Blogging Left

With the darkness now covering the land, the progressive spirit of the Enlightenment is getting dimmer and dimmer. But at the same time, the blogosphere allows folks an alternative means of communication that allows the truth to be known and someday, the progressive agenda will be realized.

Name:
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

When I was an undergraduate, I read Escape From Freedom in an anthropology course, wow did I think that was cool stuff when I was 19, but how can you make a living doing that kind of stuff. Well, somehow I pursued an interdisciplinary education and trained to become a shrink, but with strong social and political values. (I did spend several years at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. Well, somehow I got caught up in protesting the war in Viet Nam, moved from a more individualistic perspective to a sociological perspective, and voila, here I am, having made a career in sociology and what am I doing, Frankfurt School critical theory....yes maybe Nietzsche is right about eternal return. If interested in my professional work, see my website-tho it has not been updated lateley. I will soon have a volume of papers on alienatioun out. I am now working on a book on the carnivalization of our culture, how the degeneration of taste destroys the mind and fosters political indifference.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Staggeringly Impossible Results of Ohio's '05 Election

The Staggeringly Impossible Results of Ohio's '05 Election



Brad Friedman

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-friedman/the-staggeringly-impossib_b_10589.html


Is this the Election that will finally break the camel's back?
With so much going on, few have noticed the extraordinary outcome of last Tuesday's election in Ohio where the crooked state that brung you -- by hook and by crook -- a second term for George W. Bush may have turned in results so staggeringly impossible, that perhaps even the Mainstream Corporate Media (if only in Ohio?!) will have no choice but to look into it.

As usual, the Free Press' heroic Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are on the case. Their article on what happened on ballot issues 1 through 5 last week is
A MUST READ for anybody who still gives the slightest damn about whatever democracy might be left in America.

I'll try to summarize here briefly. There were five initiatives on the ballot last week. Issue 1 was a controversial proposition for $2 billion in new state spending. The Christian Right was opposed (because some of the new funds might go to stem cell research), but otherwise, the Republican Governor Taft's Administration (he recently plead guilty to several counts of corruption) was pushing it hard alongside progressives in the state.

The Columbus Dispatch's pre-election polling, which Fritrakis and Wasserman describe as "uncannily accurate for decades", called the race correctly within 1% of the final result. The margin of error for the poll was +/- 2.5% with a 95% confidence interval. On Issue 1, the Dispatch poll was right on the money. They predicted 53% in favor, the final result was 54% in favor.

But then came Issues 2 through 5 put forward by ReformOhioNow.org -- a bi-partisan coalition pushing these four initiatives for Electoral Reform in the Buckeye State largely in response to their shameful '04 Election performance led by the extremely partisan Secretary of State (and Bush/Cheney '04 Co-Chair) J. Kenneth Blackwell.

On those four issues, which Blackwell and the Christian Right were against, the final results were impossibly different -- and we mean impossibly! -- from both the Dispatch's final polling before the election and all reasoned common-sense. Take a look:

ISSUE 1 ($2 Billion State Bond initiative)PRE-POLLING: 53% Yes, 27% No, 20% UndecidedFINAL RESULT: 54% Yes, 45% No

ISSUE 2 (Allow easier absentee balloting)PRE-POLLING: 59% Yes, 33% No, 9% UndecidedFINAL RESULT: 36% Yes, 63% No

ISSUE 3 (Revise campaign contribution limits)PRE-POLLING: 61% Yes, 25% No, 14% UndecidedFINAL RESULT: 33% Yes, 66% No

ISSUE 4 (Ind. Comm. to draw Congressional Districts)PRE-POLLING: 31% Yes, 45% No, 25% UndecidedFINAL RESULT: 30% Yes, 69% No

ISSUE 5 (Ind. Board instead of Sec. of State to oversee elections)PRE-POLLING: 41% Yes, 43% No, 16% UndecidedFINAL RESULT: 29% Yes, 70% No

Now, you tell us...What could possibly explain such unheard of differences between the Dispatch's poll and the final results?


Now, we'll tell you...This was the year that Ohio, under the encouragement and mandates of Blackwell, rolled out new Electronic Touch-Screen Voting Machines in 44 of its 88 counties...41 of them employeeing the same Diebold Touch-Screen Machines that California's Republican Sec. of State decertified in this state when 20% of them failed this summer in the largest test of its kind ever held.

Those would be the very same Electronic Voting Machines which a
recent GAO Report (still unmentioned by a single wire-service or mainstream American newspaper) confirmed to be easily hackable.

Will the absurdly skewed results from last Tuesday's Ohio Election finally light a fire under the media -- either nationally or just in Ohio alone -- to look into what the hell is going on here?! We remain hopeful...if not optimistic.

The
Free Press article is a must read, as mentioned, but we'll share their closing thoughts here on the possible reasons for the wildly unexplained discrepancy between the final polling and the final results which, as they posit, are due to either a completely inexplicable breakdown of the Dispatch's historically accurate polling methods wildly beyond the margin-of-error for all initiatives except Issue 1...or...somebody hacked that vote count:

If the latter is true, it can and will be done again, and we can forget forever about the state that has been essential to the election of every Republican presidential candidate since Lincoln.

And we can also, for all intents and purposes, forget about the future of American democracy.

Anybody in the Mainstream Media ready to give a damn yet?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Diebold source code broken!

Diebold source code broken!


From Joanna:!!!

BREAKING - DIEBOLD SOURCE CODE !!!

Dr Avi Rubin is currently Prof of Computer Science at John Hopkins U.He "accidently" got his hands on a copy of the Diebold software program--Diebold's source code--which runs their e-voting machines. Dr Rubin's students pored over 48,609 lines of code that make up this software. One line in particular stood out over all the rest:#defineDESKEY((des_KEY8F2654hd4"

All commercial programs have provisions to be encrypted so as to protect them from having their contents read or changed by anyone not having the key... The line that staggered the Hopkin's team was that the method used to encrypt the Diebold machines was a method called Digital Encryption Standard (DES), a code that was broken in 1997 & is NO LONGER USED by anyone to secure prograns. F2654hd4 was the key to the encryption. Moreover, because the KEY was IN the source code, all Diebold machines wld respond to the same key. Unlock one, you have then ALL unlocked.

I can't believe there is a person alive who wldn't understand the reason this was allowed to happen. This wasen't a mistake by any stretch of the imagination. This was a fixed election, plain & simple. [DUH]

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

GAO report upholds Ohio vote fraud claims

GAO report upholds Ohio vote fraud claims
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor



As if the indictment of Lewis “Scooter” Libby wasn’t enough to give the White House some heavy concerns, a report from the Government Accounting Office takes a big bite out of the Bush clique’s pretense of legitimacy.

This powerful and probing report takes a hard look at the election of 2004 and supports the contention that the election was stolen. The report has received almost no coverage in the national media.

The GAO is the government’s lead investigative agency, and is known for rock-solid integrity and its penetrating and thorough analysis. The agency’s agreement with what have been brushed aside as “conspiracy theories” adds even more weight to the conclusion that the Bush regime has no business in the White House whatever.

Almost a year ago, Rep. John Conyers, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, asked the GAO to investigate the use of electronic voting machines in the Nov. 2, 2004, presidential election. That request was made as a flood of protests from Ohio and elsewhere deluged Washington with claims that shocking irregularities were common in that vote and were linked to the machines.

CNN said the Judiciary Committee got more than 57,000 complaints after Bush’s claimed re-election. Many were made under oath in a series of statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations carried out in Ohio by the Free Press and other groups seeking to maintain transparent elections.

Online Journal.com reported that the GAO report stated that “some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.”

This is the only democratic nation that permits private partisan companies to count and tabulate the vote in secret, using privately-held software. The public is excluded from the process. Rev. Jesse Jackson and others have declared that “public elections must not be conducted on privately-owned machines.” The makers of nearly all electronic voting machines are owned by conservative Republicans.

The chief executive of Diebold, one of the major suppliers of electronic voting machines, Warren “Wally” O’Dell, went on record in the 2004 campaign vowing to deliver Ohio and the presidency to George W. Bush.

In Ohio, Bush won by only 118,775 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast. Honest election advocates contend that O’Dell’s statement to hand Ohio’s vote to Bush still stands as a clear indictment of an apparently successful effort to steal the White House.

Some of the GAO’s findings are: 1. Some electronic voting machines “did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected.” In short, the machines; provided a way to manipulate the outcome of the election. In Ohio, more than 800,000 votes were cast on electronic voting machines, some registered seven times Bush’s official margin of victory.

2: the report further stated that: “it was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works, so that the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate.” Very many sworn statements and affidavits claim that did happen in Ohio in 2004. Next, the report says, “Vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level.” The GAO found that falsifying election results without leaving evidence of doing so by using altered memory cards could easily be done. The GAO additionally found that access to the voting network was very easy to compromise because not all electronic voting systems had supervisory functions protected by password. That meant access to one machine gave access to the whole network. That critical finding showed that rigging the election did not take a “widespread conspiracy” but simply the cooperation of a small number of operators with the power to tap into the networked machines. They could thus alter the vote totals at will. It therefore was no big task for a single programmer to flip vote numbers to give Bush the 118,775 votes.

Another factor in the Ohio election was that access to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user ID, coupled with easy-to-guess passwords. Even amateur hackers could have gotten into the network and changed the vote.
System locks were easily picked, and keys were easy to copy, so gaining access to the system was a snap.


