Living in Chinatown Honolulu
March 30, 2004

Are you involved in a local or national non-profit or public interest
organization? As a leader or board director or member? Please read this
message carefully, because your organization could be facing a serious threat


The Federal Election Commission is ready to issue new rules that would
cripple groups that communicate with the public in any way critical of the
President or members of Congress. Any kind of non-profit could be affected
by these rules.

Make a public comment to the FEC before APRIL 9th.

Public comments to the FEC are encouraged by email at

Comments should be addressed to Ms. Mai T. Dinh, Acting Assistant
General Counsel, and must include the full name, electronic mail address,
and postal service address of the commenter.

More details can be found at:

Whether or not you're with a non-profit, we also suggest you ask your
representatives to write a letter to the FEC opposing the rule change.

You can reach your representatives at:

Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Phone: 202-224-3934

Senator Daniel K. Akaka

Phone: 202-224-6361

Congressman Neil Abercrombie

Phone: 202-225-2726


- The FEC should not change the rules for nonprofit advocacy in the middle
of an election year, especially in ways that Congress already considered
and rejected. Implementing these changes now would go far beyond what Congress
decided and the Supreme Court upheld.

- These rules would shut down the legitimate activities of nonprofit
organizations of all kinds that the FEC has no authority at all to regulate.

- Nothing in the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law or the Supreme
Court's decision upholding it provides any basis for these rules. That
law is only about banning federal candidates from using unregulated contributions
("soft money"), and banning political parties from doing so, because of
their close relationship to those candidates.
It's clear that, with
one exception relating to running broadcast ads close to an election, the
new law wasn't supposed to change what independent nonprofit interest groups
can do, including political organizations (527's) that have never before
been subject to regulation by the FEC.

- The FEC can't fix the problems with these proposed rules just by imposing
new burdens on section 527 groups. They do important issue education and
advocacy as well as voter mobilization. And Congress clearly decided to
require those groups to fully and publicly disclose their finances, through
the IRS and state agencies, not to restrict their independent activities
and speech. The FEC has no authority to go further.

- In the McConnell opinion upholding McCain-Feingold, the U.S. Supreme
Court clearly stated that the law's limits on unregulated corporate, union
and large individual contributions apply to political parties and not interest
. Congress specifically considered regulating 527 organization
three times in the last several years - twice through the Internal Revenue
Code and once during the BCRA debate - and did not subject them to McCain-Feingold.

- The FEC should not, in a few weeks, tear up the fabric of tax-exempt
law that has existed for decades and under which thousands of nonprofit groups
have structured their activities and their governance. The Internal Revenue
Code already prohibits 501(c)(3) charities from intervening in political
candidate campaigns, and IRS rules for other 501(c) groups prohibit them
from ever having a primary purpose to influence any candidate elections --
federal, state, or local.

- As an example of how seriously the new FEC rules contradict the IRS
political and lobbying rules for nonprofits, consider this: Under the 1976
public charity lobbying law, a 501(c)(3) group with a $1.5 million annual
budget can spend $56,250 on grassroots lobbying, including criticism of a
federal incumbent candidate in the course of lobbying on a specific bill.
That same action under the new FEC rules would cause the charity to be regulated
as a federal political committee, with devastating impact on its finances
and perhaps even loss of its tax-exempt status.

- The chilling effect of the proposed rules on free speech cannot be
overstated. Merely expressing an opinion about an officeholder's policies
could turn a nonprofit group OVERNIGHT into a federally regulated political
committee with crippling fund-raising restrictions.

- Under the most draconian proposal, the FEC would "look back" at a nonprofit
group's activities over the past four years - before McCain-Feingold was
ever passed and the FEC ever proposed these rules - to determine whether
a group's activities qualify it as a federal political committee. If so,
the FEC would require a group to raise hard money to repay prior expenses
that are now subject to the new rules. Further work would be halted until
debts to the "old" organization were repaid. This rule would jeopardize the
survival of many groups.

- The 4 year "look back" rule would cause a nonprofit group that criticized
or praised the policies of Bush, Cheney, McCain, or Gore in 2000, or any
Congressional incumbent candidate in 2000 or 2002, to be classified as a
political committee now, even though the group has not done so since then.
This severely violates our constitutional guarantees of due process.

- These changes would act as a de facto "gag rule" on public policy advocacy.
They would insulate public officials from substantive criticism for their
positions on policy issues.

- The FEC's proposed rule changes would dramatically impair vigorous debate
about important national issues. It would hurt nonprofit groups across the
political spectrum and restrict First Amendment freedoms in ways that are
unhealthy for our democracy.

- Any kind of nonprofit -- conservative, liberal, labor, religious, secular,
social service, charitable, educational, civic participation, issue-oriented,
large, and small -- could be affected by these rules. A vast number would
be essentially silenced on the issues that define them, whether they are
organized as 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or 527 organizations.


Under the proposed rules, nonprofit organizations that advocate
for cancer research, gun and abortion restrictions or rights, fiscal discipline,
tax reform, poverty issues, immigration reform, the environment, or civil
rights or liberties - all these organizations could be transformed
into political committees if they criticize or commend members of Congress
or the President based on their official actions or policy positions.

If the proposed rules were adopted, the following organizations
would be treated as federal political committees and therefore could not
receive grants from any corporation, even an incorporated nonprofit foundation,
from any union, or from any individual in excess of $5,000 per year:

- A 501(c)(4) gun rights organization that spends $50,000 on ads
at any time during this election year criticizing any legislator, who also
happens to be a federal candidate, for his or her position on gun control

- A "good government" organization [§501(c)(3)] that spends more
than $50,000 to research and publish a report criticizing several members
of the House of Representatives for taking an all-expense trip to the Bahamas
as guests of the hotel industry.

- A fund [§527] created by a tax reform organization to provide
information to the public regarding federal candidates' voting records on
budget issues.

- A civil rights organization [§501(c)(3) or §501(c)(4)] that spends
more than $50,000 to conduct non-partisan voter registration activities
in Hispanic and African-American communities after July 5, 2004.

- An organization devoted to the environment that spends more than
$50,000 on communications opposing oil drilling in the Arctic and identifying
specific Members of Congress as supporters of the legislation, if those
Members are running for re-election.

- A civic organization [§501(c)(6)] that spends $50,000 during
2004 to send letters to all registered voters in the community urging them
to vote on November 2, 2004 because "it is your civic duty."

Other potential ramifications include the following situations:

- A religious organization that publishes an election-year legislative
report card covering all members of Congress on a broad range of issues
would be unable to accept more than $5,000 from any individual donor if
the report indicated whether specific votes were good or bad.

- A 501(c)(3) organization that primarily encourages voter registration
and voting among young people will be required to re-create itself as a
federal PAC.

- A 501(c)(4) pro-life group that accepts contributions from local
businesses would break the law by using its general funds to pay for any
communications critical of an incumbent Senator's position on abortion rights
after the Senator had officially declared himself for reelection more than
a year before the next election.

- A 501(c)(3) civil rights group that has been designated as a
political committee can no longer hold its annual fundraiser at a corporate-donated
facility, and it must refuse donations or grants from donors that have already
given $5,000 for that year.


Under federal campaign finance laws, federal "political committees"
must register and file reports with the FEC and can accept contributions
only from individual persons (and other federal committees), and only up
to $5,000 per year from any one donor ("hard money"). The FEC is now
proposing to redefine "political committee" to include any group

1. Spends more than $1,000 this year on nonpartisan voter registration
or get out the vote activity or on any ad, mailing or phone bank that "promotes,
supports, attacks or opposes" any federal candidate; and

2. Supposedly has a "major purpose" of election of a federal candidate
as shown by:

(a) Saying anything in its press releases, materials, website,
etc. that might lead regulators to conclude that the group's "major purpose"
is to influence the election of any federal candidate; or

(b) Spending more than $50,000 this year or in any of the last
4 years for any nonpartisan voter registration or get out the vote program,
or on any public communication that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes"
any federal candidate.

