Monday, July 30, 2007

Voting Machines Have Failed The Hacking Tests...

..color me the opposite of surprised.

(View LIVE hearing now!)

A few months ago California Secretary of State Debra Bowen decided to do something strange and unusual: she kept her campaign promises and instituted a top-to-bottom review of California's voting systems. The results of her review - published on Friday - showed that every electronic voting system had security issues:
The report documents 15 security problems found in the devices. For example, researchers were able to exploit bugs in the Windows operating system used by the Diebold GEMS election management system to circumvent the system's audit logs and directly access data on the machine. They were able to get a similar level of access to Sequoia WinEDS data as well.

Testers were also able to overwrite firmware, bypass locks on the systems, forge voter cards, and even secretly install a wireless device on the back of a GEMS server.
Those in the election protection community have been decrying the probabilities of such security failings for years, as have computer experts who have studied the problem, some of whom have been working on alternative, non-proprietary voting systems. So it's rather gratifying to learn that we have elected a secretary of state who listens to the concerns of the voting public and experts in their fields and takes the appropriate steps to rectify the situation.

However, something rather disturbing has been revealed: ES&S - the company that provides to Los Angeles County its electronic voting systems (including the machines that tabulate the InkaVote ballots) - did not provide access to its machines until it was too late to be included in this report. Secretary Bowen has said that ES&S systems will be evaluated at a later date. It is uncertain at this time whether the evaluation will be done in time for the February 2008 primaries, which could leave LA County (the county in which your humble blogger resides and the most populous county in the country) without certified machines. And the chances are excellent that our Registrar of Voters, Conny McCormack (who never met Diebold sales literature she didn't like), will be amongst the Californian RoV's and County Clerks who may choose to ignore Secretary Bowen's findings and use systems currently in place, even should they be uncertified.

There's a tough fight ahead, my dears. Thank heavens we have Debra Bowen on the side of transparency and democracy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

State GOP Leaders - Not Fond of the Poor

For the last month the California State Senate has been unable to pass a budget, thanks to stalling by the Senate's Republicans. Flatly rejecting the budget passed by the Assembly, the Republican Caucus, as led by Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine), has insisted that the new budget slash an additional $1 billion in spending without giving detail as which programs would bear the brunt of such heavy slashing.

Until today.

Senate Republicans will present their budget to the California Senate today, but Ackerman has revealed a few of the proposed cuts: in a move that surprises no one, state welfare is a primary victim of the budget cuts, with $324-million to be yanked from its already too-lean budget:
After holding up the state budget nearly a month past deadline, Senate Republicans offered Tuesday to end the impasse if Democrats would move tens of thousands of poor families off welfare and make dozens of additional program cuts.
I understand the need to make sure that welfare is going to those who need it most and to root out fraud, which is what Ackerman says these cuts are supposed to accomplish. But the fact of the matter is, children will be hardest hit by these proposed cuts, since the slashing "[...] would eliminate safety net cash grants that are intended to keep children whose parents do not meet work requirements from becoming homeless. Children whose parents are in the country illegally also could lose assistance under the Republican plan."

Once again the GOP leadership shows that they don't care about those in our society that are most in need.

What a surprise.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Executive Branch Job Description Includes Treason

Today the lawsuit against Cheney, Rove, Libby and Armitage brought by Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson was dismissed because, according to Judge John Bates, Plame and Wilson "failed to show the case belongs in federal court."

I don't see how a case of treason, in which a covert agent's cover was blown in an extremely public manner by members of the current administration, could possibly NOT belong in federal court. But I'm not a Bush appointed judge who worked for Kenneth Starr during the Clinton impeachment debacle, so maybe my grasp of conservative legalese is a little off.

As is, it would seem, my knowledge of what is included in the job description of members of the executive branch as, according to the defense lawyers and Judge Bates,"federal law protects Cheney and the other top administration officials from being sued for actions taken as part of their official duties."

Who'da known that treason was part of their official duties? Guess all those former members of the executive branch over the last 200+ years were just not performing their jobs in a satisfactory manner.

I hope future administrations take note of this.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We Have Nothing To Fear...

...except for whatever's rumbling in Michael Chertoff's gut.

Apparently Chertoff ate some really bad calamari, because he's saying that he has a "gut feeling" about possible terrorist attacks within the US:
He based his assessment on earlier patterns of terrorists in Europe and intelligence he would not disclose.

"Summertime seems to be appealing to them," Chertoff said in his discussion with [The Chicago Tribune] about terrorists. "We worry that they are rebuilding their activities."
Can't say that's surprising. There's something about a beautiful hot summer day that inspires feelings of suicidal and murderous hatred of the Western Capitalist Dogs in all of us.

And that's not the only thing to fear, my friends. Anonymous government sources have informed the media that an Al Qaeda cell might be on its way to the US or may already be here!

(Execpt. According to Global, the United States is most likely already home to autonomous underground al Qaeda cells. So the possibility of a "new" cell on its way to terrorize us all is ludicrous.)

Then again, perhaps we've nothing to fear after all. The FBI is building a new database and mining data on Americans in an effort "to assess the risk posed by people identified as potential or suspected terrorists." So we should be fine, right? It's not as if the FBI would abuse it or force people to keep quiet through National Security Letters, would it? And if it did and the Attorney General was told about it, he wouldn't lie about it, would he?

Hmmm, maybe we have something to fear after all. And it ain't Al Qaeda.

Damn that bad calamari...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Matter of When, Not If

The fact that Libby isn't going to jail comes as no surprise to anyone with two brain cells to rub together. I think most of us knew it was merely a matter of when, not if.

However, there is some surprise that the form this deus ex machina took was one of commutation, not pardon. It's a savvy move, though. Pardoning a criminal convicted of obstruction of justice in a case of treason whilst the defense is still appealing the conviction shows that, high-handed as Bush's administration tends to be, they're still trying to give the appearance that they believe in following the at this stage than an outright pardon.

Of course, once the appeal is rejected (and trust me, it will be rejected), Bush will play the pardon card.

Unless the appeal makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Chances are damned good that another 5-4 decision would be handed down by those unjust justices.

Either way, Libby will never see the inside of a prison.

Guess treason just ain't as serious as it used to be.