One digital machine model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary manner that if one machine experienced a power failure, the entire network would go down. That is too fragile a system to decide the presidency of the United States.
Problems obviously exist with security protocols and screening methods for vendor personnel.
The GAO study clearly shows that no responsible business would operate with a computer system as flimsy, fragile and easily manipulated as the one used in the 2004 election.
These findings are even more damning when we understand the election in Ohio was run by a secretary of state who also was co-chairman of Bush’s Ohio campaign. Far from the conclusion of anti-fraud skeptics, the GAO’s findings confirm that the network, which handled 800,000 Ohio votes, was vulnerable enough to permit a handful of purposeful operatives to turn the entire election by means of personal computers using comparatively simple software.
One Ohio campaign operative, Tom Noe, a coin dealer, was indicted Oct. 27 for illegally funneling $45,400 to Bush by writing checks to others, who then wrote checks to Bush’s re-election campaign, allegedly dodging the $2,000 limit on contributions by an individual.
“It’s one of the most blatant and excessive finance schemes we have encountered,” said Noel Hillman, section chief of the U.S. Department of Justice’s public integrity section, as quoted in the Kansas City Star.


In the 2000 election, Florida was the key; in the 2004 election, Ohio was the key.
From the Nov. 2-8, 2005, issue -->
Copyright 2002-2005 - The Rock River Times

Copyright © 2002-2005 - The Rock River Times

Friday, October 21, 2005

GAO -Electronic votiong fucked

GAO Report Finds Flaws in Electronic Voting

Friday 21 October 2005

Rep. Waxman led twelve members of Congress today in releasing a new GAO report that found security and reliability flaws in the electronic voting process.
In a joint press release, Rep. Waxman said, "The GAO report indicates that we need to get serious and act quickly to improve the security of electronic voting machines. The report makes clear that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in electronic voting systems - from the day that contracts are signed with manufacturers to the counting of electronic votes on Election Day. State and local officials are spending a great deal of money on machines without concrete proof that they are secure and reliable."
The GAO report found flaws in security, access, and hardware controls, as well as weak security management practices by voting machine vendors. The report identified multiple examples of actual operational failures in real elections and found that while national initiatives to improve the security and reliability of electronic voting systems are underway, "it is unclear when these initiatives will be available to assist state and local election authorities."
Rep. Waxman also released a fact sheet summarizing the report's key findings.
Fact Sheet
Overall Findings
In October 2005, the Government Accountability Office released a comprehensive analysis of the concerns raised by the increasing use of electronic voting machines.
Overall, GAO found that "significant concerns about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems" have been raised (p. 22).
GAO indicated that "some of these concerns have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes" (p. 23).
According to GAO, "election officials, computer security experts, citizen advocacy groups, and others have raised significant concerns about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems, citing instances of weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete standards, among other issues. ... The security and reliability concerns raised in recent reports merit the focused attention of federal, state, and local authorities responsible for election administration" (p. 22-23).
Specific Problems Identified by GAO
Based on reports from election experts, GAO compiled numerous examples of problems with electronic voting systems. These included:
Flaws in System Security Controls
Examples of problems reported by GAO include (1) computer systems that fail to encrypt data files containing cast votes, allowing them to be viewed or modified without detection by internal auditing systems; (2) systems that could allow individuals to alter ballot definition files so that votes cast for one candidate are counted for another; and (3) weak controls that allowed the alteration of memory cards used in optical scan machines, potentially impacting election results. GAO concluded that "these weaknesses could damage the integrity of ballots, votes, and voting system software by allowing unauthorized modifications (p. 25).
Flaws in Access Controls
Examples of problems reported by GAO include (1) the failure to password-protect files and functions; (2) the use of easily guessed passwords or identical passwords for numerous systems built by the same manufacturer; and (3) the failure to secure memory cards used to secure voting systems, potentially allowing individuals to vote multiple times, change vote totals, or produce false election reports.
According to GAO, "in the event of lax supervision, the ... flaws could allow unauthorized personnel to disrupt operations or modify data and programs that are crucial to the accuracy and integrity of the voting process" (p. 26).
Flaws in Physical Hardware Controls
In addition to identifying flaws in software and access controls, GAO identified basic problems with the physical hardware of electronic voting machines. Example of problems reported by GAO included locks that could be easily picked or were all controlled by the same keys, and unprotected switches used to turn machines on and off that could easily be used to disrupt the voting process (p. 27).
Weak Security Management Practices by Voting Machine Vendors
Experts contacted by GAO reported a number of concerns about the practices of voting machine vendors, including the failure to conduct background checks on programmers and system developers, the lack of internal security protocols during software development, and the failure to establish clear chain of custody procedures for handling and transporting software (p. 29).
Actual Examples of Voting System Failure
GAO found multiple examples of actual operational failures in real elections. These examples include the following incidents:
In California, a county presented voters with an incorrect electronic ballot, meaning they could not vote in certain races (p. 29).
In Pennsylvania, a county made a ballot error on an electronic voting system that resulted in the county's undervote percentage reaching 80% in some precincts (p. 29-30).
In North Carolina, electronic voting machines continued to accept votes after their memories were full, causing over 4,000 votes to be lost (p. 31).
In Florida, a county reported that touch screens took up to an hour to activate and had to be activated sequentially, resulting in long delays (p. 31).
Current Federal Standards and Initiatives Are Ineffective and Are Unlikely to Provide Solutions in a Timely Fashion
GAO reported that voluntary standards for electronic voting, adopted in 2002 by the Federal Election Commission, have been criticized for containing vague and incomplete security provisions, inadequate provisions for commercial products and networks, and inadequate documentation requirements (pp. 32-33).
GAO further reported that "security experts and some election officials have expressed concern that tests currently performed by independent testing authorities and state and local election officials do not adequately assess electronic voting system security and reliability," and that "these concerns are amplified by what some perceive as a lack of transparency in the testing process" (p. 34). The GAO report indicated that national initiatives to improve voting system security and reliability of electronic voting systems (such as updated standards from the Election Assistance Commission; federal accreditation of independent testing laboratories; and certification of voting systems to national standards) are underway, but " a majority of these efforts either lack specific plans for implementation in time to affect the 2006 general election or are not expected to be completed until after the 2006 election" (p. 43). As a result, GAO found that "it is unclear when these initiatives will be available to assist state and local election officials" (p. 43). According to GAO, "Until these efforts are completed, there is a risk that many state and local jurisdictions will rely on voting systems that were not developed, acquired, tested, operated, or managed in accordance with rigorous security and reliability standards - potentially affecting the reliability of future elections and voter confidence in the accuracy of the vote count" (p. 53).
Recommendations
GAO made several recommendations, primarily aimed at the federal Election Assistance Commission (p. 53). GAO recommended that the EAC should:
Collaborate with appropriate technical experts to define specific tasks, outcomes, milestones, and resource needs required to improve voting system standards;
Expeditiously establish documented policies, criteria, and procedures for certifying voting systems; and
Improve support for state and local officials via improved information dissemination information on voting machine software, the problems and vulnerabilities of voting machines, and the "best practices" used by state and local officials to ensure the security of electronic voting machines.
To view the full report:
http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20051021122225-53143.pdf.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Why can't the left face the Stolen Elections of 2004 & 2008?

