Wednesday, January 31, 2007

From the District of Bizzaro

Senator Joe Biden ought to wear a sign that says, "insert foot here" with an arrow pointing to his mouth. His choice of adjectives in praising the abilities of Senator Barrak Obama was curiously myopic and prone to misinterpretation. Perhaps he was merely trying make sure he got on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart if his presidential bid was not newsworthy enough. No one expects you to win so keep it clean, Senator. I understand Neil Kinnock has some stump speech suggestions for you.

The Charlatan never met a safe audience he did not like. He wows them at military bases and on Wall Street. His appearance on the street of broken dreams was rewarded with another record session. The war is just dandy with Wall Street bulls. Of course he was only kidding when he chided that CEO salaries have no relation to reality let alone performance. Mayor Nagin wants to know if he can get Parsons Inc. to build a new levee in Plaquemines Parish. They have done such a good construction job in Iraq.

Meanwhile back in the District of Bizarro, the Charlatan's team players in the Senate are doing their dead level best to torpedo the minimum wage bill with "poison pill" amendments. Cloture has been invoked, and they have just thirty hours to figure out how they can give the rich more tax breaks they do not need. At $3,000+ an hour they can get real inventive.

Weekend Update: The Senate passed a bill increasing the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour over two years. The vote was 94-3, but the Democrats had to include tax credits for small businesses and a provision barring companies that hire illegal immigrants from federal contracts. It also had to reject an offered amendment eliminating the federal minimum wage altogether. All three votes against the increase were cast by Republicans. The bill goes to the House for reconciliation with the no-strings attached bill it passed.

Najaf 'Victory' May Have Been Massacre

Patrick Cockburn reporting from Iraq for the British newspaper, The Independent, writes that early unverified reports in the Middle East press say the military victory over a planned raid by religious zealots was actually the decimation of 200 members of the Hawatim tribe on pilgrimage to Najaf for the Ashura observance. The Hawatim are opposed to the Dawa party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq that make up the core of the current Iraqi regime and who both control Najaf.

The tribe, traveling on foot at night, was customarily armed. Fighting broke out at a government checkpoint near Zarga when the sentries opened fire and killed the tribe's chief riding in a car at the head of the pilgrimage. Members of a resident tribe, the Khaza'il, tried to intervene but were also fired upon. The security forces radioed that they were under attack by elements of Al Qa'ida using heavy weapons. US military responded with air attacks after dropped leaflets ordering the "terrorists" to surrender were ignored. A US helicopter was shot down, killing its two crewmen. 120 tribesmen and residents were killed in the bombardment early Monday morning. In all there were 263 killed, 210 wounded. This widely different account of the incident may explain the disparity in the numbers of casualties suffered by each side. One report says that only 25 government personnel were killed. Reporters are not being allowed to talk to survivors of the melee. And so it goes in a satanic version of the Wild West where we cannot even identify the enemy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

FBI Spies On the Net

Domestic surveillance was revealed to be more pervasive than thought on Friday at a Stanford Law School symposium. In a program the mirrors the NSA's domestic surveillance of telephone traffic, the FBI "vacuums" entire segments of Internet traffic, including e mail and web browsing, when looking for the activity of a particular ISP. Paul Ohm, a former trial attorney with the DOJ's intellectual property and computer crime section, said that the "full pipe" technique has become the default mode of surveillance and that any non-targeted information is separated out only after interception.

Some experts think that this mode of interception violates the bureau's legal responsibility to minimize the interception of impertinent information. The principle of minimization was upheld by the Supreme Court in Scott v. United States (1978) in which Judge Reinquist said the government could go too far in intercepting communications without discriminating among the sources. The evaluation of reasonableness in the manner of surveillance depends on the circumstances. If you think your home computer is equivalent to a public telephone on a drug corner, you got no problems. But if you think you are entitled to a little privacy while you view your favorite adult site at home, perhaps you should be concerned about Big Brother's on line spies.