What's more, any group that gets turned into a federal "political
committee" under these new rules has to shut down all its communications
critical of President Bush (or any other federal candidate) until it sets
up "federal" and "non-federal" accounts; and raises enough hard money contributions
to "repay" the federal account for the amounts spent on all those communications
since the beginning of 2003.

These proposed rules would apply to all types of groups: 501(c)(3)
charitable organizations, 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations, labor unions,
trade associations and non-federal political committees and organizations
(so-called "527" groups, as well as state PACs, local political clubs, etc.).

The new rules, including those that apply to voter engagement,
cover all types of communications -- not just broadcast TV or radio ads
-- but messages in any form, such as print ads, mailings, phone banks, email
alerts like this one, websites, leaflets, speeches, posters, tabling, even
knocking on doors.

The FEC will hold a public hearing on April 14 & 15. Written
comments are due by April 5 if the group wants to testify at that hearing;
otherwise, by April 9. The FEC plans to make its final decision on these
proposed rules by mid-May and they could go into effect as early as July,
right in the middle of the election year, potentially retroactive to
January 2003.

It's clear that these rules would immediately silence thousands
of groups, of all types, who have raised questions and criticisms of any
kind about the Bush Administration, its record and its policies.

Resources on FEC Proposed Rule Changes Threatening Nonprofit Advocacy

FEC Working Group

From two prominent reform organizations:

Soft Money and the FEC

Common Cause

Public Campaign Statement regarding FEC Draft Advisory Opinion 2003-37

Public Campaign

March 29, 2004

150 Dead zones

Ooxygen-starved areas of the oceans devoid of fish has doubled the last decade, some as big as Ireland.

The main cause is excess nitrogen run-off from farm fertilizers, sewage and industrial pollutants. The nitrogen triggers blooms of microscopic algae known as phytoplankton. As the algae die and rot, they consume oxygen, thereby suffocating everything.

"Human kind is engaged in a gigantic, global, experiment as a result of inefficient and often overuse of fertilizers, the discharge of untreated
sewage and the ever rising emissions from vehicles and factories," UNEP Executive
Director Klaus Toepfer said in a statement. "Unless urgent action is taken to tackle the sources of the problem, it is likely to escalate rapidly."

Plastic Invades Ocean

There is a swirling pool of plastic in the pacific roughly the size of Africa, about 10 million square miles. There are six pounds of plastic there
for every one pound of naturally occurring organism. The biggest problem is nurdles — the raw material used to make everything plastic. Charles Moore: "They are becoming the most common pollutant on our beaches. A three month study of Orange County beaches found three and a half million of these little plastic pellets."
The American Plastics Council says the problem is not with the people who manufacture the material, but rather the people who use it.

It is necessary that we all work together to keep our oceans safe from pollution and contamination. The sea provides many of our foods and is a major recreational resource. Microscopic creatures in the seas generate a large portion of the oxygen that we breathe. Contamination is killing the oxygen producing creatures and adversely affecting our health and our environment. SOS demands pro-active solutions NOW. Please contact us with ideas and suggestions for speakers
at the conference. For more information, contact us at


To control runoff and erosion:

  • Use more plants and less pavement.
  • Divert runoff from pavement and roof drains onto grass or other vegetation. Don't over water. Use drip irrigation.

    To minimize nutrient build up:

  • Use less fertilizer. Choose slow release fertilizer and apply it
  • Use phosphate free biodegradable soaps and detergents.

  • To control bacteria and viruses:

  • Never put grease down the drain. It's the #1 cause of raw sewage spills. Pick up animal feces and put in trash or toilet.
  • Keep garbage dumpsters covered.

    To control toxic chemicals

  • Recycle used motor oil and car batteries.
  • Learn about safe alternatives to household hazardous chemicals.
  • Dispose of household wastes properly. Never put oil, paint, or antifreeze down a storm drain.

    To reduce marine debris:

  • Recycle glass, plastic, cardboard, aluminum cans, and tires.
  • Buy products made from recycled materials.
  • Select products with minimal packaging and reusable containers.

    To conserve water and energy:

  • Repair leaks and install water saving showerheads and toilet flappers.
  • Learn about xeriscaping (landscaping to conserve water use).
  • To take action

  • Stencil on storm drains in your neighborhood: DON T DUMP . . . DRAINS TO OCEAN.
  • Adopt and clean up a beach, reef, or stream.

  • March 27, 2004
    Big Fat Samoa Rt. Tear flash non-numbered badge at the bad spot on Pauahi
    2day. I was pruned of my sucker and got nipped in the butt for it. Wrong
    Time, place and person. Why did I talk to a known Ice-dealer for? Because
    I was getting too relaxed in Downtown Chinatown.

    I know you don't have what I want, green?

    Green? You mean marijuana?

    Used the term "US" and feigning injury for not being trusted

    A very poor sense of judgment on my part.


    "King" sun god of the Canaanites, entirely malevolent 8th-6th century BC,
    firstborn children were sacrificed to him by the Israelites in the Valleye
    of Hinnom Gehenna
    . also popular in ancient Carthage.

    Moloch was represented as a huge bronze statue with the head of a bull.
    The statue was hollow, and inside there burned a fire which colored the Moloch
    a glowing red. Children were placed on the hands of the statue. Through an
    ingenious system the hands were raised to the mouth (as if Moloch were eating)
    and the children fell into the fire where they were consumed by the flames.
    The people gathered before the Moloch were dancing on the sounds of flutes
    and tambourines to drown out the screams of the victims. Moloch may be a
    specific form of old-testament sacrifice.

    March 26, 2004


    George Bush bungled the defense of America, then lied to justify invading Iraq when he should have been focusing on Al Qaeda; Now all America is hearing the truth.
    Testimony, in secret and not under oath, isn't
    worth a pack of lies
    The administration's failure to prevent the 11 September attacks came under even fiercer scrutiny yesterday, when it emerged that two veteran CIA counter-terrorism experts were so frustrated in summer 2001 that they considered resigning and making public their fears about an imminent terrorist strike against US targets.
    The list grows longer as the evidence mounts. How many more have to come forward before some will believe?
    "It is much safer to be feared than loved," wrote the philosopher nearly 500 years ago. But even Machiavelli believed that intimidation has its limits. Just a few sentences after the famous passage quoted above, he cautioned: "Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred."
    Sixty prominent Palestinian officials and intellectuals on Thursday urged the public
    to refrain from retaliation for Israel's assassination of Hamas's founder
    The United States rejected an Israeli proposal that Washington recognize the West Bank settlement blocs of Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim as regions that will stay under Israeli rule as part of any permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, Israeli diplomatic sources said late on Thursday
    Do you have a clue as to why it's difficult to find out how your representative voted when the bill came before the full House? Does that have anything to do with Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich) asking for a suspension of the House rules, making it possible for this controversial "Title 6" to be passed with a so-called "voice vote," eliminating any official public trace of how your representative voted
    *A must read*
    If you saw the film 'The Revolution wll not be Televised' which I strongly urged all to see, you'll have a much better understanding of what is going on... and again... how perceptions are distorted
    The transcript of public testimony from four high-ranking officials from the Bush and Clinton administrations before the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, as recorded by Federal News Service
    Fishslit is a putz and I boot him off my board after reading his nasty email