Why can't the left face the Stolen Elections of 2004 & 2008?
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey WassermanOctober 18, 2005
If some of its key publications are any indicator, much of the American left seems unable to face the reality that the election of 2004 was stolen. So in all likelihood, unless something radical is done, 2008 will be too. Misguided and misinformed articles in both TomPaine.com and Mother Jones Magazine indicate a dangerous inability to face the reality that these stolen elections mean nothing less than the death of what's left of American democracy, and the permanent enthronement of the Rovian GOP. As investigative reporters based in Columbus, Ohio, we witnessed first-hand, up close and personal, exactly how the 2004 election was stolen, and how it will most likely be done in 2008. In the precinct in which Harvey Wasserman grew up, and in the one where Bob Fitrakis now lives, we saw the well-funded, profoundly cynical and deadly effective mechanisms by which the Bush-Cheney-Rove-Blackwell GOP machine switched a victory for John Kerry to an easily-repeatable defeat for democracy. That Kerry and the spineless Ohio and national Democratic Parties have been complicit is a crucial part of the problem much of the left also seems unwilling to face. But if you live in Franklin County, Ohio, and watch the Republican and Democratic Parties run joint pickets against progressive candidate, and cut backroom deals allowing incumbents of either party run unopposed, you may miss the full scope of the disaster. And until the left faces the rot that defines the Democratic Party, there is no hope for a fair election in this country. In other words: those who think the White House can be retaken in 2008, but refuse to face the theft of the vote in 2004, should prepare to be ruled by the likes of Jeb Bush, now and forever. Before we go into the sordid details, we have to ask: exactly what is it about Team Bush that makes people think they could not or would not steal an American election? Do they lack funds? Do they lack expertise? Is there something in the Machiavellian/mobster moral code of Karl Rove and the Bush Family that would prevent them from doing here what they've been doing throughout the Third World for so long? CIA meister Poppy Bush long ago perfected the art and science of stealing elections. US manipulators have interfered with and tipped elections for decades. Why should Ohio be any different? Especially when all the world knew control of the most powerful office on earth would be decided right here. Lets do the bookends: before the voting, Ohio's infamous Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell clearly and vehemently denied poll access to teams of international observers from the United Nations and other international election observers. Since the election, he has effectively stonewalled and sabotaged all recount attempts, to the point that no credible accounting of the Ohio election has ever been done. To this day, at least 100,000 votes remain uncounted, electronic voting machines remain unaudited, key hardware and data files have been trashed, paper ballots have sat unguarded for anyone to pilfer and tallies in dozens of key counties remain filled with statistical impossibilities. In our HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, we list more than 180 bullet points on how this theft was perpetrated. It was a brilliant, cynical and masterfully executed campaign of death by a thousand cuts. In Florida 2000, the means of the crime were limited to a few instances of intimidation, butterfly ballots, computer manipulation and a corrupt Supreme Court. But four years after, in Ohio, dozens of sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant tricks were designed to steal a few thousand votes here, a few thousand more there, until victory was in GOP hands. Unless they are exposed and blocked, every one of these scams can and will be duplicated throughout the United States in 2006 and 2008. The question is: will the left follow mainstream Democrats with sheep-like acceptance as every election goes the same way from here on? And if so, why bother even staging more votes in this country at all? Starting with Russ Baker at TomPaine.com, the indicators are grim. Last January, Baker penned an absurd, ill-reported piece of nonsense called "What Didn't Happen in Ohio." Baker traipsed into Columbus for a few days, interviewed the usual faux Democrats, and left with a Big Story: "The Election Was Fair." If Baker had done any meaningful research he might have seen the dozens of other instances of intimidation, irregularities and fraud that went unmentioned in his glib paragraphs. Instead he relied on Bill Anthony, chair of the Franklin County Democrats and Board of Elections. Bill is a pleasant, affable African-American with no commitment or fight for democracy or even the Democrats. He has appeared on Bob's local radio show and with Harvey on others. On one of them, Bill admitted that the Franklin County BOE knew there would be problems with voting machines, and asked Blackwell for paper ballots well before the 2004 election. Blackwell, Anthony said, turned them down. The result was the now infamous chaos at the polls, with inner city voters stuck in the rain for hours. Just what Blackwell wanted. But did Bill Anthony fight Blackwell's absurd ruling? Did he make it a public issue prior to the election? Not a chance. For a quickie reporting job, Anthony is a dream. He's well-spoken, charming and convincing. As an African-American with union connections, he would seem the perfect liberal source. In 2003, Anthony endorsed the Republican mayor's former press secretary for the Columbus School Board. He then supported two Republican candidates on a "Reform Slate" aimed at ousting the Board's only progressive Democrat, an African-American. Bill Anthony is just one of a legion of what are known throughout the state as DINOs---Democrats in Name Only. The Ohio Democratic Party is a national embarrassment. Its chair, Denny White, was not long ago a Republican, and will soon be one again, once the party is fully disemboweled, a job very close to done. Throughout Ohio, DINOs piously cover this piece of fraud and that piece of theft with glib "I hate Bush" rhetoric. The pity is, out-of-state reporters actually take them seriously. Mark Hertsgaard is a well respected author and reporter and a long-time friend of Harvey Wasserman, and of election critic Mark Crispen Miller. He has contributed some very valuable work over the years. But he's done himself---and the voting public---very wrong on "Recounting Ohio" in the new Mother Jones. Mark is smart and thorough enough to leave open the possibility that Ohio's election was, indeed, stolen. But he also falls prey to the DINO trap, failing to cover far too much of what happened here while taking seriously centrist Democrats who are known locally to have no credibility. So Mother Jones questions the significance of the firing of a Democratic election official who blew the whistle on computer manipulations by Triad, an obscure Republican voting machine company. But Triad was involved in counting the votes in nearly half of Ohio's 88 counties. Questions are still being raised about Triad, including: "How did they get all these contracts in the first place?" Mother Jones correctly points out that seven times the number of votes by which Bush took Ohio were cast on Republican-controlled machines. But the magazine fails to follow up with mention that those votes have been tabulated on proprietary non-transparent software---a fact we pointed out in our own article in Motherjones.com many months prior to the election. Mother Jones also discounts the fact that a phony Homeland Security alert in Warren County landed the vote count in an unauthorized warehouse rather than the official secure location, and that reporters were barred from the vote count. That count, which went hugely and suspiciously and very importantly for Bush, was observed by nominal Democrats. But so were other highly dubious vote counts around the state, as they had been in Florida 2000, which Mother Jones argues adamantly was indeed stolen. The irony of this is that the same issue of Mother Jones leads off with a dead-on story about Ohio and national Democrats who are sabotaging the campaign of the aggressively electable Paul Hackett for a key US Senate seat. And another MoJo piece bemoans the fact that national Democrats seem adept only at losing. Yet here in the back of the book is a story discounting evidence compiled by a legion of independent, grassroots election rights advocates, while favoring phone interviews with the very Democrats being denounced in the front of the book. Above all, the core of evidence that the election was stolen in Ohio 2004 comes from some 500 sworn statements and signed affidavits taken by people of all political parties, including two Republican hearings officers, in the weeks after the election. Anyone truly committed to finding out what happened here needs to start with that huge body of evidence. As MoJo points out, none of this has been made easier by the "abandon ship" of the biggest DINO of all, John Kerry. Kerry had $7 million in the bank earmarked to "count every vote" and was apparently losing by just 136,000 Ohio votes with more than 250,000 still uncounted when he turned tail and conceded. Even Blackwell's corrupt, virtually meaningless first fake recount dropped Bush's official tally by 18,000 votes. The Democrats have since attacked the election protection movement here through a lawyer named Daniel Hoffheimer who comes from none other than the stalwart Cincinnati Republican law firm of Taft, Stettinius et. al. MoJo quotes another Kerry/DINO lawyer Michael O'Grady, counsel to the state Democratic Party, who argues that for Ohio to have been stolen, the entire GOP would have had to be "conspiratorial," while the Democrats were "dumb as rocks." In fact, that's an assessment many activists in Ohio heartily endorse, though you might add the word "inert" to the description of the Democrats. O'Grady claims, for example, that an impossible vote count in three southern Ohio counties that gave Bush his entire margin of victory can be explained by a feminist outpouring for an African-American court candidate who ran zero campaign in those counties. But the presumption is that those same feminists somehow didn't bother to vote for Kerry over George W. Bush. No local student of that election could begin to take such an assessment seriously. Or how about the quote from Chris Rakocy, a "tech specialist" about those notorious touchscreens in Mahoning County where voters who chose Kerry saw Bush light up. Rakocy says that problem was "only" on 18 of 1,148 machines, and that it was corrected early. But Rakocy stands alone against dozens of sworn statements and affidavits confirming that the problem went on all day, and was never fixed, and may have involved far more machines than 18, and not only in Mahoning County but also in Franklin. Even at that, in heavily Democratic Youngstown (not to mention Columbus), just 18 machines could have accounted for switching thousands of votes. And, in fact, Kerry's margins in both Youngstown and Columbus were suspiciously light. And what would Mother Jones herself do to machines that disenfranchised even one voter, no matter what the apparent impact on the ultimate vote count? Why is the magazine named for her discounting the you-couldn't-make-this-one-up reality of voters pushing one candidate's name on a touchscreen and seeing another's name light up, time after time after time? Or are we taking this---and her---all too seriously? Then there's the song and dance from Warren Mitofsky. The father of exit polls saw his work used to overturn a stolen election in Ukraine just prior to the American vote. But when his poll-taking here showed John Kerry with a nationwide margin of 1.5 million votes, somehow Mitofsky jumped ship on his own decades of professionalism. Exit polls funded by six major news organizations showed Kerry carrying Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada as late as 12:20 am on Wednesday morning, well after balloting stopped even in Alaska and Hawaii. These four "purple states" gave the election to the "blue" Democrats, then miraculously switched to "red" for Bush, giving him the White House once again. Given all that's known about exit polls---and it's a lot---the odds on one state switching like that are about one in one hundred. For four, it's a virtual statistical impossibility. Add the fact that not one, not four, but TEN of eleven swing states showed drastic shifts from Kerry to Bush and you enter the realm of, well, a stolen election. Add huge, unexplained shifts from pre-election polls to post-election vote counts in crucial 2002 Senatorial races in Georgia, Minnesota and Colorado, then remember what happened in Florida 2000, and examine the basic Bush attitude toward democracy itself, and you've got a pattern to say the least. And an obvious prescription for one-party rule as far as the eye can see. Except when you are dealing with America's Democratic Party in 2004 and with reportage that relies on a few phone calls and a disheartening lack of grassroots perspective. If all politics is local, as Tip O'Neill well knew, then so are all vote counts. Our first article predicting what would happen in Ohio 2004 was published many months before the election in, of all places, MotherJones.com. We warned that electronic voting machines deployed by the likes of Diebold could give Ohio and thus the nation to George W. Bush. Wally O'Dell, Diebold's infamous CEO, pledged to deliver Ohio's electoral votes to Bush in 2004, and all evidence points to the fact that he at least helped. What we missed in addition was the myriad clever tricks the GOP would bring to bear in pulling this off. Ohio has a long history as a test market. New products like white bread and spam are brought here first, to see how they'll fly with America at large. In Ohio 2004, scores of tools for stealing an American election were tried and proven out. Outside reporters have come here again and again to pull at this one and tear at that one. Almost always, they get even that wrong. And almost always, they fail to see the bigger picture. If we have a "know it all" attitude, as is sometimes charged, it's because we were (and are) here, we saw it happen, we witnessed the seven-hour waits and the denials of the absentee ballots, and we took the testimony of the hundreds who later went under oath. And we see more unravel every day. Conspiracy theories happen sometimes when actual conspiracies occur. The stakes involved, the players on both sides and the events that are out there plain as day are all of a piece that's simply too obvious for anyone on the ground here to miss. Hertsgaard has the good sense to mention indictments that have recently come down on election thieves in Cuyahoga County. We know that to be the tip of the iceberg. What matters now is whether the GOP will be allowed to repeat nationwide in 2006 and 2008 what they saw they could get away with in Ohio 2004. Election theft skeptics tend to conclude their put-downs by urging we forget about the vote-count stuff and concentrate on coming up with candidates so good that "the election won't be close enough to steal." Having seen what we saw here, knowing what Mother Jones is reporting about the Democratic attacks on Paul Hackett, and about the loser instinct ingrained in the Dems' DLC/DNA, we must charitably describe such a conclusion as being profoundly wishful thinking. Someday we may indeed have candidates far worthier than Al Gore and John Kerry. But they both won the presidency of the United States, however corruptible their margins of victory. We need to guarantee that if someone worthwhile and willing to fight ever does come along, we will have a left that's prepared to make sure the votes are fairly counted. As Rev. Jesse Jackson put it while speaking to election protection activists here, "We can afford to lose an election. We can't afford to lose our democracy." Who would agree more strongly than Tom Paine and Mother Jones? -- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at Freepress.org and harveywasserman.com. Their upcoming WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO, with Steve Rosenfeld, will be published by The New Press in spring, 2006.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Saving Ohio The Suppression of Coingate


Did a reporter with GOP ties suppress a story that could have cost Bush the White House?