The Red Line

The Charlatan, facing the prospect of mutiny in Congress and a restive public in the streets, has decided upon a strategy of provoking war with Iran to quell dissent at home. His recent warnings to Tehran, the capture of Iranian agents in Karbula, and naval maneuvers offshore all indicate his willing to expand the Iraq war into a regional Armageddon. Such a nightmare scenario is, of course, consistent with his faith based delusions of defeating "an axis of evil". He really does need to be on the couch and not in the White House. Watch for the US to set up a"red line" to justify an attack on Iran as force protection. Letters from Congress reminding the President of its war making powers will be ignored.

Now that the Republicans in the Senate have refused to cooperate with the Democratic domestic legislative agenda as predicted here, Democrats should expend their energies impeaching the Charlatan before he begins drafting a bigger army for a much bigger war. The Brookings Institute forecasts doom if America leaves Iraq, but that forecasts assumes the Iraqis are irrationally bent on destroying their country and that Iraq's neighbors have no interest in containing a sectarian cvil war that could spill over into their societies. The US will loose its influence over events in Iraq to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria, but it still can protect national interests from other bases in the Middle East such as Bahrain, Qatar and Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the forgotten war, but one where the US still has a chance of achieving a legitimate minor success. A good poker player knows when to fold 'em and change tables.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Goodbye, Barbaro

What a gallant horse you were! We will remember you for your courage. May you graze in green fields forever. Thank you to those people who did their best to help you.

As a tribute to an animal that gave its all for the entertainment of humans, perhaps they can do something to help the many race horses that are seriously injured every year on the track and euthanized.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dialogue with Hillary

Senator Clinton asked for dialogue in her web cast to announce her candidacy for president. Taking her at her word, I will be writing a post like this one in response to news reports about her statements on the campaign trail. Its better than shouting from the back of the room.
The Senator was in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday to rally her supporters. She said that the President misused the authority she voted to give him to wage an open ended war in the Middle East. She "regrets" the way he used that authority. Notice that she does not regret her action in giving it to him: Hillary OK, President BAD. She can nuance statements with the best of them.

She said the "proper debate" is what we do now. What we do now, Senator, is limit the President's ability to wage war in the region by limiting appropriations to support only current troop levels and future, lower levels. Something that is unarguably within Congress' power to do under Article I. The ending of the Vietnam War is ample precedent for using the power of the purse to end American involvement in what is now an agreed upon Iraqi civil war. I told Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR) this at a Democratic fundraiser on Friday night in Portland. Arguing over which partisan non-binding resolution to support is not "taking responsibility for having voted" for a war based on false premises. This is more Washington politics at the price of people's lives and limbs. One hundred thousand Americans in the streets demonstrated they will not accept only symbolic gestures from Congress.

Senator Clinton a few questions, please: do you also regret voting to limit bankruptcy relief for Americans struggling to pay outrageous medical expenses or living with extended unemployment because their jobs have been outsourced overseas?; Do you regret failing to deliver on the national health insurance brief given you by President Clinton at a time when your party controlled Congress?; Can you carry New York against that fabulous cross dresser, crime buster, and hero of 9/11, Rudolpho Guliani?; Do you know if Al Gore is now available? I look forward to future dialogue, Senator Clinton.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Good News Friday

Not all is not negativity at Persona Non Grata. The US Humane Society informs me that the nation's largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, Inc, has voluntarily decided to phase out the use of sow gestation crates over a ten year period (if only they would do it faster) The extremely small cages, 2x7 ft, prevent a sow from moving and forces them to give birth in their own filth for as much as 8 to 10 cycles. Their extreme, prolonged confinement literally drives the intelligent and social animals insane from stress. They also suffer from physical problems such as joint and leg pain as well as skin diseases caused by excrement. Sows under the new regime will be allowed to move about and socialize with others in larger group pens.

The practice is clearly abusive, but cost considerations prevailed to this point. The European Union is also abandoning the use of cages. Cages will be eliminated there by 2013. Perhaps Smithfield saw the signals when Arizona and Florida both passed initiatives in the past election banning the use of crates despite well financed opposition. Please remember that veal calves are still subjected to such abusive confinement. See the Humane Society's website for more information on this cruel practice.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Another Spy Who Knew Dies

Readers of my blog will recall that in the last installment of my series on the assassination, Dead Kennedys, I named CIA officers who I believe had guilty knowledge of the Mafia's plan to kill President Kennedy. I also said that there were other officers that fit the description. One of those died on January 23rd.