    March 25, 2004
    AT THE HEARING: Miriam Oliphant consults with her attorney Henry Hunter on Wednesday. Oliphant seeks reimbursement for her legal fees and a quick resolution to the Senate trial that will decide whether she gets her job back. CARRIE NILAND/TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRATMiriam Oliphant asked for taxpayer help paying her legal bills for the Senate proceedings that will decide whether she should be reinstated as Broward supervisor of elections. Oliphant, a Democrat suspended on Nov. 20 for mismanaging the county's elections office, had her first hearing Wednesday in front of the Senate attorney. v. Jeb Bush suspended Oliphant without pay, ending her $128,769 salary. ''I think it's only fair that we start out on equal ground here,'' Oliphant said, after the hearing. ``The governor has his attorneys and they're on the payroll. I think it's only fair that my attorneys that are representing me be on the payroll.'' Oliphant's previous attorney, David Bogenschutz, defended Oliphant for free until she was cleared of criminal charges, but she dropped the noted Broward criminal attorney following the governor's suspension Once a governor suspends an elected official, the case goes to the Senate for a trial. The Senate then decides whether to uphold the governor's suspension or reinstate the suspended office-holder. Oliphant also faces 55 counts of violating election laws after not opening polls on time during the September 2002 primary and ignoring an order from Gov. Bush to keep them open later than normal. The Florida Elections Commission levied the charges at its Feb. 19 meeting. If she is found guilty, Oliphant faces a fine of up to $55,000 and of those charges will not be considered in the Senate proceedings unless Gov. Bush amends his suspension order to include them.

    March 24, 2004
    OLIPHANT To Face The Music In Tallahassee - Miami,FL,USA - Former Broward County supervisor of elections Miriam Oliphant will be in Tallahassee today meeting with the senate attorney who is handling her case

    Is the method stipulated in the Constitution for electing the president and vice president. Originally, the founding fathers designed the Electoral College to be a check on popular passions. They wanted the president to be
    indirectly elected by delegates representing the individual states. Over time, with the development of political parties, the Electoral College has become little more than a rubber stamp of the popular vote. Today, members of the Electoral College are designated by the various parties and pledged to support their party candidates.

    Before the Twelfth Amendment was passed in 1804, the electoral college
    voted for two presidential candidates; the runner-up became vice president.
    In 1804, the nation ratified the Twelfth Amendment, which required electors
    to vote separately for president and vice president.

    Jefferson and Aaron Burr
    had an electoral vote tie in 1800, and Jefferson was elected by the House of Representatives. In 1824, Andrew Jackson won the most popular votes, but not an electoral majority, so again it went to the House, and John Quincy Adams was elected. In 1876, Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but Rutherford Hayes won the electoral vote and the presidency. Again in 1888, Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but his opponent, Benjamin Harrison, won the electoral vote. George W. Bush eked out a victory over Albert Gore with just 48% of
    the popular vote and revived the debate about the Electoral College.

    The Electoral College was created , as a "check" against mob rule considered to stupid to rule itself. So they created the "Electoral College" to cast the official, determining votes. Since slave states were given some proportional representation in Congress for their slave population, the "three-fifths compromise" in Article I, Section
    2 of the constitution. The winner-take-all electoral count virtually guarantees that one or the other of the two major parties will win. Even a fairly strong third party can only hope to steal enough votes to be a "spoiler"

    The most compelling argument today is that the Electoral College is a part of the system of "federalism" in which the states share power among themselves and with the federal government. A constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College should happen, but it seems unlikely. Democratic nationalism and conservative Republican federalism. The confrontation need not leave federalism defeated. It may even provide an opportunity for a new pro federalist campaign against nationalist impositions provided the Republican Party has the unconventional wisdom to see that opportunity.

    The cultural divide is real. Genuine Independents are far fewer in number
    than is commonly assumed. The yawning cultural divide becomes visible in high-stakes
    battles that force spectators to choose sides. The cultural divide has a strong geographical dimension. Despite the tight race in many states, most produced landslide victories of 54 percent or better.

    The case against a constitutional amendment for different sexed marriages only:

    Instead of attempting to tackle vexing, divisive lifestyle and moral issues at the national level, let us agree to disagree and settle them on a state-by-state basis.

    Such federalism would enable us to manage our differences on important questions in a tolerant, sensible fashion. Instead of attempting to find a uniform, rigid compromise for a vast and diverse country in an all-or-nothing national battle on moral issues that make it hard to "split the difference," we would face the easier task of finding varying acceptable compromises in a series of relatively more homogeneous states. Most Americans prefer local state laws than to a national politics of one-size-fits-all.

    The case for cultural federalism presumes that citizens hold divergent but
    legitimate preferences and values


    The right course is this: drag the Electoral College abolition program
    into full public view, make it the centerpiece of the post Florida reform drama, hold elaborate, nationally televised hearings.

    The federalism case against national "solutions" will require some courage and ingenuity. But it is a case that federalists can win.

    Serious federalism frees states to be autonomous and competing power centers against national schemes. It gives states' both as political institutions and as groupings of self-governing citizens.

    Let us agree to disagree and settle them on a state-by-state basis

    Instead of an all-or-nothing national battle , it's easier within relatively homogeneous states. Federalism presumes that citizens hold different but legitimate issues.

    All but two states, Maine and Nebraska,
    have a winner-take-all approach for their electors. And while there are no existing federal laws demanding that all electoral delegates of a state vote unanimously, it is a tradition that is rarely broken.

    Thus, states have the power to reform the Electoral College without amending the Constitution. Changing the selection of electors to reflect the proportions of the popular vote in each state would help achieve more accurate representation of all voters' intentions, not just a majority, no
    matter how slim.

    For example, under a proportionate system, if a candidate receives 30 percent of the votes in a 10-delegate state, he or she would get votes from three electors.

    If proportional representation were implemented in our Electoral College, third party candidates, such as Ralph Nader, would have the chance to earn their own votes without completely spoiling a particularly tight race.

    Vice President Cheney said he supports President Bush's call for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. I know it's a red herring issue to distract the voters from real problems. Why are Republicans in favor of nationalizing such a private matter? True Republicans want less government intruding into people's personal lives. Instead of attempting to tackle vexing, divisive lifestyle and moral issues at the national level,
    let us agree to disagree and settle them on a state-by-state basis.
    Focus on more important National issues this year in 2004 instead of on moral
    issues Federalism presumes that citizens hold divergent but legitimate
    preferences and values, that's why we have the Electoral System, it's the
    states that vote, (through electors). The Electoral College was created
    , as a "check" against mob rule considered to stupid to rule itself. The
    third reason for the Electoral College was slaves - but we just rent 'em
    now at McJob's. . . .

    March 23, 2004

    Spy, Adulterer,

    In late November the government

    the man it had portrayed as a grave threat to national security and let
    him return to duty at Fort Benning, Georgia. In a desperate attempt to beef
    up their indictment, prosecutors tacked on charges of adultery, based on
    a two-month affair that Yee had with a female lieutenant at Guantanamo, and
    conduct unbecoming an officer, based on pornography investigators found
    on Yee's government-issued laptop computer.

    Senate Republicans

    backed down Thursday from an effort to make permanent the Patriot Act's
    sweeping anti-terrorism powers, clearing the way for passage of a less divisive
    measure that would still expand the government's ability to spy on foreign
    terrorist suspects in the United States.

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, dropped his effort
    to extend provisions of the Patriot Act, whose broad powers to investigate
    and track terrorists suspects are scheduled to expire in 2005.

    As a result, the Senate voted 90-4 to approve a measure expanding the government's
    ability to use secret surveillance tools against terrorist suspects who are
    not thought to be members of known terrorist groups.

