2006/10/11

Issues? We don't need no stinking issues!

It seems that the sentiment of the electorate has turned decidedly against incumbents and the Republican leadership. One recent national poll had close to 70% of respondents saying that Congressional incumbents don’t deserve re-election. On nearly every issue except perhaps terrorism, which the Republicans have used to scare the bejesus out of all the easily shaken masses, the Dems are way out in front. Whether it is social security, health care, stem-cell research or the economy, the issues all point to what should be a successful mid-term election cycle for the Dems, along with historical trends that help the party out of power gain seats. So should the Dems start planning for their new Chairmanships on all of the committees, and picking out the bigger and better offices that come with being back in the Majority? Does the party that gets the most votes still win in America, or have we become a banana republic that let’s a small group of men and women rig the brave new world of electronic voting machines? Repeated studies have shown that touch-screen machines, which provide voters with no paper record of their ballots, are highly susceptible to tampering. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the leading federal watchdog agency, the machines are “eminently hackable”. It takes only a few minutes to open the machines and insert a PC card containing malicious code that will switch votes from one candidate to another. As demonstrated last year in Leon County, Florida, computer security expert Herbert Thompson cracked into an electronic machine in under sixty seconds, altering the internal code and changing the vote count. ''Every board of elections has staff members with the technological ability to fix the election,'' says Ion Sancho, supervisor of the election board in Leon County. ''Even one corrupt staffer can throw an election. Without paper records, it could happen under my nose and there is no way I'd find out about it.'' And happened it has. Anyone that takes the time to read Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s piece in Rolling Stone a few months back, will see that there were way too many mathematical and statistical aberrations in the 2004 election for them to just have been coincidences. There were the obvious corruptions like counties with only 3,000 total registered voters casting 30,000 votes for Bush, and many thousands of voters purged illegally from the voter lists. And then there were the exit polls. Exit polling has become nearly an exact science when you figure in the margins of error, and all of the exit polls showed Kerry with a decisive victory. Of course people will dispute the science of exit polling, but then again people dispute the science of evolution and think that man has only been around for a few thousands years and were planted in a garden by God. With the Republican Secretary of State of Ohio Kenneth Blackwell serving double duty as co-chair of Bush’s re-election campaign, the fix was in big time. To make matters worse, Blackwell received more than $10,000 from Diebold executives, and the CEO of Diebold was on record as saying they will deliver Ohio to Bush. The Diebold voting machines are easily compromised, as the access panel door on their AccuVote-TS voting machine, the door that protects the memory card that stores the votes, and is the main barrier to the injection of a virus, can be opened with a standard key that is widely available on the Internet. Chris Tengi, a technical staff member at Princeton’s Computer Science Department asked to look at the key that came with the voting machine. He noticed an alphanumeric code printed on the key, and remarked that he had a key at home with the same code on it. The next day he brought in his key and surprise, surprise, it opened the voting machine. He said the key had opened either a file cabinet or the access panel on an old VAX computer. A little research revealed that the exact same key is used widely in office furniture, electronic equipment, jukeboxes, and hotel mini-bars. It's a standard part, and like most standard parts it's easily purchased on the Internet. The researchers bought several keys from an office furniture key shop – and they opened the voting machine too. They also ordered another key on EBay from a jukebox supply shop, and numerous other sources.
The bottom line is that we always hear from W. how we are spreading democracy to other nations to help them come out from under the rocks of their oppressive leaders and governments. At the same time, the Republicans and this administration are allowing our democracy here at home to become more and more degraded and subverted, so that the will of the people is no longer required. Sure, the Democrats have the issues on their side this election cycle, but the question is, do issues or the voters even matter any more? Has our democracy been reduced so much in importance, that the key that opens a hotel mini-bar can break it?
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