By Bill Frogameni

Oct. 06, 2005 In April 2005, the Blade newspaper of Toledo, Ohio, began publishing a remarkable series of articles about a well-connected Republican donor, Tom Noe, chair of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign for Lucas County, which encompasses Toledo. The Blade, which had won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting in 2004, discovered that Noe, a Toledo coin dealer, was investing $50 million for the state through the novel practice of coin speculation: buying and selling rare coins to turn a profit. Noe, the Blade revealed, could not account for $10 million to $13 million in the fund.
The paper also divulged that Noe had been placed under federal investigation for allegedly laundering money -- perhaps state money -- to the Bush campaign. The Blade's initial reports on Noe started a chain reaction of related scandals for Ohio's dominant Republicans. Recently, Gov. Bob Taft pleaded no contest to accepting several gifts from influence peddlers -- including Noe -- without reporting them, as law requires. Noe is currently the subject of 13 investigations.
In November 2004, Lucas County was among the most hotly contested areas in the most hotly contested state. Kerry won the county by 45,000 votes, but George W. Bush went on to win Ohio by less than 120,000 votes, which swung the election for him.
But Bush's reelection may have been made possible by a Blade reporter with close ties to the Republican Party who reportedly knew about Noe's potential campaign violations in early 2004 but suppressed the story.
According to several knowledgeable sources, the Blade's chief political columnist, Fritz Wenzel, was told of Noe's potential campaign violations as early as January 2004. But according to Blade editors, Wenzel never gave the paper the all-important tip in early 2004. Wenzel says that he heard allegations of Noe's misdeeds only in spring 2004 and that he promptly informed his editors of them.
Wenzel, who worked for years as a GOP political operative in Oregon before the Blade hired him, quit the Blade in May 2005 to take a job as a paid political consultant to Jean Schmidt, the Republican congressional candidate who in August
narrowly defeated Democratic challenger (and Iraq war vet) Paul Hackett.
Of course, no one can say for sure whether Ohio voters would have cast their ballots differently if they had known about allegations that Bush's campaign boss in Toledo was hijacking money from the state to keep the campaign humming. But native Ohioan John Robinson Block, publisher and editor in chief of the Blade, which endorsed Kerry, thinks it's a strong possibility. Had the "Coingate" scandal blown up before the election, Block says, "most Republicans I know agree that Kerry would have won Ohio and won the presidency." Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat whose district includes Toledo, feels the same. "I think it would have tipped the election," she says.

The story of how Wenzel learned about the alleged violations, and why he allegedly sat on the information, reveals a Toledo political scene right out of "Peyton Place," complete with a cast of backstabbers. It begins in January 2004, when Tom Noe's wife, Bernadette Noe -- who chaired the local Republican Party and sat on the Board of Elections -- approached Lucas County prosecutor Julia Bates, a Democrat. Bernadette Noe raised ethical questions about Joe Kidd, a well-connected Republican who was then director of the Board of Elections. She told the prosecutor's office she suspected Kidd was receiving money from Diebold, the now-notorious manufacturer of voting machines. Bates says that Bernadette Noe's source for the allegations was Joe Kidd's estranged wife, Tracy, with whom Bernadette practiced law. Bates says it's possible that Bernadette's allegations against Kidd were motivated by sympathy for her friend Tracy.
Paula Ross, a former Lucas County Democratic Party chair, who also sat on the Board of Elections, confirms that Bernadette Noe went to the prosecutor to tarnish Kidd. Ross says she talked with both Bernadette and Kidd. In January 2004, Ross says, "I was contacted by Bernadette, who made allegations about Joe. I then spoke with Joe, who assured me that the allegations were false. He believed he could persuade Bernadette to stop making these false allegations because he had information about [Noe and her husband] that could put them in jail." The information, says Ross, was that Tom Noe was laundering money to the Bush campaign.

Kidd retaliated against the Noes by going to Wenzel, in January 2004, according to a Toledo Republican Party insider familiar with the affairs of the Board of Elections, and sources familiar with the Blade. Kidd told Wenzel that Tom Noe was illegally funneling money to the Bush campaign and also running a questionable coin investment with the state. Sources confirmed that Kidd told them he had this conversation with Wenzel. Kidd would not comment for this article.

Bates, the Lucas County prosecutor, confirms that Kidd came to her in March 2004 with an outline of Noe's campaign money laundering, and that it was crucial in helping her office ultimately build a case against Noe. The prosecutor won't say if Kidd himself took Noe's money and gave it to Bush, thus laundering it (that is, making it a legitimate campaign donation). But she does say that, upon first glance, she found it "interesting" that he gave $2,000, considering he was a civil servant on a modest income. Other sources say that Kidd, along with several local Republican officials, did in fact launder money. This summer, Kidd testified in front of the federal grand jury convened to investigate Noe's alleged money-laundering scheme. Bates says her office considered offering Kidd immunity in exchange for help building the case. "We thought the key was Joe," says Bates, so she encouraged him to get a lawyer and produce all the evidence he could. Kidd, who was also being investigated for the allegations Bernadette Noe made against him, cooperated.

Wenzel declined to be interviewed for this story. He responded with this general statement issued through attorney Mark Berling, who formerly sat on the Lucas County Republicans' executive committee: "When a source conveyed an allegation about Tom Noe's possible involvement with campaign finance irregularities in the spring of 2004, I promptly informed Blade editors about what I had been told."

But Blade editors deny that Wenzel ever informed them about the allegations. The Blade's special projects editor, Dave Murray, who was Wenzel's assigning editor at the time, says Wenzel would have come to him with any such information about Noe. But, Murray says, "he never came to me, and, as far as I know, he never came to other Blade editors." Speaking for the other Blade editors, assistant editor LuAnn Sharp says no one recollects Wenzel turning over any such information. (Full disclosure: This reporter once applied for a job at the Toledo Blade.)

Blade editor in chief Block and other editors say they don't believe that Wenzel intentionally sat on the story. Both Wenzel and his son had personal relationships with the Noes. In March 2004, Wenzel's son, P.J., was elected to the Lucas County Republican Central Committee. At the time, Bernadette Noe still chaired the Lucas County Republican Party. From April 15, 2005, to the end of May, P.J. Wenzel was on the payroll of the Ohio Republican Party. The Noes also attended the younger Wenzel's wedding.

A month before Wenzel left the paper, at the Lucas County Republicans' annual "Lincoln Day" dinner, Bernadette Noe made a speech in which she announced Wenzel would be leaving the paper for his consulting business. She wished him well at the dinner, which was attended by all three Republican gubernatorial candidates.

As the Blade's chief political writer, Wenzel reported and commented on politics. He also ran his own Web site, heartlandpolitics.com (whose homepage says it is "temporarily out of commission"), which he touted as offering in-depth analysis of northwest Ohio politics. Democrats charged that Wenzel's reporting was biased toward Republicans. The Blade's ombudsman, Jack Lessenberry, agreed: "At times I felt that his reporting was slanted to favor Republican positions or Republican candidates," Lessenberry says.

The Noe story is not the first time Wenzel has been suspected of conflict of interest. During the 2004 election season, Wenzel worked simultaneously for the Blade and for Zogby International, the polling firm. President and CEO John Zogby said that Wenzel worked for the company as a "senior political writer" between roughly May and October 2004. The work he did for Zogby acknowledged that Wenzel was a political reporter for the Blade. But in at least four columns he wrote for the Blade at the time he was working for Zogby, Wenzel cited Zogby polls without disclosing his affiliation. John Block expressed surprise and concern that Wenzel cited Zogby without disclosure: "He shouldn't have cited Zogby. I have to say, that's the first I've heard of that." According to Bob Steele, a journalism professor specializing in ethics at the Poynter Institute, the problem goes beyond Wenzel's failure to acknowledge the relationship. Steele points to a question of "competing loyalty," and says, "To disclose his connection to Zogby alerts readers to that conflict of interest and competing loyalty, but that disclosure doesn't make the problem go away."

In spring 2004, while Lucas County prosecutors began to investigate Noe's campaign irregularities, the Blade, without Wenzel's scoop, remained in the dark. Assistant editor Sharp says that the Blade's editors and reporters received worthwhile tips about the Noe campaign finance improprieties "around September." Prosecutor Bates, whose daughter and son-in-law are Blade reporters, says she can't remember anyone from the paper coming to her about the investigation until then. "I don't recall any official inquiry until [Blade reporter] Mark Reiter came to me in early fall," she says. Bates says that was right around the time she was obliged to turn over the investigation to federal prosecutors, which made it much more difficult for reporters to unearth information. At any rate, it was only a few weeks before the election.

On April 3, 2005, the first Blade story about Noe and the coin investments appeared. With the Blade's aggressive reporting, the story quickly gathered state and national attention, but Wenzel, who was still at the Blade, never wrote anything about it in the paper. Additionally, he never wrote about it in the many posts on his personal blog. Sharp says the Blade did not restrain Wenzel from writing about Coingate.