    "There's a delicate balance between liberty and security," said Sen. Charles
    Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the authors of the so-called "lone wolf" counter-terrorism
    measure. "It's a see-saw, and that's the debate that we're seeing now in Congress."

    Hatch's effort to try to make the Patriot Act permanent set off immediate
    criticism from civil liberties groups and lawmakers, including some Republicans,
    who said Congress needed more time to scrutinize how the Patriot Act was working
    -- and whether law enforcement officials were abusing it -- before revisiting

    The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003,

    written by the staff of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and kept secret
    until an anonymous insider leaked a copy to a non-partisan civil rights watchdog
    group in Washington, DC, on Jan. 9. It has since received little coverage
    by mass media outlets.

    The bill includes sections that give powers to the executive branch of the
    government that have never before been granted in the government’s history.

    For example, top Federal officials may now keep all their financial activities
    secret, and investigating them will be considered terrorism under the new

    The Federal government will be able use martial law powers domestically
    and internationally without Congress declaring a state of war.

    Companies dealing with highly toxic materials will no longer have to release
    information to the public about the threat a facility poses to the surrounding
    environment for fear that terrorists could use the information to pick a site
    for an attack.

    The new bill also excludes any “sunset clause” that would render it void
    after five years as the first one did. It is intended as a permanent change
    in the Federal government’s application of the bill of rights

    Prosecutor Profiles

    A Poisoned Prosecution

    in sexual abuse cases damages reputations—and can ruin lives

    Trning on Their Own

    A group of
    former prosecutors cites a colleague's pattern of misconduct

    Playing By the Rules

    Even when
    a prosecutor tries to do everything right, the wrong person may still be convicted


    Section 213 of
    the PATRIOT Act

    actually allows the FBI to put on gloves and black clothing, pick the lock
    to your home and sift through your personal belongings, leaving nothing out
    of place. It permits them to rifle through all your personal effects — from
    your personal papers to your pornography collection — all while leaving nothing
    out of place. They leave as silently and invisibly as they came, giving no
    indication that they have been there.


    Powell, Rumsfeld, Albright & Cohen Secs.
    Powell & Rumsfeld, plus former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright &
    former Defense Sec. William Cohen, testify before the Sept. 11 Commission.

    ON C-SPAN AT 9AM & C-SPAN3 AT 1:30PM


    March 22, 2004
    Vote 2004!

    Click for Large Photo

    Arab journalists walk out of the hall during the press conference of U.S.
    Secretary of State Colin Powell (

    web sites

    ) in Baghdad, Iraq (

    web sites

    ), Friday March 19, 2004. Arab journalists walked out of a news conference
    held by Powell in a protest against the shooting deaths of two Iraqi reporters,
    allegedly by U.S. troops. A reporter for Arab satellite television station
    Al-Arabiya died from his wounds Friday after U.S. soldiers shot him hours
    earlier along with a cameraman, who died at the scene, the station said. The
    death brought to five the number of journalists killed in Iraq in less than
    24 hours. (AP Photo/Murad Sezer)

    "Stephen’s Guide to the Logical Fallacies"

    Fallacies of Distraction

    False Dilemma

    Argument From Ignorance( argumentum ad ignorantiam )

    Slippery Slope

    Complex Question

    Appeals to Motives in Place of Support

    Appeal to Force ( argumentum ad baculum )

    Appeal to Pity (argumentum ad misercordiam )

    Appeal to Consequences( argumentum ad consequentiam )

    Prejudicial Language

    Appeal to Popularity (argumentum ad populum )

    Changing the Subject

    Attacking the Person ( argumentum
    ad hominem )

    Appeal to Authority( argumentum ad verecundiam )
    Click here for more explanation.


    Anonymous Authorities

    Style Over Substance

    Inductive Fallacies

    Inductive reasoning consists on inferring from the properties of
    a sample to the properties of a population as a whole. For example, suppose
    we have a barrel containing of 1,000 beans. Some of the beans are black
    and some of the beans are white. Suppose now we take a sample of 100 beans
    from the barrel and that 50 of them are white and 50 of them are black.
    Then we could infer inductively that half the beans in the barrel (that is,
    500 of them) are black and half are white. All inductive reasoning depends
    on the similarity of the sample and the population. The more similar the
    sample is to the population as a whole, the more reliable will be the inductive
    inference. On the other hand, if the sample is relevantly dissimilar to the
    population, then the inductive inference will be unreliable. No inductive
    inference is perfect. That means that any inductive inference can sometimes
    fail. Even though the premises are true, the conclusion might be false. Nonetheless,
    a good inductive inference gives us a reason to believe that the conclusion
    is probably true.

    Hasty Generalization

    Unrepresentative Sample

    False Analogy

    Slothful Induction

    Fallacy of Exclusion

    Fallacies Involving Statistical Syllogisms

    A statistical generalization is a statement which is usually true,
    but not always true. Very often these are expressed using the word "most",
    as in "Most conservatives favour welfare cuts." Sometimes the word "generally"
    is used, as in "Conservatives generally favour welfare cuts." Or, sometimes,
    no specific word is used at all, as in: "Conservatives favour welfare cuts."
    Fallacies involving statistical generalizations occur because the generalization
    is not always true. Thus, when an author treats a statistical generalization
    as though it were always true, the author commits a fallacy.


    Converse Accident

    Causal Fallacies

    It is common for arguments to conclude that one thing causes another.
    But the relation between cause and effect is a complex one. It is easy
    to make a mistake. In general, we say that a cause C is the cause of an
    effect E if and only if: (i) Generally, if C occurs, then E will occur,
    and (ii) Generally, if C does not occur, then E will not occur either. We
    say "generally" because there are always exceptions. For example: We say
    that striking the match causes the match to light, because: (i) Generally,
    when the match is struck, it lights (except when the match is dunked in water),
    and (ii) Generally, when the match is not struck, it does not light (except
    when it is lit with a blowtorch). Many writers also require that a causal
    statement be supported with a natural law. For example, the statement that
    "striking the match causes it to light" is supported by the principle that
    "friction produces heat, and heat produces fire".

    Coincidental Correlation ( post hoc ergo prompter hoc )

    Joint Effect

    Genuine but Insignificant Cause

    Wrong Direction

    Complex Cause

    Missing the Point

    These fallacies have in common a general failure to prove that the
    conclusion is true.

    Begging the Question (petitio principii)

    Irrelevant Conclusion ( ignoratio elenchi )

    Straw Man

    Fallacies of Ambiguity

    The fallacies in this section are all cases where a word or phrase
    is used unclearly. There are two ways in which this can occur. (i) The
    word or phrase may be ambiguous, in which case it has more than one distinct
    meaning. (ii) The word or phrase may be vague, in which case it has no distinct




    Category Errors

    These fallacies occur because the author mistakenly assumes that
    the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts. However, things joined
    together may have different properties as a whole than any of them do separately.




    The term non sequitur literally means "it does not follow". In this
    section we describe fallacies which occur as a consequence of invalid arguments.

    Affirming the Consequent

    Denying the Antecedent


    Astronomers and historians

    of science alike say they cannot remember any other time in modern
    scientific history when the world's most powerful telescope was simply abandoned,
    without a better one ready to replace it. "Usually other instruments are
    there and taking over," says Owen Gingerich, emeritus historian of science
    at Harvard University who specializes in astronomy. "You don't have this
    interim gap where you throw away an instrument that is producing heavily
    in anticipation of something else."