E. Howard Hunt, who achieved infamy as the organizer of Nixon's "Plumbers " unit that broke into the Watergate office of the Democratic Party was also well known to Cuban exiles plotting against Castro as "Eduardo". Hunt participated in the 1954 CIA coup against President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala. In 1959 he made the written recommendation to his CIA superiors that Castro be "neutralized". Hunt was a major planner of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. He helped train resistance fighters under the leadership of former revolutionary Manuel Artime in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Henry Williams, a Bay of Pigs veteran and Kennedy Cuban coordinator for AMWORLD, was assigned to Hunt and later Watergate burglar, James McCord. In the early sixties he was the CIA's Mexico City station chief, but he was not at the scene of the murder as claimed by some theorists (not disguised as one of the 'derelicts' found by police in freight cars behind Dealy Plaza). Hunt probably would have known of Oswald's visit to the embassies of Cuba and Russia in Mexico City just prior to the assassination.

Hunt did 33 months in federal prison for his role in Watergate. While he was under arrest Hunt demanded $2 million from Nixon's White House lawyer, John Dean, to keep silent. He reportedly threatened to expose what he knew about the Kennedy murder. Hunt was a fanatical anti-communist and his hatred of JFK was well known in government circles.

Hunt sued a newspaper for liable in 1981 after an investigator, Victor Marchetti, claimed that Hunt was involved in the conspiracy to kill the president. Marchetti argued that the House Special Committee on Assassinations had obtained a 1966 CIA memo (possibly part of an agency "limited hangout" to derail investigators) that said Hunt and other agents were involved. In the suit, Marita Lorenz, a former mistress of Castro, testified that she met Hunt in Dallas on November 21, 1963. Hunt's alibi for that day was brought into question. He lost the libel case on appeal and declared bankruptcy. Before he died Hunt made the outlandish and unsubstantiated claim in his memoirs that LBJ used disgruntled CIA officer William Harvey to eliminate JFK.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mutual Admiration Society

The incestuousness of Washington politics never ceases to amaze me. The pathetic sight of Congress members, co-equal in authority under the law, lining up to get the autograph of a president that lied to them about the need for war and directly responsible for the death of thousands of Iraqis and American soldiers, is de rigueur in DC.

With all the bon homme in the chamber one could expect easy passage of the hundred hour agenda into law. Wrong. Take note of the latest Senate vote on the minimum wage increase passed by Ms. Pelosi and her House colleagues. Forty three Republicans, in lock step with their master, voted against the modest increase without more tax breaks for the proprietary class they represent so well. Only five Republicans voted with Democrats. You have to admire their party discipline or niggardly souls. Their block sent the wage bill back to committee where it will be held until the tax bills are voted on in the House where they must originate under the Constitution. Nice try, Senator Kennedy. I will not say I told you so. More tax giveaways are not the way to balance the budget (another of the Charlatan's professed goals) but the poor need the extra $2.10 an hour. Putting a cap on CEO deferred income is a good idea for balancing the Republican's tax cut demands.

Residents of Delaware might ask were their two Democratic Senators were when the vote to end debate on the legislation was taken. Clearly, Senate Democrats are still 6 seats shy of a working majority since 60 votes are needed to invoke cloture under current Senate rules. Instead of self-congratulations they should be planning how to achieve that majority in 2008. So far the Senators' performance only rates a C for more of the same.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Republican Prayer

If you needed anymore reasons to resist Hillary Clinton's bid for the Democratic nomination, her performance with Charles Gibson live on ABC news was another one. The Divine Ms. H was unwilling to answer some simple direct questions from Gibson with simple, direct answers. She lapsed immediately into DC doublespeak. Obama does not have the experience to be President, but he has got a predilection for direct talk and audiences appreciate it. She was unable to admit her vote for the war was wrong, despite her furious back peddling on that issue in recent weeks. Edwards has forthrightly admitted he made a mistake voting to give the Charlatan carte blanche. Cartoonist Tony Auth has summed up the situation in this editorial cartoon.