Although he never wrote about Coingate, Wenzel did blog on his Web site about Bernadette Noe and the Lincoln Day dinner on April 14. Although this was 11 days after the Blade published its first Coingate story, Wenzel failed to mention one of the biggest political scandals in Ohio history. Instead, Wenzel fawned over Bernadette Noe. "Also not fading is former GOP chairman Bernadette Noe. She was honored last night for her service to the party, then held up a copy of yesterday's Toledo Free Press, reminding those present to check out her new column (Great picture, Bernie!). But that's not all. A new television talk show and radio program are in the works. Talk about multi-tasking."

After leaving the Blade on Friday, May 13, Wenzel officially went to work the following Monday as congressional candidate Jean Schmidt's media consultant. Schmidt, a Cincinnati-area Republican who formerly headed Cincinnati Right to Life, was running for Congress in the most staunchly conservative corner of the state. Wenzel's company, Wenzel Strategies, received $30,000 from the Schmidt campaign that Monday and another $30,000 a week later. His role was to handle media issues in the hotly contested special election.

News organizations, including Salon, have questioned whether Wenzel was already working as a consultant for Schmidt prior to leaving the Blade, which would constitute an obvious conflict of interest. As early as May 3, Wenzel wrote blog entries about the Schmidt race and made disparaging remarks about Schmidt's primary opponents on his Web site. Regarding Pat DeWine, one of Schmidt's primary opponents, Wenzel wrote: "DeWine also has personal problems. He left his wife when she was eight months pregnant with their third child to take up with another woman. You could say he thinks so much of family values that he has decided to start another."

Wenzel's blog entries were pulled from the Web shortly after his ties to the Schmidt campaign came under scrutiny, but Wenzel denies he was working for Schmidt and the Blade simultaneously. He reportedly told a Cincinnati paper that he had a "busy weekend" drumming up Schmidt's business right after he left the Blade.

Block, the publisher and editor in chief, says he has confidence in the integrity of Wenzel's overall tenure at the Blade, but doesn't believe Wenzel kept the Schmidt job separate from his time at the paper. "You don't just leave on one day and then immediately set up your consulting business," Block says. "I think that in his final period at the Blade, it was getting close to a conflict of interest. I'm not going to deny that."

In October 2004, Bates turned her investigation into Noe's campaign irregularities over to the U.S. Department of Justice. That was three weeks before the election, not enough time, Bates says, to affect the outcome.
The Coingate scandal continues to grow. The Blade still diligently hounds the story amid growing revelations about the Noes and Republican problems statewide. Wenzel is basking in political success, having helped take Schmidt from being an outside contender in the primaries to sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ohio government is still thoroughly dominated by Republicans, but, as Blade editors and Democrats are quick to note, that might soon be changing, thanks to the scandal. What won't change is that Coingate never got reported in 2004, and George W. Bush won the presidency.
-- By Bill Frogameni

Friday, September 16, 2005

'Diebold System One of Greatest Threats Democracy Has Ever Known'

EXCLUSIVE! * A DIEBOLD INSIDER SPEAKS!

DIEB-THROAT : Identifies U.S. Homeland Security 'Cyber Alert' Prior to '04 Election Warning Votes Can be 'Modified Remotely' via 'Undocumented Backdoor' in Central Tabulator Software!
In exclusive stunning admissions to The BRAD BLOG some 11 months after the 2004 Presidential Election, a "Diebold Insider" is now finally speaking out for the first time about the...
In exclusive stunning admissions to
The BRAD BLOG some 11 months after the 2004 Presidential Election, a "Diebold Insider" is now finally speaking out for the first time about the alarming security flaws within Diebold, Inc's electronic voting systems, software and machinery. The source is acknowledging that the company's "upper management" -- as well as "top government officials" -- were keenly aware of the "undocumented backdoor" in Diebold's main "GEM Central Tabulator" software well prior to the 2004 election. A branch of the Federal Government even posted a security warning on the Internet.Pointing to a little-noticed "Cyber Security Alert" issued by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the source inside Diebold -- who "for the time being" is requesting anonymity due to a continuing sensitive relationship with the company -- is charging that Diebold's technicians, including at least one of its lead programmers, knew about the security flaw and that the company instructed them to keep quiet about it."Diebold threatened violators with immediate dismissal," the insider, who we'll call DIEB-THROAT, explained recently to The BRAD BLOG via email. "In 2005, after one newly hired member of Diebold's technical staff pointed out the security flaw, he was criticized and isolated."In phone interviews, DIEB-THROAT confirmed that the matters were well known within the company, but that a "culture of fear" had been developed to assure that employees, including technicians, vendors and programmers kept those issues to themselves.The "Cyber Security Alert" from US-CERT was issued in late August of 2004 and is still available online via the US-CERT website. The alert warns that "A vulnerability exists due to an undocumented backdoor account, which could [sic: allow] a local or remote authenticated malicious user [sic: to] modify votes."The alert, assessed to be of "MEDIUM" risk on the US-CERT security bulletin, goes on to add that there is "No workaround or patch available at time of publishing."