    Moreover, though the politics of NASA's decision have been widely debated
    -- the agency says its rationale is safety, but skeptics believe the Hubble
    is being sacrificed to pay for President Bush's goal of sending astronauts
    to Mars -- fewer people recognize that scientists are enjoying one of
    the most productive moments in Hubble's history

    Any choice between Hubble and a manned Mars mission is a choice between
    two distinct modes of astronomical exploration. Mars presents a specific,
    long-term undertaking -- and an all-or-nothing gamble. Hubble would provide
    a wider-ranging, more immediate, and steadier flow of discoveries. Perlmutter,
    for one, believes that such broad, steady progress will best raise the
    level of science and technology available over time, to the benefit of

    The average distance between the Earth
    and the Moon is 238,900 or about 240,000 miles.

    Although some gas molecules and particles out to about 40,000 mi are trapped
    by the earth's gravitational and magnetic fields, the density of the atmosphere
    at an altitude of about 6,000 mi is comparable to that of interplanetary

    A 100-foot-diameter asteroid

    passed close but harmlessly by Earth on Thursday, astronomers said. The
    hurtling rock passed about 26,500 miles above the southern Atlantic Ocean
    at 2:08 p.m. PT.

    The White House went on the offensive

    today against President Bush's former top terrorism adviser, Richard A.
    Clarke, over criticism of Bush's handling of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist

    Clarke served more than two years in the current Bush administration
    after holding top posts under presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and
    Bill Clinton.

    Interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America" about his book, "Against All
    Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," Clarke said this morning that the
    day after the Sept. 11 attacks, "the president, in a very intimidating way,
    left us -- me and my staff -- with the clear implication that he wanted us
    to come back with the word that there was an Iraqi hand behind 9/11 because
    they had been planning to do something about Iraq from before the time they
    came into office.

    Rice did not dispute that the meeting took place, saying Bush wanted
    to "keep an open mind" on whether "there was some link, for instance, to Iraq,
    with whom we had a history, including Iraq's attempt to assassinate former
    president [George H.W.] Bush" during a visit to Kuwait.

    Clarke said that after debating for a week after Sept. 11 whether
    to attack Iraq or Afghanistan, the administration decided that "they had to
    do Afghanistan first" because it was obvious that al Qaeda, which was based
    in Afghanistan, was behind the attacks. But he said the response "was slow
    and small" and the Bush administration did not go all out to send troops into
    Afghanistan and eliminate al Qaeda and bin Laden because it was holding back
    a larger effort for Iraq.

    "We should have put U.S. special forces in immediately, not many weeks later,"
    Clark told ABC. "U.S. special forces didn't get into the area where bin Laden
    was for two months, and we tried to have the Afghans do it. You know, basically
    the president botched the response to 9/11. He should have gone right after
    Afghanistan, right after bin Laden. And then he made the whole war on terrorism
    so much worse by invading Iraq.

    March 19, 2004


    The reason the United States has a two-party system

    is that no one wants to waste their vote and end up helping the wrong guy
    even when the other guy is not that great either. For this reason, the predominate
    two political parties enjoy a lock on the overwhelming majority of votes,
    despite possible mutual lackluster performance.

    Electoral College

    Why did the founding fathers give us this ridiculous institution? There
    were several reasons, but none of them was good. The founders were not much
    in favor of democracy anyway, and hoped that an indirect election would keep
    popular majorities from threatening the privileges of the rich--see
    Federalist Paper

    #10, or Charles Beard's classic work,
    An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution

    . More directly, though, the Electoral College was meant to protect

    disadvantage to direct election of the president, and this problem is easily
    fixed. If we chose the president the way we do governors, by plurality vote,
    a president could be elected without any majority -- either of the voters
    or of the Electoral College. This system would encourage the cynical and
    corrupt strategy (by candidates) of placing "straw" candidates in the election
    to take votes away from your opponent, and the equally cynical practice (by
    voters) of "strategic voting" -- voting for the candidate you think will
    win, rather than the candidate you believe in.

    The answer to this problem is to require election by a majority of the
    votes. This could be done expensively, by having a second election, limited
    to the top two candidates, a week after the first. But it could be done
    cheaply by using the Instant Runoff Vote. With the Instant
    Runoff--used in Australia, for example--voters mark their first, second,
    third, etc. choices on the ballot. A candidate with a majority of first-choice
    votes is elected. If no candidate has a majority, the lowest-ranking candidate
    is eliminated, and his or her votes redistributed to whoever was the second
    choice on those ballots. (This can all be done electronically and fast).
    This process continues until one candidate achieves a majority, and is elected--and
    eveyone knows that an absolute majority preferred that candidate to whoever
    finished second.

    Let's do it! Amending the Constitution is not easy -- but if the US is
    to retain any semblance of democray, it has to be done.

    A wasted vote is not on the "wrong"
    candidate but one that has been voided due to faulty polling procedures
    and methods. Hanging Chads and paperless DRE's ,along with unequal
    application of counting standards within a Federal State is systematized
    election tampering.

    In a proportional system

    , the number of seats each party gets corresponds to the percentage
    of votes it receives (as long as it reaches a specified minimum,
    e.g., 5 percent).

    Defenders of the two-party system argue that multi-party
    PR societies are prone to gridlock, citing Italy and Israel.
    But it isn’t so. Other PR societies, like Germany, Switzerland,
    Sweden, and the Netherlands, are much more efficient than
    the United States at enacting policy. Besides, are winner-take-all
    rules discredited by the fact that imperfect democracies like
    Algeria, Pakistan, and India have adopted them?

    America is, as we all know, the greatest country that
    ever was. But might not the rest of the world be right about
    something? According to the Center for Voting and
    Democracy (an invaluable resource for voting reform; see
    “Currently there are 41 well-established democracies with
    at least two million inhabitants and high ratings from the
    human rights organization Freedom House, and of these 41 nations
    only two—the United States and Canada—do not use a form of
    proportional or semi-proportional voting systems to elect
    one of their national legislatures.”

    One thing is certain: if proportional representation,
    instant-runoff voting, and kindred reforms had been in place
    in 2000, not only the voters but all three leading presidential
    candidates as well would be better off today. George Bush
    could have played golf all winter and sailed his father’s
    boat all summer. Ralph Nader would have successfully launched
    the Green Party into national politics. And Al Gore would
    be in the White House. <

    Electoral system

    s seek to fulfill objectives which are sometimes scarcely compatible
    with each other: on the one hand, to reflect fairly faithfully the
    opinions of the people, and on the other, to channel currents of thought
    so as to promote the emergence of a sufficiently clear and coherent
    political will. In these circumstances the phrase ”conditions which
    will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice
    of the legislature” implies essentially
    - apart from freedom of expression (already protected under Article
    10 of the Convention )- the principle of equality of treatment of all
    citizens in the exercise of the right to vote and their right to stand
    for election. It does not follow, however, that all votes must necessarily
    have equal weight as regards the outcome of the election or that all candidates
    must have equal chances of victory. Thus no electoral system can eliminate
    ”wasted votes” ( March 2, 1987
    Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Mathieu- Mohin and Clerfayt

    Change of essential electoral
    provisions shortly before the regular elections negatively influences
    the procedure of the elections. If an issue on alteration of electoral
    provisions arises, a certain time limit is needed to allow public to express
    its viewpoint.

    The English rule, which holds that a ballot should not be counted for
    a candidate known to be ineligible as that candidate is not capable of
    being selected, and that a vote knowingly so cast for one ineligible or
    who has died is thrown away. It is seen as deliberately wasted vote which
    should not be counted in the determination of the outcome of the election.