The Shame of America's Health Care System

The Charlatan will propose another half baked idea in his State of the Union address tonight. He wants to give Americans a tax credit for purchasing private health insurance. The proposal for another regressive tax break is simply intended to ward off what the neocons see as the public's demand for more "creeping socialism" in our society. The U.S. is the only major western democracy that does not provide its citizens some form of social medicine. Because medical care in run for profit in the U.S., the cost of medical treatment and private medical insurance continues to climb into the stratosphere. The number of business offering health insurance as a fringe benefit has dropped 8% since 2000. Business are finding it cheaper to let workers provide their own care. Providing an individual tax credit for purchasing a policy will accelerate this trend.

What should be a basic human right in an enlightened society is reduced to a tax break in the Darwinian American society. The proposal does nothing to end the price spiral or extend coverage to the forty seven million Americans who do not have health insurance. Many of those uninsured pay little or no taxes, so a tax credit for buying expensive individual policies is worthless. In one study, 90% of insurance applicants not in perfect health were unable to buy individual insurance at standard rates, but had to pay premium rates for higher risk. 37% were denied insurance outright. Tinkering with the tax code is not an answer for the national shame of America's for profit health care system. National health insurance is what the people want and what was promised to them by Harry Truman over fifty years ago. Its time to pay for it instead of wasting money on a foolish war.

Speaking of that subject: Congress is unable to get its act together to resist the urge to surge. More troops are now on their way to the slaughterhouse in Iraq. It appears that the Sunni resistance is prepared to give them a warm reception. This past weekend equalled the most deadly of the war for Americans. Senators continue to dither about cutting funds and labor to pass non-binding resolutions at which the Charlatan just smirks, "Resolutions?; we noa nee' no stekin' resolutions".

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Road to Weimar--Revisited

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has released figures showing that in the last six years of the Bush regime, the national debt has increased by $2.3 trillion including $633 billion in interest payments. Foreign investors financed 78% of the deficit. The trade deficit for 2006 is projected to be a record $750 billion. Trade deficits have exceeded 5% of the GDP since 2004, a condition most economists consider unsustainable in the long term. Most of the growth in the imbalance is caused by foreign oil imports. I wonder how much gas mileage an Abrams tank gives?

Just so you know its not only me, here is a quote from Chris Hedges, Harvard Divinity graduate and former Pulitzer Prize winning journalist:

There has been, along with the creation of an American oligarchy, the steady Weimarization of the American working class. The top one percent of American households have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. This figure alone should terrify all who care about our democracy.

The decline in middle class socioeconomic status has occurred during both Democratic and Republican administrations, but Democratic presidential candidates bear more of a burden in demonstrating their allegiance to American working families rather than perpetuating the privileges of plutocrats. Most Americans know by now that the GOP represents the rich regardless of misleading rhetoric like "compassionate conservatism". NAFTA, passed during the Clinton administration, has proved to be a drain on manufacturing jobs in this country. Outsourcing jobs to cheaper labor markets has continued apace. Its early in the campaigns, but only John Edwards has consistently talked about adjusting economic disadvantages of the middle and poor classes. Increasing the minimum wage (assuming no presidential veto) is a modest start, but only that. The Iraq War is not only a foreign policy issue. It is an issue of what kind of America we want to live in for the future.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

We have No Gurkhas

According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, the Charlatan is being educated in counterinsurgency by Henry K. who regularly sends him books to read on the subject. The latest is Horne's A Savage War of Peace (1977) describing France's defeat in Algeria despite winning the Battle of the Casbah. Henry, as I remember, lost his own counterinsurgency thirty years ago.

The Department of Defense keeps trying to find the key to winning these small wars it is called upon to fight with inappropriate conventional weapons. A draft of a new manual on counterin- surgency written by Generals Petraeus and Mattis is being circulated for adoption. It has a lot of good advice for field commanders, but the central, political fact of insurgency is glossed over. An insurgency is only viable if it has the active or at least coerced support of the population that forms a matrix in which it operates. Mao wrote about this necessary condition in his famous "Little Red Book". If I may resort to an analogy from Hollywood, Col. Kurtz, in his deranged isolation, fathomed the horror of this reality too. He describes to his assassin how the enemy cut off the arms of village children inoculated by American medics.

