Hacking Democracy

Farhad Manjoo of Salon reviews the HBO Documentary, Hacking Documentary. With all the unsubstantiated claims that are being accepted uncritically on some liberal blogs, it is good to read that this documentary is factual. Here’s a portion of the review:

Computer security is not an easy topic to explore on film, but “Hacking Democracy” conveys the danger in a remarkably simple manner. It does so by focusing on the slipperiness of one company, Diebold, a leading provider of touch-screen machines that has long been Harris’ chief target. Diebold has all you could ask for in a corporate enemy — ties to the Republican Party, a history of both lying to and currying favor with officials, a brusque and secretive posture in its dealings with critics and the press, and, worst of all, a pattern of technological ineptitude so startling you sometimes wonder if the people who work there are trying to sabotage the vote. The problem, Harris makes clear, isn’t just that electronic voting technology is inherently untrustworthy — the scary thing is that we’re getting bad technology from people who act oblivious to the danger. Either they don’t know how vulnerable their equipment is (which they should, as various studies have discovered alarming security flaws), or they know and aren’t admitting it. Neither scenario inspires confidence. (Diebold alleges that “Hacking Democracy” is riddled with “inaccurate reporting,” and it has called on HBO to cancel the broadcast.)

The film’s other virtue is its commitment to the facts. Regular readers know that I’ve frequently criticized people in the election-reform movement for making claims that they don’t have evidence to back up — especially that George W. Bush stole the 2004 presidential election, an allegation that, as I’ve argued before, casts any effort to repair our elections as little more than a hobbyhorse of the far left. “Hacking Democracy” criticizes the 2004 race (as I have as well), but the film doesn’t argue that Kerry won, and, in the main, it avoids conjuring the vote-stealing conspiracies that Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mark Crispin Miller and others saw in 2004. “It’s not quite as simple a picture,” Harris says of theories that the GOP has the voting companies in its back pocket. “The state of Maryland and the state of Georgia have Democrats very tightly wed to using the Diebold system, and it’s the Republicans who are fighting against it there. And in my own home county, King County, Washington, it’s the Democrats who are pushing these systems and the Republicans who are a little bit skeptical.”

Indeed, more than partisan mischief, “Hacking Democracy” really documents a parade of electoral ineptitude stretching from sea to shining sea. Here and there you find well-meaning officials and outside groups trying to make sure the vote goes well — but to watch this film is to see that too many county-level functionaries who run elections believe that covering their asses, rather than assuring an accurate vote, is the real point of the game. In one scene, Harris and her friends show up at the elections office in Volusia County, Fla., a couple of weeks after the 2004 vote. They find a garbage bag sitting outside the county’s warehouse, and when Harris tears it open she sees “poll tapes” — each voting machine’s printed tally of how many votes it recorded on Election Day — floating about in the muck. “I would think … you would be very concerned about this,” Harris says to Deanie Lowe, Volusia’s elections supervisor. “I mean, you can’t throw away polling place tapes … that are signed by six poll workers and put them in the shredder. I think we all understand that.” But Lowe offers no explanation. One county employee dismisses the problem, sputtering to Harris, “Basically you’re making a molehill out of a mountain.”

Keith Olbermann: Bush, Not Kerry, Owes Troops An Apology

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment tonight was on why Bush owes the troops an apology, not Kerry. Here’s a highlight, with full text below the fold:

Senator Kerry, as you well know, spoke at a college in Southern California. With bitter humor, he told the students that he had been in Texas the day before, that President Bush used to live in that state, but that now he lives in the state of denial.

He said the trip had reminded him about the value of education — that quote “if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you can get stuck in Iraq.”

The Senator, in essence, called Mr. Bush stupid.

The context was unmistakable: Texas;the state of denial;stuck in Iraq. No interpretation required.

And Mr. Bush and his minions responded, by appearing to be too stupid to realize that they had been called stupid.

They demanded Kerry apologize — to the troops in Iraq.

And so he now has.

That phrase “appearing to be too stupid” is used deliberately, Mr. Bush.

Because there are only three possibilities here:

One, sir, is that you are far more stupid than the worst of your critics have suggested; that you could not follow the construction of a simple sentence; that you could not recognize your own life story when it was deftly summarized; that you could not perceive it was the sad ledger of your presidency that was being recounted.

This, of course, compliments you, Mr. Bush, because even those who do not “make the most of it,” who do not “study hard,” who do not “do their homework,” and who do not “make an effort to be smart” might still just be stupid — but honest.

No; the first option, sir, is, at best, improbable. You are not honest.

The second option is that you and those who work for you deliberately twisted what Senator Kerry said to fit your political template. That you decided to take advantage of it, to once again pretend that the attacks, solely about your own incompetence, were in fact attacks on the troops — or even on the nation itself.