"Diebold's upper management was aware of access to the voter file defect before the 2004 election - but did nothing to correct it," the source explained.A "MEDIUM" risk vulnerability cyber alert is described on the US-CERT site as: "one that will allow an intruder immediate access to a system with less than privileged access. Such vulnerability will allow the intruder the opportunity to continue the attempt to gain privileged access. An example of medium-risk vulnerability is a server configuration error that allows an intruder to capture the password file."DIEB-THROAT claims that, though the Federal Government knew about this documented flaw, originally discovered and reported by BlackBoxVoting.org in August of 2004, they did nothing about it."I believe that top Government officials had an understanding with top Diebold officials to look the other way," the source explained, "because Diebold was their ace in the hole."But even DIEB-THROAT -- who says "we were brainwashed" by the company to believe such concerns about security were nonsense -- was surprised to learn that an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was well aware of this flaw, and concerned enough about it to issue a public alert prior to the election last year."I was aware of the Diebold security flaw and had heard about the Homeland Security Cyber Alert Threat Assessment website, so I went there and 'bingo,' there it was in black and white," the source wrote. "It blew me away because it showed that DHS, headed by a Cabinet level George Bush loyalist, was very aware of the 'threat' of someone changing votes in the Diebold Central Tabulator. The question is, why wasn't something done about it before the election?"The CEO of North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold, Inc., Walden O'Dell has been oft-quoted for his 2003 Republican fund-raiser promise to help "Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." O'Dell himself was a high-level contributor to the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign as well as many other Republican causes."A very serious problem...one malicious person can change the outcome of any Diebold election" The voting company insider, who has also served as a spokesperson for the company in various capacities over recent years, admits that the "real danger" of this security vulnerability could have easily been exploited by a malicious user or an insider through remote access."I have seen these systems connected to phone lines dozens of times with users gaining remote access," said DIEB-THROAT. "What I think we have here is a very serious problem. Remote access using phone lines eliminates any need for a conspiracy of hundreds to alter the outcome of an election. Diebold has held onto this theory [publicly] for years, but Diebold has lied and has put national elections at risk. Remote access using this backdoor means that one malicious person can change the outcome of any Diebold election."The ability to connect to the system remotely by phone lines and the apparent lack of interest by Diebold to correct the serious security issue in a timely manner -- or at all -- would seem to be at odds with at least one of their Press Releases touting their voting hardware and software.In an October 31, 2003 Press Release as part of a publicity blitz to "sell" the new voting machines to the voters in the state of Maryland, Diebold Election Systems President Thomas W. Swidarski is quoted as follows in a section titled "Security Is Key":
Diebold has fine-tuned its computerized system so that it meets stringent security requirements. “We have independent verification that the Diebold voting system provides an unprecedented level of election security. This is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the entire voting process,” Swidarski added.Attempts by
The BRAD BLOG to get comment from Swidarski were passed to one of the Vice-Presidents at Diebold who has not returned our voice mail message.We did, however, hear back from Diebold Spokesperson David Bear of the PR firm Public Strategies. He was referred to us by several different Diebold offices as "the man to discuss voting machine issues with."Bear claimed to have never heard of the Cyber Alert issued by US-CERT and when told of it, refused to acknowledge it as anything more than "an unverified allegation.""One of the greatest threats our democracy has ever known"Our source expressed emphatically that future democratic elections in the United States are at stake and feels that the problem will not be corrected until Congressional action forces the company to do so."In my opinion Diebold's election system is one of the greatest threats our democracy has ever known, and the only way this will be exposed is with a Congressional investigation with subpoenas of not just Diebold officials but Diebold technicians."If our experience in discussing the matter with Bear, the man Diebold referred us to for all matters concerning voting machines, is any indication, then DIEB-THROAT may be correct. Even a Cyber Alert Bulletin issued by an official arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security more than a year ago was not enough to phase Diebold. At least not enough to even inform their public spokesperson about the matter, apparently."I don't know anything about it," Bear claimed when we asked about the Cyber Alert, and he refused to acknowledge there were anysecurity concerns about Diebold's Voting Machines or its GEMS Central Tabulator software.Over and over, by rote, he repeated in response to our questions: "The GEMS software has been used in hundreds of elections and there's never been a security issue."Bear says that "Diebold machines have never lost a single vote," but beyond that could not speak to the vulnerability issue since, he said, "I don't know what vulnerability they're referencing."We sent the link to the US-CERT Cyber Alert to Bear, but have not yet heard back from about it. He did, however, send us a copy of the well-worn Caltech/Massachusetts Institute of Technology report [PDF] analyzing the 2004 Presidential Election which, Bear pointed out in his Email, "concludes that the most improvement [in vote-counting and integrity over 2000] occurred when counties/states changed to touch screen systems."DIEB-THROAT was taken aback, but not wholly surprised, when we shared the comments from Bear denying knowledge of the "backdoor" security vulnerability in the GEMS software and his contention that there was nothing more than "allegations."The vulnerability, and the ability to "manipulate votes" occurs because the GEMS software uses the public Microsoft Access database software to store vote totals in a separate data file. And, as DIEB-THROAT explained, Access is "full of holes. There are so many ways to get into it."Because GEMS uses the Access database, "you can enter and manipulate the file without even entering into GEMS," our source said in response ot Bear's denials."GEMS sits on top of this database and it pretty much feeds information down to the database from GEMS. It's almost like you're on the first floor of your house and all of your operating equipment is in the basement so that anything that happens on the first floor ends up downstairs. Well, downstairs has a wide open door to it. So we're dumping all the votes downstairs and that's wide open to the rest of the computer system.""A culture of fear"In trying to understand why the U.S. Homeland Security Department's Cyber Alert didn't force Diebold to make fixes, patches or corrections quickly available for their software prior to -- or even since -- the '04 election, DIEB-THROAT repeated over and over that Diebold was simply "not concerned about security". "They don't have security solutions. They don't want them...They leave security policy issues up to the states. They've known about this for some time. They don't really care," the source said, comparing the security flaw to "leaving the front door at Fort Knox open." It's just "blatant sloppiness and they don't care."The versions of the GEMS Central Tabulation software listed on the US-CERT site are 1.17.7 and 1.18 and DIEB-THROAT says the same versions of the same software are still in use by States around the country and haven't had any fixes or patches applied to correct the problem.Diebold spokesman, Bear, was unable to confirm whether or not Diebold had updated its GEMS software in any way since the US-CERT Cyber Alert was released telling us only that "There's different versions of the software for different needs" and that he didn't know if patches, fixes or corrections were ever released by the company."There's always an evolution," Bear said. "Before any software can be used it's federally qualified and then certified by the states...Where different versions are running, I just don't know.""They're still at that same version number," DIEB-THROAT said. "A lot of our customers still have it and there's not been any patch....They really don't care about this sort of thing. They really don't. People may find it hard to believe...in other words [the company says] 'we'll give you a machine to vote on and the rest is up to you.""This is a very profit motivated company," the source continued, "they don't care what happens after the sale. Once they have the contract they've got the customer tied up pretty good."Initially DIEB-THROAT claims to have been "brainwashed" by the pervasive "company line" at Diebold, that all of the talk about security concerns and the possibility that someone could hack the vote was the talk of "conspiracy theorists". Apparently that was -- and is still is -- "the company line." But after one of Diebold's head technicians who works out of their McKinney, Texas facility confirmed the gaping security hole in the software to our source, it was understood that these concerns were for real."Up until his confirmation, I had heard it through the grapevine, as rumors and such, but he confirmed it for me. The lead technician who worked on the software, who has a Phd in mathematics and so forth, was saying that 'this problem exists!'"So why hasn't that technician, or anyone else from within the company spoken out until now?"This is a culture of fear. Really. Only because we were good friends did [the head technician] confide in me that these were problems that needed to be fixed," DIEB-THROAT said."They all knew..."In regards to possible remote access to the GEMS Central Tabulator by modem via phone lines, a way that hackers could easily and simply change the vote total information in the Access database, Diebold's official spokesman seemed to be similarly in denial even today.When we asked Bear whether or not the Central Tabulator is still accessible via modem in their machines, he first denied that it's even possible, telling us "the Central Tabulator isn't accessable via modem."When we pressed about whether or not there are still modem capabilities in the machines and software they sell, Bear admitted, "There is a modem capability, but it's up to a jurisdiction whether they wish to use it or not...I don't know of any jurisdiction that does that.""Oh, boy. Such lies," DIEB-THROAT said in response. "There are several jurisdications that use [the modem capabilities] in the machines...Probably one of the most robust users of modems is Prince Georges County in Maryland. They've used it in every election. I believe they started in 2000. And Baltimore County used them in the November election in 2004. Fulton County and Dekalb County in Georgia may have used them in 2004 as well."While we were unable to hear back in response to messages left with Election Officials at several of those offices prior to the publication of this article, a review of "Lessons Learned" after the November 2004 Election conducted by the Maryland state Board of Elections obtained by The BRAD BLOG, confirms that modems were used to access the GEMS Central Tabulator to send in information from precincts on Election Night.We are still reviewing the complete document, but amongst the findings in the report is that "the GEMS system froze several times during heavy modem transmitting periods requiring the system to be rebooted, which generated delays and prohibited BOE from receiving polling places' transmissions."As well, the report concludes, "Modem lines testing in polling place still problematic; need better coordination with school system."It also says that "7% of voting units deployed failed on Election Day" and that an additional 5% "were suspect based on the number of votes captured." The BRAD BLOG hopes to have a follow-up article in the coming days which looks in more detail at the full Maryland state Board of Elections report and the alarming rate of failure for Diebold Touch-Screen voting machines.

When we asked our source if they had any evidence to show that the security flaw described by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security was actually exploited in the 2004 election, DIEB-THROAT told us only: "I wouldn't say I have evidence that it was exploited....only that it was known. To the feds, to state officials and to Diebold. They all knew. In spite of the gap they moved forward as normal...As if it didn't exist."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Silence of the Scams:

The Silence of the Scams:


Psychological Resistance to Facing Election Fraud

Diane Perlman, Ph.D.,
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
April 20, 2005


Few Americans know about the historic event that happened on January 6, 2005, the official date for counting electoral votes. For the first time since 1877, congressmembers challenged the electoral count. Representative Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio, accompanied by the lone senator, Barbara Boxer of California, led the challenge to the Ohio vote count. Although massive fraud was reported around the country, only Ohio was officially cited.

It is curious that an issue so profound and consequential is barely on the radar screens of most Americans, especially those who supported Kerry.

Though we are not certain of the actual outcome, statistically impossible discrepancies exist between results of exit polls and official counts in counties without paper trails. Also documented are patterns of anecdotes about corrupted procedures and accounts of strange behaviors, phenomena and illegal interventions in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida, Pennsylvania and other places. Many say there is fraud in every election, but there was far more in 2004 than in any previous year, and if the errors were random, about half would go in Kerry's favor. Virtually all went in Bush's favor.

But rather than demanding a thorough investigation, the many Americans seem eager to forget the incidents and put the election behind them, thus implicitly supporting such corruption. In my conversations, I observed that white, US born males were more emphatic about accepting the outcome and the futility of challenging it, while others were more willing to recognize being dominated and open to questioning what happened. White males may be more susceptible to obeying patriarchal authority, and the fish does not know it is swimming in the water. This difference was reflected in Congress. Women and members of the Congressional Black Caucus were most active. Representative John Conyers lead the investigation and press conferences, and women, Stephanie Tubbs Jones in the House and Barbara Boxer in the Senate led the historical challenge.

A Political Psychological Puzzlement

Under what conditions do millions of allegedly "free" people knowingly acquiesce to being deceived, dominated and deprived of their own political will? How is it that even those who were politically engaged for the first time resign themselves to an unjust fate, refusing even to consider what happened to our country? Why do progressive citizens actively dismiss and even malign a small group of courageous, devoted people working day and night on their behalf to uncover, calculate, analyze, and evaluate the extensive, varied forms of criminal sabotage that undermined their democracy? How are Americans becoming complacent with escalating fraudulent activity? In other words, how do so many people live with the knowledge that they have been tricked before, were just tricked again--and then submit to life under the power of those who tricked them?

Why were hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians out for days in the freezing cold, refusing to accept fraud, while Americans helplessly colluded with forces of domination? Granted, we face a conspiracy of silence in the media, a propaganda campaign discrediting exit polls (which are accurate in counties with paper trails and other countries), and a dismissal of those who challenge the vote as nuts, sore losers and "conspiracy theorists." Censorship, brainwashing and intimidation create an environment of passivity and fear in subtle yet powerful ways that keep the system going with the complicity of those who have been robbed.

Another significant reason, pointed out by readers commenting on an earlier version of this article, was that Yushchenko himself was bold and courageous about challenging the vote. Unlike Gore, who discouraged a challenge, and Kerry who backed down easily after Edwards promised to count every vote, Yushchenko, who was poisoned and scarred, provided a powerful model of leadership, inspiring his supporters to be brave as well. The Democratic Party itself, except for the few who lead the challenge, acted cowardly, hardly inspiring the public. Why should they rise to the challenge if their maligned leaders wimped out?

Another reason is that citizens of the Ukraine know their history of oppressive, deceptive government. Unlike Americans, they are not inclined to trust the integrity of their leaders and system, and hunger intensely for justice and the freedoms that we have enjoyed.

Even with these explanations, we must still wonder what is going on in the collective psyche that allows mass submission to the systematic and progressive usurpation of power.

The Dance of Domination

The psychology of electoral domination has two parts--what is being done to people and how they allow it.

Psychological techniques, used deliberately, allow many tricks to go unnoticed and unchallenged. For example, "mystification" is a plausible misrepresentation of reality in which forms of exploitation are presented as forms of benevolence. Like magic and the use of distraction, the issue of voting reform was manipulated and misrepresented, so people felt calmed by the illusion that the problems from the 2000 election were being corrected. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Elements of the Help America Vote Act, HAVA (a name as Orwellian as the Clear Skies Initiative, should be more accurately called "Hide America's Voting Anomalies"), includes intrusive identity checks, the introduction of the "provisional ballot" most of which were not counted, and the use of electronic voting machines. Each of these was brilliantly misused for the opposite intention--to corrupt and deny votes to Kerry in ways people wouldn't notice.

The subterfuge was successfully accomplished with use of censorship, illusion, distortion, brainwashing, propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, mystification, intimidation, shaming, and domination. As Bush might say, it was a "catastrophic success."