    According to this view, the
    voter's knowledge of the death of disqualification of the candidate is
    not material and that vote is not to be treated as void or thrown away but
    to be counted in determining the result of the election as regards to the
    other candidates. Under this view the election is rendered nugatory,

    ( no

    ; inoperative
    ; ineffectual
    , since the candidate
    receiving the highest number of votes is deceased or disqualified and
    the resulting vacancy must be filled according to law

    "An election is the deliberate
    choice of a majority or plurality of the electoral body. This is evidenced
    by the votes of the electors. But, if a majority of those voting, by mistake
    of law or fact, happen to cast their votes upon an ineligible candidate,
    it by no means follows that the next to him on the poll should receive the
    office. If this be so, a candidate might be elected who received only a
    small portion of the votes and who never could have been elected at all but
    for this mistake. The votes are not less legal votes because given to a
    person in whose behalf they cannot be counted; and the person who is the
    next to him on the list of candidates does not receive a plurality of votes
    because his competitor was ineligible. The votes cast for the latter, it is
    true, cannot be counted for him; but that is no reason why they should, in
    effect, be counted for the former, who, possibly, could never have received
    them. It is fairer, more just and more consistent with the theory of our institutions,
    to hold the votes so cast as merely ineffectual for the purpose of an election,
    than to give them the effect of disappointing the popular will, and electing
    to office a man whose pretensions the people had designed to reject."

    1970 -

    - ballot access law Supreme Court

    Although restrictive ballot access is one reason behind the failure of third
    parties or substantive change to capture a majority of the electorate in this
    century, it helps to show the withering of democracy in a meaningless political

    Restricted access to the ballot was not always the case. Up until the late
    19th century, each political party was responsible for printing its own ballots.
    Individual states were only responsible for enforcing a fair count. Political
    parties were private associations and unregulated as such. Free to organize
    and function without government supervision, an epidemic of fraud and bribery
    in intra-party elections erupted during the post-Civil War period. Such a
    break-down in the responsibility and respect required by freedom became an
    open invitation for the states to step in.

    Legislative intrusion took the form of the Australian ballot and the institutionalization
    of the primary election as we know it today. Once the state took control
    of printing the ballots, the need for criteria to determine who should be
    listed on the ballot arose -- along with all of the restrictive measures
    determined by administrative fancy. "Thus the ostensibly neutral state's
    control over printing ballots became a crucial wedge to influence government
    control over party politics."

    a hodge-podge of ballot requirements exists from state to state, eliminating
    any hope of an even playing field for new parties' candidates or new political
    perspectives gaining a foothold in national consciousness. Debate in Supreme
    Court chambers over the constitutionality of excessive state limitations
    center around these criteria: promoting political stability, preventing ballot
    overcrowding, protecting the integrity of a two-party system, preventing
    party raiding by voters of another party, preventing the splintering of political
    parties and unrestrained factionalism, protecting the reliability and integrity
    of the election process, prohibiting candidacies prompted by short-range
    political goals, pique or personal quarrel, avoiding voter confusion, preventing
    fraud, and perhaps least of all, providing a fair and non-discriminatory
    opportunity for access to the ballot by all candidates and political parties.

    None Of The Above. Fusion allows third party members to vote for major partisan
    candidates with the distinction of having their vote linked to their own
    party name

    People say that they're afraid to vote for a third party candidate because
    it would take votes away from their second, major party favorite -- that
    voting according to their true preference might backfire and they'd get stuck
    with the worse of two evils -- equaling a wasted vote. But pause for a moment.
    If you don't express your true preference with your vote, then you
    aren't really counted. No one knows how you really want things to be and
    then you truly have wasted your vote.

    The wasted vote

    there is no such thing as a wasted vote.

    Why should I vote for some Democrat who isn't going to come any closer
    to doing what I want as a Republican? Tthey're all rich white dudes who have
    no fucking idea what it is like to live my life? A third party votes
    have the ability to split a party and throw the election to the other side.

    But this isn't a football game. We're not talking about trading players
    here. My vote may not win the election, but I will use it to announce that
    I am not happy with the way things are. That I do want a change.
    I will suffer through an age of Republicans or Democrats. I will protest.
    I will rant. I will yell. And I will continue to send the message. I will
    not give in.

    Don't tell me that any vote for one's beliefs is wasted.

    Posted by LegendaryMonkey at November 30, 2002 03:49

    Posted on Fri, Nov. 01, 2002

    The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday ordered all 87 counties to provide
    a new ballot to any absentee voter who wants one — a marked change in state
    policy that still fell far short of what the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party
    had asked for .

    (Even the Nevada Legislature
    agrees that you can't trust the Nevada Voting System!)

    State Audit Cites Lax Supervision of New
    Nevada Computer

    System by

    Secretary of State Heller (click)

    (lax: careless, derelict, forgetful, negligent)

    Associated Press


    How Your Parents' Votes Were Counted

    Paper Ballot. At the end of the day
    after the polls had closed, neighborhood people, Democrats and
    Republicans, worked together to count the votes in the precinct
    (polling place) BEFORE the votes left that precinct. The count was
    then posted at the precinct polling place for all to see. This is
    the only way to insure a verifiable election. Variations of method
    are possible, but the elements of physical ballots which are counted
    and posted at the precinct before the ballots leave each
    precinct are essential to insure a fair and honest count.

    About 1974 , the votes were
    no longer being counted in the precincts by neighborhood people.
    The switch was on to computer vote counting systems.

    The first words spoken by President-elect,
    George Bush in his Nov. 8, 1988 victory speech in Houston, Texas.
    Bush said: "We can now speak the most majestic words a
    democracy can offer: "The people have spoken. . . "

    "It was not "the People" of the United
    States who did 'the speaking' on that election day, although most
    of them believed it was, and still believe it. In fact, the People
    did not speak at all. The voices most of us really heard
    that day were the voices of computers strong, loud, authoritative,
    unquestioned in their electronic finality....

    One of the most mysterious, low-profile,
    covert, shadowy, questionable mechanisms of American democracy
    is the DRE.

    "How Elections Are Stolen"
    in American Opinion magazine written in 1977 by Dr. Susan L.M. Huc.
    When the Cincinnati newspapers failed to mention the computer crash
    the next morning and the accompanying candidate position shake up
    this was our first taste of the media blackout that dozens
    of other concerned citizens were experiencing all over the nation.

    After due research and preparation,
    we filed suit against our local Board of Elections in 1981, and
    after 4 years of public service litigation conducted by my Father,
    James J. Condit Sr., our side won a decisive victory. Judge Richard
    Niehaus ruled: "There is no adequate and proper safeguard against
    the computers being programmed to distort the election results."

    Judge Niehaus also issued
    a court order allowing us and our chosen experts "to observe all
    phases of the election process" on election night 1985 with a view
    that we bring evidence back to his court so that the situation could
    be properly remedied.

    The Colliers had already video-filmed
    women punching votes out of voters' ballots at the Board of Elections
    on election night 1982 in Miami, Florida.

    And to my surprise (but not
    to theirs), the Colliers also caught women on camera plucking votes
    out of punchcard ballots in Cincinnati, this time using household

    Disappointingly, Judge Niehaus
    (in his tennis shoes) was summoned down to the Board of Elections
    at about 7:30 PM on that 1985 election night by the heads of both
    the Republican and Democratic Parties. The Judge, in a highly unusual
    move, modified his court order on the spot insisting that observing
    "all phases of the election process" did not include videotaping!

    The audio portion of the confrontation
    between Ken Collier on the one hand, and the Judge and both local
    Party heads on the other, is captured on a video camera which was
    pointed at the floor during the tense exchange. The Colliers were
    told to quit videotaping under threat of arrest.

    (Oct. 30, 1987), reporter
    Randy Ludlow wrote an outstanding article in the Cincinnati Post.