Of course an insurgency can be defeated and an occupation made a success. The French did it in Algiers, but they had to resort to methods of torture used by the Nazis against them. The Nazis occupied almost all of Europe subject to only isolated pockets of organized resistance. They quickly quelled rebellion by savage retaliation against civilians, sometimes en masse. The Romans achieved two centuries of success in occupying the Mediterranean basin. They also used violent reprisal to suppress uprisings by example, and provided reliable military government to keep the peaceful civilians in line. Thus, rebels have been historically deprived of support by the people.

Americans do not want their military to commit atrocities as a matter of fundamental political principle. They are equally unwilling to expend the blood and money needed to police an unruly tribal populace for generations. The occupation of Iraq was doomed to failure when the looters of Baghdad were not shot. Alas, Henry, we have no Gurkhas. Since the price of empire is too high, we should wipe the blood from our hands.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Proto-Fascist of the Year Award

With the Golden Globes underway and the Oscars(R) and Emmies coming up, I thought it only appropriate to create an award for the administration member most likely to become a fascist. The year is only a month old but it will be very difficult to exceed the performance of Charles Stimson, a deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, who suggested that CEOs should black list corporate law firms representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Such breathtaking obtuse pettiness deserves a "Himmler". Congratulations, Mr. Stimson.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Example of Dr. King.

Today we remember the significant contributions of an African-American, Martin Luther King, Jr., towards a just and peaceful society. It gives one pause to recall that only a hundred years ago respected American researchers were using bad science to justify their theories of inherited white intellectual superiority. A French psychologist at the Sorbonne, Alfred Binet(1857-1911), developed a psychological test intended to be used as an empirical tool to identify school children that needed what we now call special or remedial education. His 1908 test established the criterion used in measuring intelligence ever since. Binet never thought his test scores should be used as a definitive, theoretical measure of innate human intelligence.

American scientists expanded and reified Binet's test, later called an IQ test, into something that was misused to justify eugenics, concentration or sterilization of the mentally disabled, and immigration restrictions (Gould1981). Lewis Terman (1916), a Stanford University professor gave his greatly expanded and revised version of Binet's test the name, Stanford-Binet. This test through many revisions has come down to us in the 21st century as a paradigm for the plethora of IQ tests now in use. It was Terman (1923) who advocated mass testing of school children for the purposes of proper placement in society. But it was a Harvard man, Robert Yerkes, who actually put mass IQ testing into practice. Yerkes was able to convince the US Army to allow him to administer intelligence tests to 1.75 million recruits during WWI. Imagine the surprise of the researchers expecting to find confirmation of their racist theories of white intellectual superiority, when their data told them the mental age of white Americans was about 13, one year above the highest mental age of morons (1921). A mental age of 12 was considered the upper limit for individuals categorized as morons, a scientific term invented by H. H. Goddard(1914) then in use to describe the feeble-minded.

Although the army did not make much use of the testing results, their civilian policy effect was significant. C.C. Brigham (1923) used the testing data in his influential study on intelligence in which he advocated both eugenics and immigration restriction to prevent declines in intelligence levels of the native stock. In 1924 Congress passed the Immigration Restriction Act. The act severely restricted the immigration of southern and eastern Europeans. Both of these ethnic groups had scored low on the army's Alpha and Beta IQ tests perhaps because of language and cultural barriers. Calvin Coolidge proclaimed as he signed the bill that "America must be kept American." Brigham recanted six years after the quotas were imposed. He recognized that a test score could not be reified as an entity inside a person's head. But the damage was already done. The act's restrictive quotas may have doomed many Europeans seeking to escape Nazism in the 1930s.

Scientific racism, or biological determinism if you prefer, has lately been discredited. But claims for a hereditarian theory of intelligence were made as late as 1979 (Jensen). The moral of this story remains relevant. Brigham, a disciple of Yerkes, went on to become secretary of the College Entrance Examination Board and develop the familiar Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) based on army models. That test has been criticised as culturally biased and a poor indicator of general intelligence, yet its result has a tremendous impact on a student's future socioeconomic status. One of the world's great athletes, Muhammad Ali, flunked his army induction IQ test. Yet few who remember his superb motor coordination, verbal perspicacity and principled stand against the Vietnam war would ever call him a dumb negro. Thank you, Dr. King for sharing your dream with us.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Dangerous Joe Lieberman