These techniques combine to form something like a collective hypnotic induction, which creates an illusion of a consensus that cannot be challenged. Few have the insight, training, or tools, to see through the manipulation. Even fewer have the courage to take on the challenge. For many, responses to domination may include disbelief, learned helplessness, psychic numbing, fear, cowardice, conformity, denial, cognitive laziness, avoidance, and submission to authority. These items are inter-related and the list is not exhaustive.

Before the psychological explanations, it is necessary to acknowledge a basic factor: the overwhelming ignorance of the facts. This can be exacerbated by a lack of desire to know the facts, and an avoidance of the awesome responsibility that comes with this knowledge. Of course if the facts were accurately reported in the mainstream media, the collective psychological climate would be conducive to a healthier public response. People accept fraud for reasons which may be conscious or unconscious. Some of the ways that they do this are described below.

Confusing Outcome with Process

Many don't want to deal with the corruption because they believe that challenging fraud won't change the outcome, so there's no point. This might be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It represents a kind of immature, black-and-white thinking, as the outcome is a separate issue from the process. Even if it doesn't affect the outcome, voter suppression is criminal.

Paradoxically, refusal to examine the process prevents discovery, which might change the outcome. The Ohio vote challenge required two-hour debates in the House and Senate. Most Democrats who supported the challenge, emphatically stated that they didn't expect it to change the outcome, as if they were intimidated into making that point first or they would be ridiculed and dismissed. Most Republicans ignored their actual words and made emotional, even hysterical accusations of them not accepting the outcome, being sore losers, and worse. Republicans ignored the issue of voter suppression and praised Kerry highly for not making a big deal out of this.

Numbers, Imagery and Perceptions

People believe that Bush won by 3,500,000 votes--a margin too large to challenge, compared to Gore's 500,000. They are not aware of the long list of dirty tricks, and knowing of one or two, don't believe they can add up to 3,500,000. To bring the popular vote to a tie, it only has to add up to half that, 1,750,000, or an average of 35,000 votes per state, Correcting for Ohio's fraud could change the electoral vote. People may believe subliminally that even if Ohio went to Kerry, the difference in the popular vote is too great. The report of the Conyers Committee may be the best single summary that we have at this time to suggest estimates of the numbers affected.

Ignorance of Extent of Dirty Tricks

If people knew about the amount and extent of dirty tricks, 3,500,000, or 1,750,000 may not seem so insurmountable. Some of the tricks documented include throwing out of Democrat voter registration forms, broken machines, misplaced machines, machine errors, reduced numbers of machines in Black and predominantly Democratic areas, less than in 2002, causing long lines, unmailed absentee ballots, absentee ballots requesting 86 cents, insufficient postage, which were returned, certification of more votes than registered voters in some areas, reversal of percentages of registered Democrats and votes for Bush in many counties, modem connected voting machines and tabulators, different standards for provisional ballot recounts in different areas, many provisional ballots, also called “placebo ballots”, not counted at all, voting machines defaulting to a Bush or 'jumping' by recording a vote for Bush when Kerry's button was pushed, phony companies registering voters and then tearing up the registrations of Democrats but not Republicans, exit polls not corresponding with reported votes in counties with no paper trail, while exit polls matched reported votes in counties with paper trails, voting elections officials creating what look like phony election machine poll tapes and tossing original, signed tabulations in the garbage, people posing as technicians coming in and tampering with machines, Republicans posing as Democrats, a lock down, refusing to let observers in, with the excuse of terrorist alert to observe the counting of votes in a country in Ohio, misinformation about the date and location of voting in Black neighborhoods, threats of arrest for voters with traffic tickets or any record, unusual discrepancies between numbers of votes for Kerry and Democratic candidates on same ticket, and widespread refusal of media to report on any of these, and a media campaign trashing exit poll data with made up reasons. And these are just the ones we know about.

Discomfort with Numbers

The best evidence for fraud in the 2004 election is statistical, according to Josh Mitteldorf of Temple University's Statistics Department. Many are uncomfortable with numerical and statistical science that quantifies judgments about likelihood. For example, statistician Dr. Steve Friedman of University of Pennsylvania, and graduate of MIT found that the discrepancy between exit polls and the actual vote count in each of three states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, is 1 in 1,000,000, but the likelihood of all three states being discrepant in the same direction is 1 in 250,000,000. What people heard in the news was a smear campaign invalidating the credibility of exit polls, even though they are considered highly accurate, are used in many countries as indicators of fraud, and that exit polls in counties with a paper trail matched the official vote count, and in counties where there was no paper trail and evidence of computer irregularities, the official count was different than the exit polls and always favored Bush. They even made up fake reasons for this discrepancy regarding response bias--which did not exist where there were paper trails.

Disbelief

Many people don't believe the allegations of fraud because they didn't read about it in the New York Times or hear it on CNN. (The only mainstream media to report it was Keith Olberman on Countdown, MSNBC.) We might wonder about the media censorship on this story and intentions to promote disbelief in the populous, in addition to ignorance.

Conformity and Herd Mentality

Because of the media blackout, ignorance, and emotional tone of reporting, Americans have a false perception of consensus about objective reality. The majority conforms to this misperception and most do not have the psychological make-up to challenge the status quo. The few that are courageously addressing this are not heard, or else they are severely shamed, ridiculed and viciously accused of causing problems. Thus, even the thought of questioning is suppressed.

Learned Helplessness

Psychologist Martin Seligman's theory of learned helplessness explains how when one's repeated actions have no effect, people learn that what they do doesn't make a difference and give up, even in situations where they can potentially make a difference. People worked hard on this election and believe that they lost. They are burned out. They feel all their hard work, time, energy and money didn't help so they don't want to deal with it. Learned helplessness is also associated with elevation of levels of cortisol and immune suppression--suggesting it is ultimately not adaptive or healthy to give up. Conversely, taking action in the face of injustice is a sign of health, enhanced immune response and can be an antidote to depression.

Cowardice

It is reasonable to fear sticking one's neck out and challenging the powers that be. There may be legitimate reasons to be afraid of individual action, but this becomes part of the problem and rewards domination. As long as people remain silent and isolated from one another, we don't realize the safety implicit in concerted collective action. The safety in numbers can reduce fear.

Denial and Psychic Numbing

We are comforted with the belief that our leaders are good people who are protecting us. Many decent, well-meaning people believe the best about our system of government and democracy and can't believe that corruption is going on. It is frightening, unsettling, and intolerable for many Americans to question these core beliefs about our leaders and to accept the reality of extensive fraud. Also, ignorance is bliss, but for the moment, and knowledge implies responsibility, which may be feared and avoided.

Denial and numbing--not knowing and not feeling--protect us from this painful awareness in the present, but they cannot protect us from the real effects of these hidden realities which render us vulnerable to increasing domination and danger in the long term.

If one is in an impossible situation, these habits serve as survival mechanisms to avoid the pain of awareness. However, if one can do something to make a difference, then psychic numbing and denial are maladaptive.

Submission to Authority

The thought of challenging powerful, dominating authority with the prospect of losing is overwhelming. Increasing authoritarianism reinforces this dynamic in gradual, subtle ways. Some may also be afraid of challenging a president during a war and falsely believe it will harm national security.

Political Egocentrism

Many feel that there is no action that they can personally take on this level. It is too big for them, so they don't even seek out information or support or value the work that others are doing on their behalf.

Avoidance and Compartmentalization

People want to retreat, to focus on their own survival, family, daily life and pleasure, which are manageable. They are less focused on the scary bigger picture. This is completely understandable and even enviable. Furthermore, those struggling with high unemployment, lower wages, and other hardships created by the Bush administration are too preoccupied with their survival issues to pay attention to politics. In this way, disempowerment of certain segments of the population works to the administration's advantage.

The Spiral of Silence

I am grateful to readers of an earlier version for informing me about Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann's theory, The Spiral of Silence, which describes the spread of public opinion. All of the elements described above can be understood as interacting and potentiating this spiral. It refers to perceptions of public opinion, and when people perceive themselves to be in the minority, their sense of pressure to conformity, fear of isolation and the tendency to conceal one's views, and the role of the mass media in fueling this spiral.

Evolution, Adaptation and Survival

All of these reactions are understandable, but all become part of the problem. In the short run, they may minimize pain, but in the long run they are counterproductive and serve to magnify and multiply problems that are not being faced. Such avoidance mechanisms are not adaptive, as they play into the game of the destructive forces, allowing them to dominate. The continuation of the processes of systematic domination requires the ignorance, passivity and complicity of the majority of decent people, including the millions who supported Kerry. These people are colluding with their own domination.

The Courageous Minority

The reactions listed above are completely natural. Carl Jung said that consciousness is a work against nature. To go against the collective tide of ignorance, conformity and cowardice is a work against nature taken on by the courageous few. This collective, archetypal drama described by Jung was popularized by Joseph Campbell in The Hero's Journey. The Hero is the one who is willing to take on challenges that most people fear. According to Jung, the hero archetype represents the progressive force in society.

The people I have witnessed working intensely to investigate and challenge voter fraud have a particular psychological profile. They are courageous and willing to face pain and fear. They call up their strength to challenge authority, as our lives, our freedom and democracy depend on it. They are unable to deny what is going on or remain silent. They are heroes in our mythical, archetypal Hero's journey, willing to face the dragons that are guarding our "National Treasure."

They are acknowledged in a piece by William Rivers Pitt called "Heroes" on Truthout.org. Pitt quotes Bob Dylan: "I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom."

