to a computer were some great technical feat.
As if any of those reasons should ever be permitted to take precedence over the
sanctity of a vote. Let’s hope Krugman’s attention to this issue causes some
tangible changes to be made, so we can all continue to believe, at least, in the
utility of voting.

–C

OP-ED COLUMNIST
Hack the Vote
By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published:
December 2, 2003

Inviting Bush supporters to a fund-raiser, the host
wrote, “I am committed
to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the
president next year.” No
surprise there. But Walden O’Dell — who says that he
wasn’t talking about
his business operations — happens to be the chief
executive of Diebold Inc.,
whose touch-screen voting machines are in
increasingly widespread use across
the United States.

For example,
Georgia — where Republicans scored spectacular upset victories
in the 2002
midterm elections — relies exclusively on Diebold machines. To
be clear,
though there were many anomalies in that 2002 vote, there is no
evidence that
the machines miscounted. But there is also no evidence that
the machines
counted correctly. You see, Diebold machines leave no
paper
trail.

Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, who has
introduced a bill requiring
that digital voting machines leave a paper trail
and that their software be
available for public inspection, is occasionally
told that systems lacking
these safeguards haven’t caused problems. “How do
you know?” he asks.

What we do know about Diebold does not inspire
confidence. The details are
technical, but they add up to a picture of a
company that was, at the very
least, extremely sloppy about security, and may
have been trying to cover up
product defects.

Early this year Bev
Harris, who is writing a book on voting machines, found
Diebold software —
which the company refuses to make available for public
inspection, on the
grounds that it’s proprietary — on an unprotected server,
where anyone could
download it. (The software was in a folder titled
“rob-Georgia.zip.”) The
server was used by employees of Diebold Election
Systems to update software
on its machines. This in itself was an incredible
breach of security,
offering someone who wanted to hack into the machines
both the information
and the opportunity to do so.

An analysis of Diebold software by
researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice
Universities found it both unreliable
and subject to abuse. A later report
commissioned by the state of Maryland
apparently reached similar
conclusions. (It’s hard to be sure because the
state released only a heavily
redacted version.)

Meanwhile, leaked
internal Diebold e-mail suggests that corporate officials
knew their system
was flawed, and circumvented tests that would have
revealed these problems.
The company hasn’t contested the authenticity of
these documents; instead, it
has engaged in legal actions to prevent their
dissemination.

Why isn’t
this front-page news? In October, a British newspaper, The
Independent, ran a
hair-raising investigative report on U.S. touch-screen
voting. But while the
mainstream press has reported the basics, the Diebold
affair has been treated
as a technology or business story — not as a
potential political
scandal.

This diffidence recalls the treatment of other voting issues,
like the
Florida “felon purge” that inappropriately prevented many citizens
from
voting in the 2000 presidential election. The attitude seems to be
that
questions about the integrity of vote counts are divisive at best,
paranoid
at worst. Even reform advocates like Mr. Holt make a point of
dissociating
themselves from “conspiracy theories.” Instead, they focus on
legislation to
prevent future abuses.

But there’s nothing paranoid
about suggesting that political operatives,
given the opportunity, might
engage in dirty tricks. Indeed, given the
intensity of partisanship these
days, one suspects that small dirty tricks
are common. For example, Orrin
Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, recently announced
that one of his aides had improperly accessed
sensitive Democratic computer
files that were leaked to the press.

This admission — contradicting an
earlier declaration by Senator Hatch that
his staff had been cleared of
culpability — came on the same day that the
Senate police announced that they
were hiring a counterespionage expert to
investigate the theft. Republican
members of the committee have demanded
that the expert investigate only how
those specific documents were leaked,
not whether any other breaches took
place. I wonder why.

The point is that you don’t have to believe in a
central conspiracy to worry
that partisans will take advantage of an
insecure, unverifiable voting
system to manipulate election results. Why
expose them to temptation?

I’ll discuss what to do in a future column.
But let’s be clear: the
credibility of U.S. democracy may be at
stake.


