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The Secure Elections Act

Scrap electronic voting systems and get back to paper ballots

A bipartisan group of six Senators just introduced legislation called the Secure Elections Act that seeks to eliminate paperless voting machines from American elections. Led by Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the senators have focused on two major changes that have broad support from voting security experts. The first objective is to get rid of paperless electronic voting machines. Computer scientists have warned for two decades that these machines are vulnerable to hacking and can’t be meaningfully audited. States have begun moving away from paperless systems, but budget constraints force some to continue relying on insecure paperless equipment. The Secure Elections Act would help fund a return to more secure systems that use voter-verified paper ballots. The law’s second goal is to encourage states to perform routine post-election audits based on modern statistical techniques. Many states today only recount in the event o…

And the losers are...

Alabama election changes nothing

After the special election in Alabama to fill the state's empty seat in the US Senate, there's been a lot of talk about what the result means, what it predicts for the future, who is to blame, and on and on. None of those discussions have pay much attention to the actual numbers that matter.
Almost 3 million registered voters live in Alabama. Yet despite all the attention and hype and televised drama leading up to Election Night, only 1.3 million voters bothered to submit a ballot. Less than half of the folks who could have participated actually did.
Granted, special elections historically have a low turnout, but we didn't learn what a majority of people think or feel about the choice they offered. This was not a referendum on either person or party involved. All we learned was a confirmation of what we've known for a long time – there is no People's Democracy when less than half of the people are willing to take ownership of it.

It's the total turnout that will matter in Alabama...

The highly anticipated special election in Alabama is coming up on Tuesday, and the results will be used by either Republicans or Democrats to claim some kind of symbolic, long-term trend or another. Sadly, there will be no talk about the most important result of that evening – how large will the voter turnout be?
No national election in America can be used as a true gauge of the desires of the American people, as we have not had more than 65 percent of the eligible voters participate during the past half-century. Some years barely even half the electorate bother to do their civic duty. Now, after more than five decades of poor voter turnout, we really have no idea what the majority of voting-age citizens believe is the best way to govern ourselves.
What's worse, we don't know for certain if the votes in certain states are being counted honestly. When a digital system is used to collect votes and tally them up, that system is highly vulnerable to being hacked or manipulated in…

The Cost Of War

"If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem." — George W. Bush, Jan. 2001At the start of his presidency George Bush spoke the truth, although that didn't stop him from launching more "nation-building missions" later on. With only a few exceptions, nothing stops an American president from launching any military action they desire. The only change is that now we're never sure where our soldiers are being deployed or why they are fighting and dying. Next year's military budget will start off at $700 billion, which is more than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, France, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom altogether spend. As our defense budget increases every year, our knowledge of how that money is spent diminishes. We're ignorant of the economic truth behind our military empire. Too many of us are OK with that, but our 'ignorance is bliss' attitu…

Private profits from taxpayer dollars

Here's six good reasons why we need to reform government spending before we think about reducing taxes. This fellows run companies that contract with the US government for services. This information was first published in 2014...
 1. George Zoley, CEO of private prison giant GEO Group, made $22 million in compensation between 2008 and 2012. GEO Group makes 86 percent of its revenue from taxpayers. GEO Group writes language into private prison contracts that forces taxpayers to keep prisons full or else pay for empty beds. GEO Group has faced hundreds of lawsuits over prisoner deaths, assaults, excessive force, and more, which have led to secret court settlements.  2. David Steiner, president and CEO of Waste Management, took $45 million in compensation from 2006-2012. Waste Management makes about 50 percent of its revenue from taxpayers, says Goldman Sachs.  3. Ron Packard of K12 Inc. made more than $19 million in compensation between 2009 and 2013, despite the alarming fact that onl…

A Government Rises From Exile

The Hawaiian Nation reclaims its place in the world
(This article was first published in Hawai'i in 2000)
"Whereas the Kingdom of Hawai`i, having been in exile for one-hundred seven years due to an unlawful overthrow of its government de jure, has exercised perfect right to reestablish its proper station as an independent nation within the community of nations." -The Preamble of the Amended Hawaiian Constitution of 2000 - The archipelago known as the Hawaiian Islands is either a state within the United States - or it’s an independent nation in its own right, depending upon your point of view. In the eyes of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the World Court, Hawai`i is an independent, sovereign nation that has been occupied by the United States in violation of international law since 1893.
The Reinstated Hawaiian Government is making that international perspective visible to both visitors and residents of Hawai`i. One weekend each month, members of the sovereignty group …

The simple truth? We're only half-smart...

The Census Bureau counted 308 million people living in America in 2010. Their headcounters likely missed a couple of million heads, and several million residents deliberately ducked the census altogether because, for reasons of their own, they prefer not to be counted. Add an ever-growing population to that number and the true total sits somewhere around 320 million souls by now. Half of those people, more than 160 million of us, are below average in intelligence. In proper terms, they’re below the median when it comes to intelligence, but most folks don’t know the difference between a median and an average. But it's a simple and undeniable truth that half the people in America are smarter than the other half. Here's another: as individuals, most of us are smart enough to get by, but the larger a crowd becomes, the dumber it behaves. When humans gather in groups, a tipping point is soon reached and the group begins to grow stupid. It’s most obvious in the stadiums of professio…

Expensively Defensive

We spend a lot of money to maintain our massive military machine, because it's the largest on the planet by a factor of five. We spend $700 billion every year, not because we actually need to; we spend that much the same way a junkie will overspend to maintain an addiction.

We currently spend more on national defense than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom – combined. That should make us pretty safe here at home, but American soil is not where most of that money is being spent.

Across the globe, 156 countries have some kind of US troop presence within their borders. Only 46 don't. The Pentagon maintains more than 700 overseas military sites that we know of.

The Defense Department employs more than 3 million people overall. In 2009, the department's PR section had a staff of 27,000 people and spent $4.7 billion by itself on a wide variety of activities.

In 2010 the US military had 963 generals and admirals receiving an average sal…

Fake News Is Nothing New

"Fake News" has become a popular phrase these days. Our president certainly likes to use it, often paired with another common phrase – "mainstream media". Both are convenient but meaningless labels that misrepresent the business of publishing the news in America. The general contempt that a lot of folks have for news media is certainly nothing new. A century ago, newspapers often engaged in what was called 'yellow journalism' and reporters were held in such low esteem that they were referred to as 'ink-stained wretches'. Newspaper publisher William Hearst was the poster boy of Fake News in those days. Hearst and his editors frequently printed misleading or entirely dishonest stories that promoted Hearst's personal views or demonized people he was at odds with. That's completely different from advocacy journalism, which most news sources practice. Some even acknowledge that reality. I was once the editor of the Haleakala Times, a bi-weekly newsp…