    Eventually a cornucopia of
    press coverage did ensue but it focused on other aspects of the
    story, while maintaining the brutal cover-up of the vote fraud issue.
    All the rest of the coverage was devoted to relative trivia such
    as which millionaires and organizations had been allegedly phone
    tapped, speculation as to why, etc. etc. etc.

    "The Dangers of Computerized
    Voting" appeared as a cover story in the Nov. 7, 1988 issue of New
    Yorker magazine (This dynamite article is available in most libraries).

    In August of 1988, the U.S.
    Bureau of Commerce published a comprehensive study under the auspices
    of the National Bureau of Standards by Roy G. Saltman, Special Publication
    500-158 entitled "Accuracy, Integrity, and Security in Computerized

    This is probably the most
    comprehensive compilation of all the lawsuits and other aspects
    which surround the issue of computerized voting published thus far.
    This government study supports Dugger's article, as well as supplies
    mountains of evidence documenting the problems with computer vote-counting

    The thus-far successful suppression
    of the votescam issue from widespread public notice is a chilling
    demonstration of major media censorship in America.

    Condorcet Voting

    In the Condorcet election method, voters rank the candidates in order of
    preference. The vote counting procedure then takes into account each preference
    of each voter for one candidate over another. It does so by conceptually
    breaking the election down into a series of separate races between each possible
    pairing of candidates, hence it is sometimes referred to as a "pairwise"
    method. If one of the candidates beats each of the other candidates in their
    one-on-one race, then that candidate wins. Otherwise, the result is ambiguous
    and a standard procedure is used to resolve the ambiguity. Unlike conventional
    plurality voting, Condorcet voting gives voters little incentive to falsify
    their true preferences.

    Electronic voting is
    inherently vulnerable to tampering,

    and integrity cannot be ensured unless the following precautions are taken.

    First, all public DRE voting systems for general elections should automatically
    produce paper ballots that are readable both by the voter and by machine.
    No matter how tight computer security may be, someone must ultimately have
    unsupervised access to the system, and computer data files are simply too
    easy to delete or manipulate. Paper ballots in sealed ballot boxes cannot
    be easily "deleted" or manipulated as long as they are in the custody of
    more than one person. The paper ballots should be used as the primary source
    of data, and the electronically recorded votes should be used for a fast
    (but tentative) count and as a backup in case of lost or damaged paper ballots.
    If properly implemented, a combination of electronic and paper ballots
    can provide much better integrity than either mode can provide by itself


    Second, all public DRE voting systems should be based on open computer architecture
    and open-source software. "Black boxes" and proprietary software are unnecessary
    and should not be used for public voting systems. Closed systems are an invitation
    to tampering or outright subversion of the electoral process

    March 18, 2004

    A voter's ballot

    is one of the most important documents that exists in a free society.
    To entrust this document to an entirely computerized system run on secret
    software with no paper audit trail is to ask voters, candidates (winners
    and losers alike) and parties to exercise blind trust in the voting system.
    Given the limitations of current technology, a voter-verified, paper
    audit trail is the only proven way to mitigate the real (and perceived)
    security risks inherent in any computerized voting system, such as programming
    errors, the use of unauthorized software, and deliberate attempts to
    manipulate an election

    Let's solve the problem before November 2004.

    Let's pass H.R.2239/S.1980.

    Help America Vote Act

    —the 2002 legislation that provides funding for new voting equipment—to
    require a voter-verified paper record for the 2004 elections. That bill,
    H.R. 2239, now has 94 co-sponsors, including three Republicans.

    We advocate the use of voter-verified paper ballots for all elections in
    the United States, so voters can inspect individual permanent records of their
    ballots before they are cast and so meaningful recounts may be conducted.

    Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) voters personally verify vote
    is accurately recorded while providing a proper audit capability should
    problems arise with the electronic count.

    Latest scandal broke in mid-December,

    when an audit by Shelley's office revealed that Diebold had installed uncertified
    software in all 17 California counties

    Voting machine showdown

    A leading maker of computer election equipment defends itself
    in court against charges that it overreached itself in trying to stifle

    - - - - - - - - - - - -

    By Farhad Manjoo

    Feb. 10, 2004 | SAN JOSE, Calif. --
    Diebold, one of the nation's leading manufacturers of computerized voting
    machines, faced off against some of its critics on Monday in U.S. District
    Court. But this time, the question at issue wasn't whether
    the machines could be hacked,

    but whether Diebold was abusing the principles of free speech in an attempt
    to quash the critics.

    Late in the summer of 2003, Diebold found itself at the center of a white-hot
    controversy over the trustworthiness of the American democratic process.
    For several months, activists and academics concerned about the security
    of touch-screen voting systems had closely scrutinized the company, and they'd
    found much to worry about: Diebold's voting machines were said to be full
    of security flaws, and its CEO turned out to be a major supporter of George
    W. Bush. Then, activists found what they called the smoking gun -- a stash
    of thousands of internal e-mail messages that appeared to prove that Diebold
    was up to no good.

    In the
    e-mail messages,

    which were quickly posted on left-leaning sites across the Web, Diebold
    engineers seem to acknowledge that their products aren't very secure, and
    they appear to discuss methods of
    hiding the problems

    rather than fixing them. The documents were, naturally, extremely embarrassing
    to Diebold, which had always maintained that its engineers were the paragon
    of professionalism, and the firm moved quickly to stifle their publication.

    The company claimed that its internal messages were property protected
    by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and it sent out dozens of cease-and-desist
    letters to Web sites and Internet service providers (ISPs) involved in the
    publication of the documents. The company targeted not only ISPs that hosted
    sites that posted the messages but also ISPs that hosted sites that merely
    linked to the documents, and even ISPs that provided Internet service to
    other ISPs that hosted sites that linked to documents.

    In court on Monday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other guardians
    of digital civil liberties argued that Diebold went too far. By hastily
    sending out cease-and-desist letters, Diebold abused the powers of the DMCA,
    EFF attorneys said. Even though Diebold ultimately

    its threatening letter to ISPs and promised not to sue anyone "for copyright
    infringement for the non-commercial use of the materials posted to date,"
    the plaintiffs argued that Diebold ought to be punished for initially attempting
    use copyright law to stifle speech. "We think it's important that the court
    make it clear that if you misuse the powers the DMCA has granted copyright
    holders, there are going to be serious consequences," said Cindy Cohn, EFF's
    legal director, in an interview before the hearing.

    For critics of the long reach of the DMCA, the EFF's argument is an attractive
    one. In recent years, copyright law has been used to "chill" many instances
    of seemingly legitimate, First Amendment-protected speech -- everything
    from research
    papers showing the vulnerabilities in music copy-protection schemes

    to Harry Potter-inspired
    erotic fan fiction.

    (The Chilling
    Effects Clearinghouse,

    run by the EFF and several universities, documents this trend.)

    But Diebold argued at the hearing that its actions were not obviously
    beyond the pale. Temporarily chilling speech, it suggested, is a right that
    Congress has sanctioned in copyright legislation, and Diebold acted well
    within the DMCA when it sent takedown notices to ISPs. Under the law, said
    Robert Mittelstaedt, Diebold's attorney, a firm can ask providers to remove
    content as long as they have a reasonable sense that the content is copyrighted.
    Because Diebold did not "make a knowing misrepresentation" that its content
    was protected by the DMCA, it should not be liable for any damages stemming
    from its letters, he said.