I have got to ask, is Joe Lieberman working for Mossad as agent provocateur? According to Joe anybody who opposes the war suffers from"dangerous illusions" and undermines our military by promoting "excessive partisan division". Its called free debate, Joe, that our Bill of Rights guarantees citizens. And if he is representing Israeli interests, he should check this out: Israeli policy experts are saying that staying the course in Iraq is making Israel less secure. Joe, you are only the third most dangerous man in Washington.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

They Got the Power (Art. I, Sec.8)

Senator McConnell(R) knows it and so does Senator Kennedy(D) who has introduced legislation to stop the escalation of the Iraq Occupation. McConnell dissembled when he came out against Kennedy's bill saying Congress does not have the authority to "micromanage military tactics". The Center for American Progress (see their website for a run-down on historic legislative limits on waging war) points out that McConnell did just that in November, 1993 when he voted to put limits on spending for President Clinton's ill-fated deployment in Somalia. He spoke on the floor in October in support of the Byrd amendment, "The narrow issue before us tonight is simply how do we leave.... We are leaving, we all agree on that." Touche, Senator McConnell. We all agree we need to leave Iraq. Lets begin before we ask more U.S. soldiers to die for a mistake.
Weekend Update: Another clear indication that the Charlatan does not want any advice on changing course in Iraq. His "new" strategy is National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley's November policy paper. So much for listening to the wise men; the neocons are still calling the shots in the Imperial White House. Kudos to ZBig for telling it like it is on the News Hour yesterday. He called the occupation a "colonial war" out of step with history. The Charlatan's new strategy is nothing more than an inadequate military tactic masquerading for the lack of strategy. Congress must act to end the occupation before a desperate poser lashes out against Syria and Iran for mucking up his sordid little war.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Kill them All and Let God Sort It

Imperial troopers have blasted a Somali border village to smitherines using our latest death technology, high speed revolving cannons that fire so fast the muzzle flash looks like a laser beam in the night sky. The AC-130 'Spectre' gunship--aptly named--was targeting al-Qai'da suspects believed to be hiding in the village. The merciless attack confirms that the US is using Ethiopia as its latest proxy in the endless revenge campaign against Islamist radicals. Human nor animal were spared.
Weekend Update: They missed!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Surge Before the End

The "surge"in the number of American soldiers is a last ditch attempt to stop Iraq from dissolving. If reports are true that the surge was originally Al-Maliki's idea, it shows that he is even loosing control over Baghdad. There are reports today of heavy fighting in a Sunni neighborhood close to the fortified American green zone (the Haifa Street neighborhood was cleared once before in 2003 by our military). But twenty thousand additional American soldiers simply cannot put Iraq together again. Nor did the Cambodian incursion save South Vietnam. The occupation was bungled from the start and is doomed to failure. Why we would want to save a regime that delegates a definitive and most solemn act of state--the execution of its former head of state--to sectarian bullies is beyond most Americans' understanding.

At home, Democrats with new majorities in Congress, still seem incapable of mounting a unified, effective resistance to the surge fantasy. Senator Biden babbles about his Commander in Chief and the turncoat toady Lieberman is still calling the Charlatan a 'great' president. No responsible observer advocates taking bullets away from our soldiers defending themselves on the front lines, but a new deployment will cost more and Speaker Pelosi should find the spine to just say no to new supplemental appropriations until a plan for withdrawal from Iraq is presented to Congress. Senator Kennedy will find it difficult convincing his reluctant Democratic colleagues to join him in opposing the escalation.

Monday, January 08, 2007

E-Voting Blues

Could 18,000 Floridians get confused and push the "finished" button before voting for their Congressman? Or fail to push the correct button to cast their vote when they had made all of their choices? Such scenarios could explain the anomaly of 18,000 undervotes in Florida's 13 Congressional district election. They are possible, if you credit the joint report of several citizen action groups who studied the reports of E-voting problems in the 2006 mid-term election. Their report, based on 1022 incidents in 314 counties, shows that voting is getting more difficult instead of easier as promised when electronic voting equipment is used. Equipment malfunctions ranged from individual machines to the malfunction of 800 machines in Pennsylvania's Westmoreland County. There were human failures too. Many voters, not accustomed to dealing with computerized equipment, had difficulty interfacing with e-voting machines. Poll workers also experienced problems troubleshooting malfunctioning machines, following complex or inadequate procedures, counting machine tallies, or verifying the accuracy of machine results.