Free Trade Free-for-all

December 2, 2003 at 4:52 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Greg Palast’s
rant of today seems appropriate for forwarding, as trade issues are big news.
Not only are there huge (and almost completely unreported) trade protests
happening in Miami, complete with police abuse…not only is Chavez singularly
holding his own against the forces of NAFTA…not only is Dubya having to lift
U.S. steel tariffs that are in violation of WTO rules, while U.S. steel unions
protest…but, incredibly, Neil Bush is working on
helping China gain in trade with the U.S., while we’re facing a massive trade
deficit. Neil scored a $400,000-a-year contract to provide business advice to a
Chinese computer chip manufacturer, “business advice” being standard code for
“influence peddling.” http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-neilbush27nov27,1,1857210.story?coll=la-headlines-nation


Not only that, Neil’s
sporting a $60,000-a-year employment contract to help
companies secure contracts in Iraq (via Crest Investment Corporation, a company
based in Houston, Texas, that invests in energy and other ventures). For this
“he received $15,000 every three months for working an average three or four
hours a week.”


And on a related note, it’s the second
anniversary of the collapse of Enron, another major campaign contributor and
provider of influence peddling contracts to the Bushes. After two years, two,
count ‘em two, Enron execs are behind bars, but Enron CEO Ken Lay, a personal
friend of Dubya’s, has yet to face a court. 


Yessir, it’s a fine time to be a Bush,
or any other big business beneficiary. And for those of you struggling to
keep–or find–a job in this “job-loss recovery” we’re experiencing, well, just
hang on a little longer. We’ll have a nice $20K/yr job in the service sector
ready to replace your last $60K/yr job, as soon as we export a few thousand more
jobs overseas and wait for those big tax cuts for the wealthy to trickle down to
you. We promise.


–C

—–Original
Message—–
From: palast@gregpalast.com [mailto:palast@gregpalast.com]
Sent:
Tuesday, December 02, 2003 9:58 AM
Subject: CHAVEZ VERSUS THE FREE TRADE
ZOMBIES OF THE AMERICAS


CHAVEZ VERSUS THE FREE TRADE ZOMBIES OF THE
AMERICAS
Greg Palast reporting from Caracas

Saturday, November 29,
2003

It’s as if they were locked in a crypt for the last ten years.
The
finance ministers of every Latin American nation last week signed on
to
a resolution in principle to join the Free Trade Area of the
Americas
(FTAA), the hemispheric expansion of NAFTA.

The walking
corpse of Argentina’s economy was there, as well as the
long-deceased body of
Ecuador and several other South American nations
whose economies were long
ago murdered and buried by the free trade and
free market nostrums of the
World Bank and the IMF.

Yet on they came.  Stiff-legged, covered in
rotting bandages, the
official zombies marched to Miami to pledge, one and
all, to sign on
for their next dose of free market poison.

Every
nation but one:  Venezuela, the single and solitary nation to say
“no
thanks” at Miami’s treaty of the living dead economies.  Today, I
met up
with Venezuela’s chief FTAA negotiator.  Victor Alvarez was
saved from
zombification by his sense of humor.  He noted that while
the Bush
Administration was preaching free trade to their dark-skinned
compatriots
south of the border, the USA itself was facing one of the
largest penalties
in World Trade Organization history for raising
tariffs on steel
products.  He would have laughed out loud in Miami if
it didn’t hurt so
much:  the illegal US trade barriers have closed two
steel plants in
Venezuela.

Venezuela’s ‘negociador jefe’ Alvarez went through the
well-known data:
in ten years of free market free-for-all, industrialization
in
Venezuela dropped from 18% of GNP to 13%.  And Venezuela fared
best. 
Elsewhere in Latin America, economies simply imploded.  And
NAFTA
created employment only in a fetid trench along the Rio Grande,
the
‘maquiladora’ sweatshops which suck down wages on both sides of
the
Mexico-US border.

We finished our conversation as the President
walked in.  Hugo Chavez
is not one for subtleties.  “FTAA is the
PATH TO HELL,” said Chavez.

He meant this in the deepest theological
sense.  What is at stake for
Chavez is Latin America’s mortal
soul.  “I have seen children shot to
death,” said the president, “not by
an invading Army but by our own
nation’s soldiers.”