    In the case, the EFF is representing the Online Policy Group, a San Francisco
    ISP that provides Internet services to hundreds of nonprofit groups, including
    the San Francisco Indymedia
    site, which published several links to other sites hosting the Diebold
    memos last fall. On Oct. 10, Diebold sent OPG a letter demanding that it
    remove the links. For technical reasons, OPG could not just remove the links
    -- it could only pull down the entire Indymedia site, which officials at
    OPG thought was an overreaction to a simple link. Diebold also sent a cease-and-desist
    letter to Hurricane Electric, a firm that provides what's known as "upstream"
    Internet access to OPG -- meaning that Hurricane is essentially OPG's ISP.
    For similar technical reasons, Hurricane also could not force Indymedia to
    remove the offending link; it could only block Internet access to OPG, meaning
    that Indymedia as well as every other site hosted by OPG would go dark,
    all for a simple link.

    The EFF argues that because Diebold was never going to publish and sell
    its internal discussions, the company's copyright claims on the e-mails
    were obviously weak, and that the activists who published the e-mails were
    acting within their "fair use" rights. Diebold ought to have investigated
    whether the activists had a legitimate fair-use claim before it sent out
    the takedown notices, Cohn argued; its rash action suggested that it was
    more interested in stifling speech than in pursuing a legitimate DMCA claim.

    "What happened at Diebold was, they said, 'Hey, there's this embarrassing
    stuff online,'" Cohn said in an interview. "So their lawyers said, 'Here's
    this easy way to get them down -- we don't have to go to a judge, we just
    say they're copyrighted.' Diebold says, 'Sure, that's cheaper.' What we'd
    like to have interjected in that conversation is a lawyer saying, 'Wait
    a minute, we don't have a valid copyright claim.'" EFF asked the judge to
    make Diebold pay the OPG's attorneys fees and other damages as a way to
    deter other firms from too quickly reaching for the DMCA.

    At the center of this case is the question of whether it should have been
    obvious to Diebold that its copyright claim was weak. Diebold argues that
    it isn't obvious that the people who posted the material online had a fair-use
    right to do so. There is, for instance, no fair-use right to publish documents
    that are judged especially important to the public good, and publishing
    all of the e-mails (rather than excerpts from them) might also have run
    afoul of fair-use doctrines. Diebold's claim was not frivolous, Mittelstaedt
    said, "therefore no damages."

    Diebold could very well be right. The firm might reasonably have decided
    that activists had no fair-use right to publish the company's internal discussions
    -- but if Diebold is correct, and it turns out that the DMCA does, as the
    company asserts, give a company the right to shut down hundreds of Web sites
    just to get at one hyperlink, that by itself would be a damning commentary
    on current copyright law.

    The judge in the case, Jeremy Fogel, seemed troubled by this prospect
    but was also deferential to Diebold's view that what it did was within the
    law. Fogel said he'd try to issue his decision within a month or two.

    Psst? Wanna get a look at some vote-counting software?

    A computer programmer discovers a widely used computerized
    voting program on a publicly accessible Internet server.

    - - - - - - - - - - - -

    By Farhad Manjoo

    Oct. 30, 2003 | Software used to count
    the votes in as many as 16 states has been found available on a publicly
    accessible Internet server. The files, which appear to reveal technical details
    about how votes are stored in machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems, have
    been accessible on the site for at least two years.

    A computer programmer, who asked not to be named for fear of legal retaliation
    from Sequoia, says that he came upon the FTP server holding the files on
    Friday, when he visited the Web site of
    Jaguar Computer Systems,

    a computer consulting firm in Southern California that provides technical
    services to, among other customers, Riverside County. In the 2000 presidential
    election, Riverside became the first county in the nation to employ touch-screen
    machines in its precincts. Its machines are made by Sequoia.

    Jaguar's site advertises its FTP server as a service to help clients who
    want to download files from the firm: "Our FTP site is,"
    it says. "We support 'anonymous' logins and our '/PUB' directory is stuffed
    with many of the files that we use." When the activist logged in to this
    FTP site, he spotted a file called -- a 44-megabyte file that
    turned out to be the installation program for software that tallies the votes
    in Sequoia's voting software.

    When contacted for comment, Alfie Charles, a spokesman for Sequoia Voting
    Systems, was surprised to hear that the file was available on a public site.
    Later, Charles e-mailed Salon a statement denying responsibility for the
    security breach, but asserting that the availability of the code did not
    compromise the integrity of Sequoia's systems.

    Sequoia has not made this information publicly available or accessible
    and we are disturbed that it has been accessed in this inappropriate manner,"
    reads the statement.

    "A limited amount of proprietary code that is the property of Sequoia
    Voting Systems was posted on the ftp site of a consulting company hired by
    one of our customers ... While this breach of security is grossly negligent
    on the part of the county's contractor, the code that was retrieved is used
    to accumulate unofficial results on election night and does not compromise
    the integrity of the official electronic ballots themselves."

    The statement then details several levels of security that ensure the
    voting software's integrity.

    "While we are extremely disappointed that an important company asset has
    been made available to an unauthorized party, the existing policies and
    procedures for the conduct of elections ensure that there is no single point
    of failure and prevent the public exposure of that code from jeopardizing
    the integrity of any ballots or elections."

    George Hoanzl, the vice president of marketing for Jaguar Computers, was
    similarly shocked by the situation. "A WinEDS file?" he asked. "It does
    not exist."

    But when told that Salon had successfully downloaded the file, Hoanzl,
    too, said he'd look into the situation and then phone back. After about
    10 minutes, he called back to say that he could not determine how the file
    ended up on his public FTP site, which allows anyone in the world to upload
    and download files to the server. It was at least 2 years old, he said,
    and he'd never been alerted to it before. But after being told about the
    file, Jaguar shut down public access to its FTP server.

    It's unclear what, if any, vulnerabilities in the Sequoia system are posed
    by the public availability of the vote-counting software. Computer scientists
    who are familiar with voting-machine software declined to comment, explaining
    that they needed time to look over what was in the files.

    The files install a full working version of the vote-counting system on
    a user's machine. Because the program does not include source code, the
    system's innards are not completely laid bare for public review -- which
    is what happened to Diebold when Bev Harris, an author who's

    problems with touch-screen voting machines, discovered that company's
    code on a public FTP site earlier this year. In July, the source code she
    found was reviewed by scientists at Johns Hopkins and Rice universities,
    who found that security in Diebold's voting software fell "far below even
    the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts."

    But even without the source code, the Sequoia files will still provide
    some insight into the inner workings of the Sequoia system. The system is
    coded in

    a programming system used to quickly develop database applications; even
    though the Powerbuilder files have already been compiled into machine language,
    the code in these files that is used to send instructions to the voting database
    is still readable to humans. This database code -- written in the
    SQL language

    -- could possibly instruct critics of touch-screen systems (or, for that
    matter, anyone, even people without very noble intentions) on how to manipulate
    a Sequoia voting database.

    The package also included many SQL files that seem to have been used to
    set up voting templates for several elections Sequoia has run. There's a
    file for Arapahoe County, Colo.; one for Burlington County, N.J.; another
    for Lake County, Ohio -- and about a dozen others. The files all seem to
    do the same thing -- create an empty database (one whose default password
    is set to "password") that the vote-counting software will fill up on Election

    The computer programmer who found the files suggested that if someone
    wanted to fake an election, the SQL templates could provide clues regarding
    the kind of database to set up. So, for example, if you want to set up a
    fake race for Your County, USA, all you might have to do is run these SQL
    commands to create a fake data set for Your County. But there's no evidence
    that any such thing has happened, so far.

    League of Women Voters US recently published a paper on computerized
    voting, taking the position that a voter-verified paper audit
    trail to back up digital ballots is not necessary.!!
    (too messy!)


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