The majority of problems reported were from touch screen (DRE-direct record equipment) machines. There were 59 reports of vote flipping with Diebold touch screen equipment. Diebold was the company that supplied the voting equipment in the disputed Ohio presidential election of 2004. In Sarasota, a poll worker said that voters who voted for the Democratic candidate lost their vote when the review screen appeared and they were forced to re-enter their vote to get the Diebold machine to accept their choice. Voters were concerned that every voter might not have made the extra effort to correct the malfunction upon review. Diebold models that produced paper tally records either produced tallies that did not match the screen or were unavailable for the voter to verify in 47 cases.

Optical scanning equipment performed better than DREs beside having the advantage of a paper ballot available for audits and recounts. However, there were scanning problems in 24 states, 79 counties with the ES&S M100 machine causing the most reports. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandates a recording error of less than 1 vote in 500,000[Sec 301(5)(a)]. In an Arkansas race for mayor, a man voted for himself. His wife said she also voted for him, yet the ES&S iVotronic machine only recorded 36 votes for the other candidate. America needs more help to get it elections functioning properly.

Equipment failures also had a substantial impact on voter participation. In 444 cases of DRE equipment failures, there were 221 reports of long lines or voters leaving without voting. In Denver, Colorado a media report stated that an estimated 20,000 people did not vote because of delays due to Sequoia ePollbook malfunctions. Voters in Florida, Ohio and other states reported standing in line for hours before they could vote. Making election day a national holiday would certainly take some of the pressure off pollworkers and voters.

With so many different modes of failure on different types of equipment, our election process must be systemically flawed and in need of a comprehensive fix. Comprehensive solutions using only the most reliable systems--including paper ballots--should be recommended to the numerous local election authorities responsible for conducting elections and purchasing equipment. As the system exists now, its suffers from a lack of uniformity, enforceable standards of reliability, and experienced, trained election workers. Vendors of electronic equipment play much too large a role in determining how America votes. They are selling a lot of expensive machinery, but not helping America vote.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

He Just Doesn't Get It

We all know how separated from reality the Charlatan is, but I cannot resist posting the latest example. Finally confronted with the failure of the Iraqi state by his obsequious team players, he still insists on talking about "victory" in public. He told members of the Iraq Study Group, "its a word the American people understand." Yes, we understand that word and allow me to tell you that it does not apply to the mess in Iraq. He protests, "if I start to change it [the word] it will look like I'm beginning to change my policy." We just had an election in which his party lost both houses of Congress! So its safe to say that is exactly what the American people want--a change in policy.

Such a stubborn man! There is only one politically viable option in Iraq: to withdraw in a way to minimize further US casualties.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Brutal Act of Revenge

What should have been a solemn, considered act of justice for Saddam's many victims appeared to be a taunt filled, confused and brutal act of revenge. The bootleg cell phone video shows a man with considerable composure and strength of will meeting his death at the end of a rope. His Shia executioners and witnesses do not exhibit the same calm and dignified behavior. Instead they insult the former dictator on the gallows. The video is galvanizing Sunni resistance just as the brutality at Abu Ghraib did.

If al Maliki wanted to use the execution of Saddam Hussein as a unifying moment for Iraq, he failed. The Kurds do not understand why Saddam was not kept alive to hear the verdict against him for the more heinous war crime of nerve gas attacks against entire Kurdish villages in which some 5,000 Kurds died. Al Maliki was clearly in a hurry to execute the former dictator for the execution of 140 Shias caught in an attempt to assassinate Saddam. Perhaps he was acting under pressure from the Americans to do the deed while he still has sufficient control over the central government. By not allowing the second war crime trial to proceed with decorum to a verdict, Al Maliki looks vengeful and biased. Like almost everything the Bush regime has orchestrated in Iraq, they squandered the propaganda value of Saddam's execution. Instead of ending a tragic era, they created an Arab martyr.