Chavez was
referring to February 27, 1989.  While the Northern
Hemisphere was
celebrating the impending fall of the Berlin Wall,
“another wall was going
up,” he explained, “the wall of globalization.”
That day, the army massacred
Venezuelans, young and old, during a
demonstration against diktats of the
International Monetary Fund
imposed on that nation.

The President
raced through a dozen more examples, from Bolivia to
Chiapas, Mexico, where
the miracle of the marketplace came out of the
barrel of a gun.

FTAA
is far more than a trade document.  It’s not just about fruit and
cars
that we sell across borders.  FTAA is an entire new
multi-state
government in the making, with courts and executives, unelected,
with
the power to bless or damn any one nation’s laws which impede
foreign
investment, foreign sales or even foreign pollution.

FTAA is
revolutionary in the sense that governments are overthrown. 
And the
easiest way to do that, of course, is to convince governments
to overthrow
themselves.  Hence, the zombification process.

Chavez offers an
alternative to FTAA.  Following a numbing one-hour
discourse on the
philosophy of the nineteenth century founding fathers
of South America (I
could sympathize with this former history
professor’s students), he dropped
the Big One.  Instead of ALCA [the
Spanish acronym for FTAA], he
proposes ALBA, standing for the
Bolivarian Alternative for America. 
Named after his hero Simon
Bolivar, Chavez would create a “compensation”
fund, in which the
wealthier nations of North and South America would fund
development in
the poorer states.

If that sounds like an Andean pipe
dream, he reminds us that the
European Union created just such a
redistribution fund to jump-start
the economies of its poorest nations. 
(To the anger of the English, I
should add, who saw Ireland use the funds to
zoom past their former
lords to a higher standard of living
today.)   If Chavez’ proposal
appears at first to have a snow
ball’s chance in NAFTA hell, I remember
when, in fact, it was accepted
gospel:  John Kennedy’s Alliance for
Progress.

In those years
when JFK’s Alliance was promising northern capital for
southern development,
a strange group of well-heeled and well-armed
revolutionaries in Chicago
under Milton Friedman were plotting to
overthrow Kennedy’s vision.  They
succeeded.

Over three decades, the Chicago Boys and their neo-liberal
cohort have
ridden history’s pendulum to the top, announcing that history
itself
has come to an end in a free market consensus.

But when the
pendulum swings back, the history professor in Caracas
will be waiting with
his Bolivarian elixir to make the economic dead
rise
again.

*****
Greg Palast is on assignment in Caracas for Rolling Stone
Magazine. 
For photos and more on Venezuela, go to
www.GregPalast.com.  Palast is
the author of, “The Best Democracy Money
Can Buy” (Penguin 2003).

Sen. Feinstein on energy policy

December 1, 2003 at 2:11 pm
Contributed by:



Folks,


Happy post-Thanksgiving. I trust
you’re all well-fed and rested and ready to resume the fight for all that’s
true, good, and right?


I just got this reply
from Sen. Feinstein’s office. It’s a bit out of date, clearly, but I thought it
worth a forward because I think it lays out the key issues of energy policy very
succinctly. I think her policy choices are absolutely right, and demonstrate why
defeating this last bill was so important.

 

But the fight isn’t
over yet, they’ll undoubtedly take up this bill again in January, and we need to
keep on the pressure. Let me just point you to the Public
Citizen site:

 

Public Citizen – Critical Mass Energy
and Environment Program

http://www.citizen.org/cmep/energy_enviro_nuclear/electricity/energybill/2003/


Despite the energy bill’s recent defeat, supporters are likely to resume
efforts to pass energy legislation in January. Continued vocal opposition to
this bill is crucuial. We urge you to contact members of Congress to voice your
opposition to the energy bill via
our Energy Bill Action page
.


http://www.citizen.org/cmep/energy_enviro_nuclear/electricity/energybill/articles.cfm?ID=10479


Please make yourselves heard,
especially if you live in heartland states!

