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Hacking the vote

"Something very strange happened on election night to Deborah Tannenbaum in Volusia County. At 10 pm she called the county elections department and learned that Al Gore was leading George W. Bush 83,000 votes to 62,000. But when she checked half an hour later, she found a startling development: Gore's count had dropped by 16,000 votes, while an obscure Socialist candidate had picked up 10,00 – all because of a single precinct with only 600 voters." – Washington Post,  Nov. 12, 2000 "Anyone within a half mile of any machine could have modified every vote, undetected. I could teach you how to do it over the phone. It might require an administrator password, but that’s OK – the password is ‘admin’.”–Jeremy Epstein of SRI International on AVS WinVote machines, 2008 “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we see high turnout because of vote-by-mail. It’s extremely convenient and accessible; it’s secure and cost-effective.”–Oregon Gov. Kate Brown On Election Day, Orego…

How to rig an election

How to rig an election "Just as a controlling political party may not use public funds to pay its campaign expenses, it is also quite wrong to use public power for the sole purpose of enhancing the political strength of the majority party." ~ Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens If you were planning to steal an election, you would first need to choose between two different approaches. Our long history of rigging the popular vote can help you there. First, you could try controlling who counts the votes, or how those votes get counted. It's the most direct and effective way of defeating democracy when those votes are cast, counted and stored by electronic machines. There's a better method, one that is easier and legal, but not quite as reliable. It's done right out in the open by people we elected who redraw lines on maps to create unnatural voter districts for political purposes. Commonly known as "gerrymandering", it's a great way of gaining…

Don’t Sell Your Vote

Don’t Sell Your VoteI’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections, but as long as it’s doable, I’m going to do it.” – Billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson.
The difference between a campaign contribution and a bribe is simply this: a bribe goes directly into someone’s pocket while a contribution gets deposited into a bank account. The degree of influence remains pretty much the same in either case. But if we want to adhere to the Constitution, then we shouldn't try to stop corporations or really rich folks from investing millions of dollars in support of a candidate they like. The Supreme Court has so ruled, and they are right. On the other hand, Justice Anthony Kennedy offered this strange comment in support of the Court's decision: "We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." From where I sit out here in the woods, the amount of mo…

The Rise of the Independents

The Rise of the Independents "I don't want everybody to vote. Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." – American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) co-founder Paul Weyrich, 1983A true democracy may be the least efficient form of government, but that's because it includes more freedom than any social construction ever devised. You need consensus for it to work well; you need to seek solutions on common ground, and you need mass participation by engaged and informed citizens. Those are hard things to find in 21st Century America. Just like every other country on the planet, we have a diverse population with multiple points of view regarding how a citizen-owned government should operate. Our electoral system, however, is dominated by two political parties that aren't nearly as different from each other as they want voters to believe. Flash back to 1952 when Dwight Eisenhower was elected president, then jump forward to 20…

How to own your government

How to own your government

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power." – "
Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a message to Congress in 1938
The American people own and operate the United States government. That's the underlying truth of our democracy, even when the reality is something quite different. Just about everyone agrees that the current state of our government is ugly and dysfunctional, while everyone blames someone else for the mess. But it's all our fault – yours, mine, and the folks next door, too. We let special interest groups pay lobbyists to bribeentertain members of Congress with lavish gifts, and we allow politicians to accept bribescontributions almost without limit. Those elected representatives of the peopl…

Can I Have A Third Party, Please?

If liberty and equality are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost. - Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Americans generally don’t vote much. Our voter turnout runs as low as half in a boring presidential election year and doesn’t even rise as high as two-thirds in an interesting one. In between those national elections, we’re lucky to get half the registered voters to cast a ballot, and we’ve dropped as low as one-third many places, many times. In the 1960 presidential election, only 63 percent of the eligible voters in America actually did. When it comes to citizens exercising their civic duty, that’s the best we’ve done over the past fifty years. We’re not alone. In the United Kingdom of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, voter turnout has dropped from 84 percent in 1950 to just 65 percent in 2010. Most of that decline has come during the last fifteen years. Here in Oregon, we set a state record this year for the…

The Bill Of No Rights

You have a right to privacy under the Constitution, but you have very little privacy in your life these days, and the Constitution can’t help you get more.

I used to joke with people that because I had been placed on a government No-Fly list, they should assume that all my phone calls and emails were being recorded. And I was right – because as it turns out, almost everyone’s email and phone messages are being recorded. What was once just a common delusion among paranoid schizophrenics is now a significant part of our reality.

How I ended up a watch list is irrelevant. It’s also not clear to me exactly how it happened, or who decided that it should happen, although publishing editorials that accused the Bush/Cheney administration of committing war crimes under international law may have been a factor. I just assumed I was subject to surveillance and behaved accordingly.

But someone may be listening to you these days, too, and it’s not because you’re communicating with me. When you use…