Only by facing the pain can we transcend it. Consciousness is the first step. Action is an antidote to depression. It would be a sign of health, freedom, and conscious evolution if more people could muster up the courage to face the painful truth of what is happening in our country and support the great work of those courageous souls--who are not nuts or conspiracy theorists, but evolved, conscious, healthy leaders taking personal risks and sacrifices to elevate our democracy, restore our integrity and ultimately to increase our security on the world stage ... if we let them.

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Some Links for Detailed Accounts of Voter Fraud

For a proper psychological understanding of suppression, it is necessary to recognize the quantity and quality of information being suppressed. The extent of fraud and ignorance of it are mind-boggling. Below are some links with detailed information.

Links for detailed information about voter fraud
http://www.auditthevote.org/briefing.jsp

A Guide to Ohio and New Mexico Recounts: Statistical Anomalies and Evidence of Voting Machine Malfunction and Fraud in the 2004 Presidential Election January 5, 2005
By: Audit the Vote and Help America Recount

http://www.helpamericarecount.org/election.html
Analysis of 2004 Election Irregularities

http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/123004B.shtml
TV Networks Officially Refuse to Release Exit Poll Raw Data
By Gary Beckwith, The Columbus Free Press, 22 December 2004

http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0103-32.htm
Thom Hartmann in "Dialing for Democracy--Now Is Critical, January 3, 2005, CommonDreams.org

http://nightweed.com/usavotefacts.html
20 Amazing Facts About Voting in the USA

http://www.votersunite.org/info/mapflyer2004.htm
Partial list of incidents reported in the news

http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2005/1065
by Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman

Spiral of Silence Chapter
http://www.afirstlook.com/archive/spiral.cfm?source=archther

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An earlier version of this article appeared in Newtopia Magazine, April 16, 2005,
with © Newtopia Magazine.
http://www.newtopiamagazine.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=12
Modifications were subsequently made by the author.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

All I did was say they can't run a fair election

All I did was say they can't run a fair election

'He caters to a British sensibility that sees us as an errant colony run by a gang of thugs'
Published: 29 August 2005
Andrew Gumbel:

I've got bad news for anyone already made queasy by the marathon length of American presidential elections. Not only is the 2008 race already concentrating political minds, it is becoming ever clearer the country has not recovered from the infamous mano a mano between Al Gore and George W Bush in Florida in 2000. In fact, in many important - and depressing - ways, the battle over Florida is still raging.
I've learned this the hard way, by becoming part of the battle myself. This past week, a posse of internet screamers who clearly don't like the idea of an uppity Brit questioning the legitimacy of George W Bush's first election took it upon themselves to denounce me as a "conspiracy journalist", a "left-wing hack" and a bare-faced liar.

The occasion for their fury was a book I've written chronicling, and attempting to explain, the inability of the world's most powerful democracy to conduct fair and transparent elections by any recognisable international standard. It came as no surprise that some people would find the premise of the book troubling, even offensive. My conclusions are hardly tender towards voting machine manufacturers, local and state election officials, or indeed the entire two-party system that underpins US politics.

What I was not expecting, however, was that the object of the internet screamers' fury would be the raw arithmetical data from the 2000 presidential race, something I had naively believed had moved on from the stuff of partisan brick-throwing into the realm of historical research and analysis.

The storm broke out when the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman generously cited my book and argued that many Americans are unaware of some deeply troubling facts about their country's electoral system. He, like me, pointed out what extensive analysis of the Florida ballots after the election had indicated as far back as 2001: that a full statewide recount - an option rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in the heat of the battle even though it was the only democratically responsible thing to do - would have narrowly tipped the balance of the race in Al Gore's favour.

In the book, I use this point as much to attack the Gore campaign's deficient commitment to counting all the votes as I do to argue that he deserved to win. (The case I make on Gore's behalf rests much more strongly on other factors, especially the wholesale disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of overwhelmingly Democrat-leaning African-American voters.)

But the internet screamers didn't appreciate this line of argument, largely because they didn't bother to follow it for themselves. As one blogger revealingly wrote: "I haven't read Gumbel's book, and don't intend to." Rather, they threw themselves right back into the rancour and partisan hostility of four and a half years ago, making the rigid argument that Bush won, Bush deserved to win and any other analysis was no more than sour grapes by a bunch of losers.

Soon, I was subject to wholesale character assassination, by people who didn't know a whole lot about me, and seemed in no hurry to find out. "It's doubtful he's ever written a true story about anything pertaining to the US, as he caters to a certain British sensibility that wants to see us as an errant colony run by a gang of bloodthirsty thugs," wrote my most vehement detractor, a certain Richard Bennett. Mr Bennett went on to argue I was a crackpot who thought al-Qa'ida had blown up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 - an incendiary strike against me except for the inconvenient fact that it is not true.

It's become fashionable to say that 11 September 2001 was the day that changed everything in American politics. But I'm not sure the bigger watershed didn't come nine months earlier when the Supreme Court pulled the plug on the Florida battle and installed George W Bush in the White House.

Given the trauma and upheaval of everything that has happened since - the Iraq war, of course, but also spiralling deficits, huge tax cuts for the rich, a stark widening of the income gap between rich and poor, and on and on - it is perhaps natural for Bush supporters to dig in their heels and claim full democratic legitimacy for what the administration has wrought.

Likewise, it is natural for Bush opponents to wonder how much of it might have been avoided - how many military deaths, how much anti-American anger and resentment around the world, how many detentions, deportations and torture scandals - if the 2000 election had concluded differently.

No wonder the passions continue to rage. It is, or should be, beyond dispute that the Florida election was fought dirtily and that there is at least a case to be made that the wrong man ended up in the Oval Office. Contrary to received wisdom, the problem was not ultimately with deficient voting machines or even the respective merits and demerits of the Republican and Democratic causes. What Florida suggested - and continues to suggest - is that the very foundation of the American democratic system is corrupted and rotten. And that's a reality many Americans may not yet be ready to confront.
The writer is Los Angeles correspondent for the 'The Independent. 'Steal This Vote: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America' is out in the US from Nation Books and available at amazon.co.uk

I've got bad news for anyone already made queasy by the marathon length of American presidential elections. Not only is the 2008 race already concentrating political minds, it is becoming ever clearer the country has not recovered from the infamous mano a mano between Al Gore and George W Bush in Florida in 2000. In fact, in many important - and depressing - ways, the battle over Florida is still raging.
I've learned this the hard way, by becoming part of the battle myself. This past week, a posse of internet screamers who clearly don't like the idea of an uppity Brit questioning the legitimacy of George W Bush's first election took it upon themselves to denounce me as a "conspiracy journalist", a "left-wing hack" and a bare-faced liar.

The occasion for their fury was a book I've written chronicling, and attempting to explain, the inability of the world's most powerful democracy to conduct fair and transparent elections by any recognisable international standard. It came as no surprise that some people would find the premise of the book troubling, even offensive. My conclusions are hardly tender towards voting machine manufacturers, local and state election officials, or indeed the entire two-party system that underpins US politics.

What I was not expecting, however, was that the object of the internet screamers' fury would be the raw arithmetical data from the 2000 presidential race, something I had naively believed had moved on from the stuff of partisan brick-throwing into the realm of historical research and analysis.

The storm broke out when the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman generously cited my book and argued that many Americans are unaware of some deeply troubling facts about their country's electoral system. He, like me, pointed out what extensive analysis of the Florida ballots after the election had indicated as far back as 2001: that a full statewide recount - an option rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in the heat of the battle even though it was the only democratically responsible thing to do - would have narrowly tipped the balance of the race in Al Gore's favour.


In the book, I use this point as much to attack the Gore campaign's deficient commitment to counting all the votes as I do to argue that he deserved to win. (The case I make on Gore's behalf rests much more strongly on other factors, especially the wholesale disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of overwhelmingly Democrat-leaning African-American voters.)

But the internet screamers didn't appreciate this line of argument, largely because they didn't bother to follow it for themselves. As one blogger revealingly wrote: "I haven't read Gumbel's book, and don't intend to." Rather, they threw themselves right back into the rancour and partisan hostility of four and a half years ago, making the rigid argument that Bush won, Bush deserved to win and any other analysis was no more than sour grapes by a bunch of losers.

Soon, I was subject to wholesale character assassination, by people who didn't know a whole lot about me, and seemed in no hurry to find out. "It's doubtful he's ever written a true story about anything pertaining to the US, as he caters to a certain British sensibility that wants to see us as an errant colony run by a gang of bloodthirsty thugs," wrote my most vehement detractor, a certain Richard Bennett. Mr Bennett went on to argue I was a crackpot who thought al-Qa'ida had blown up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 - an incendiary strike against me except for the inconvenient fact that it is not true.

It's become fashionable to say that 11 September 2001 was the day that changed everything in American politics. But I'm not sure the bigger watershed didn't come nine months earlier when the Supreme Court pulled the plug on the Florida battle and installed George W Bush in the White House.

Given the trauma and upheaval of everything that has happened since - the Iraq war, of course, but also spiralling deficits, huge tax cuts for the rich, a stark widening of the income gap between rich and poor, and on and on - it is perhaps natural for Bush supporters to dig in their heels and claim full democratic legitimacy for what the administration has wrought.

Likewise, it is natural for Bush opponents to wonder how much of it might have been avoided - how many military deaths, how much anti-American anger and resentment around the world, how many detentions, deportations and torture scandals - if the 2000 election had concluded differently.

No wonder the passions continue to rage. It is, or should be, beyond dispute that the Florida election was fought dirtily and that there is at least a case to be made that the wrong man ended up in the Oval Office. Contrary to received wisdom, the problem was not ultimately with deficient voting machines or even the respective merits and demerits of the Republican and Democratic causes. What Florida suggested - and continues to suggest - is that the very foundation of the American democratic system is corrupted and rotten. And that's a reality many Americans may not yet be ready to confront.