And now, Sen. Feinstein:


—–Original Message—–
From:
senator@feinstein.senate.gov [mailto:senator@feinstein.senate.gov]
Sent:
Monday, December 01, 2003 1:36 PM
Subject: Senator Dianne Feinstein
responding to your
message


             
December 1,
2003
         
Dear
_:

     Thank you for contacting me to express your
concerns
about comprehensive energy legislation that was recently passed
in
the Senate.  I appreciate hearing from you and I welcome
the
opportunity to respond to your concerns.

    
Recently, the Senate agreed to pass the same
comprehensive energy bill that
was approved last year in the 107th
Congress.  Although this legislation
is a slight improvement from
the legislation that was passed out of the
Energy and Natural
Resources Committee in April, I still opposed this
legislation for a
multitude of reasons and continue to hope the bill will be
improved
when it is considered in conference.

    
I strongly support efforts to improve our nation’s energy
supply while
protecting consumers, the environment, and the
economy.  However, I do
not believe the bill recently approved in
the Senate strikes the right
balance.  Additionally, this legislation
does not go far enough to
prevent another Western energy crisis.
Not only does this bill do nothing to
prevent the type of gaming
that went on during the Western energy crisis, it
does nothing to
protect consumers for the costs incurred from
companies
manipulating the market. 

     I
also voted against the bill because it included an ethanol
mandate which
would requires the amount of ethanol used in
gasoline to be more than doubled
by 2012.  Studies have found that
this mandate may lead to increased
pollution in California and
spikes in gasoline prices that will be passed on
to consumers at the
pump.

     I am also
disappointed that this bill does nothing to increase
the fuel efficiency of
automobiles and light trucks.  Increasing
Corporate Average Fuel Economy
(CAFE) standards is the single
most important step we can take to reduce our
dependence on
petroleum.  By increasing CAFE standards in Sport
Utility
Vehicles and light trucks, we would save 1 million barrels of oil
a
day, decrease foreign oil imports by 10 percent, and prevent 240
million
tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from entering the
atmosphere each
year.  It would also drivers hundreds of dollars
each year in gasoline
costs.

     Fortunately, by retaining the language
from last year’s
energy bill, the Senate version of the bill no longer
includes a
provision that would have required an inventory of
available
resources off of California’s coast, which could lead to drilling
off
of our coast.  I continue to believe that improving
energy
efficiency, increasing conservation, and encouraging the use
of
renewables, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy, are much
better
solutions to meeting the long term energy needs of
California and the rest of
the United States.  For this reason, it is
my hope that a provision
within the Senate version of the bill
requiring that utilities increase their
use of renewable energy
sources to ten percent by 2010 will not be dropped in
conference.

     Finally, I strongly believe that any
comprehensive energy
bill should address the issue of climate change. 
According to a
report issued by the National Academy of Sciences, the
Earth’s
surface temperature rose about one degree Fahrenheit during
the
20th century.  This warming process has intensified in the past
20
years and has been accompanied by retreating glaciers, thinning
arctic
ice, rising sea levels, and the increasing likelihood of
droughts and
floods.  If global warming continues unabated, we
face a number of
potential environmental problems including
severe disruptions in normal
weather patterns, flooding in coastal
communities, changes in global
agricultural production, and the
spread of tropical diseases. 
California would be hard-hit by these
changes.  Since the United States
is the largest energy consumer in
the world, it is time for the U.S. to take
a leadership role on this
issue and work with the rest of world to address
the issue of
climate change.  It is my hope that provisions to address
the issue
of climate change will be included in the final version of the
bill.

     As a member of the Senate Energy and
Natural Resources
Committee, please know I will keep your concerns in mind
when
the Senate considers the final version of the
bill. 

     Again, thank you for your
letter.  If you have any further
concerns on this, or any other issue,
please do not hesitate to call
my Washington, D.C. staff at (202)
224-3841.

     Best
Regards.

                        

              
Sincerely
yours,

              
Dianne
Feinstein
              
United States Senator

http://feinstein.senate.gov

Further information about
my position on issues of concern to
California and the Nation are available
at my website
http://feinstein.senate.gov .  You can also receive
electronic e-mail
updates by subscribing to my e-mail list at
http://feinstein.senate.gov/issue.html .


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