The third possibility is, obviously, the nightmare scenario; that the first two options are in some way conflated.

That it is both politically convenient for you, and personally satisfying to you, to confuse yourself with the country for which, sir, you work.

A brief reminder, Mr. Bush: You are not the United States of America.

You are merely a politician whose entire legacy will have been a willingness to make anything political — to have, in this case, refused to acknowledge that the insult wasn’t about the troops, and that the insult was not even truly about you either — that the insult, in fact, is you.

So now John Kerry has apologized to the troops; apologized for the Republicans’ deliberate distortions.

Thus the President will now begin the apologies he owes our troops, right?

This President must apologize to the troops — for having suggested, six weeks ago, that the chaos in Iraq, the death and the carnage, the slaughtered Iraqi civilians and the dead American service personnel, will, to history, quote “look like just a comma.”

This President must apologize to the troops — because the intelligence he claims led us into Iraq proved to be undeniably and irredeemably wrong.

This President must apologize to the troops — for having laughed about the failure of that intelligence, at a banquet, while our troops were in harm’s way.

This President must apologize to the troops — because the streets of Iraq were not strewn with flowers and its residents did not greet them as liberators.

This President must apologize to the troops — because his administration ran out of “plan” after barely two months.

This President must apologize to the troops — for getting 2,815 of them killed.

This President must apologize to the troops — for getting this country into a war without a clue.

And Mr. Bush owes us an apology… for this destructive and omnivorous presidency.

Full text below the fold, and video at Crooks & Liars. (more…)

Richard Perle: We Have An Administration Today That Is Dysfunctional

It really shows how bad a job the Bush administration is doing of keeping the country safe when Richard Perle criticizes them. Al Kamen notes how Republicans are running on claims of keeping the country safe:

So eyebrows popped up last week when none other than Richard Perle , former Reagan assistant secretary of defense, former Bush brain-truster on the Defense Policy Board, and a key promoter of the war to find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, blistered the administration as “dysfunctional” when it comes to stopping someone from bringing “a nuclear weapon or even nuclear material into the United States.”

“Knowing that there are people who wish to do that,” Perle said, “knowing they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, you would think that we would have put in place a system or at least be working assiduously in the development of a system that would allow us to detect nuclear material entering the New York Harbor or Boston Harbor or what have you.

“But we haven’t done that,” he said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies gathering. “And the reason we haven’t done that is hopeless bureaucratic obstruction. Somebody needs to shake that loose.” Perle added that while some have tried to overcome the bureaucracy, no one has succeeded.

“I think we have an administration today that is dysfunctional,” Perle said. “And if it can’t get itself together to organize a serious program for finding nuclear material on its way to the United States, then it ought to be replaced by an administration that can.”

Perle doesn’t blame Bush personally, but Harry Truman has established where the buck stops.

George Bush, Republicans, and God

What do George Bush, the Republicans, and God all have in common? They’re all falling in the polls:

Nearly half of Americans are not sure God exists, according to a poll that also found divisions among the public on whether God is male or female or whether God has a human form and has control over events.

The survey conducted by Harris Poll found that 42 percent of US adults are not “absolutely certain” there is a God compared to 34 percent who felt that way when asked the same question three years ago.

There’s also disagreement as to God’s sex:

When questioned on whether God is male or female, 36 percent of respondents said they think God is male, 37 percent said neither male nor female and 10 percent said “both male and female.”

Only one percent think of God as a female, according to the poll.

God’s activity in human affaris is also in question:

As to whether God controls events on Earth, 29 percent believe that to be the case while 44 percent said God “observes but does not control what happens on Earth”.

That was proven during the Michigan-Notre Dame football game this year. It also casts doubt on the beliefs that God chose George Bush to be President and advised Bush to go to war in Iraq. Shakespeare’s Sister blames the Bush administration for God’s problems in the polls.

Reaction to Republican Smears on John Kerry

John Kerry’s mangled joke dominated the news yesterday, identifying once again those right wingers who prefer to distort what people like Kerry say rather than discussing his real positions and the issues. While there was room for confusion in Kerry’s statement due to leaving out a crucial word, the fact remains that the right wingers will always jump at a chance to falsely claim a Democrat is knocking the military.

Fortunately there was some accurate reporting. Keith Olbermann blasted George Bush for being too dumb to realize that Kerry was calling him dumb (video here), and will be doing a Special Comment tonight.

James Carville also explained the situation:

“It is much easier to say, I botched a joke, than to say, I botched a war. And he was very frank. … He gave an explanation. And, as I say, Senator Kerry is one of the great war heroes to ever serve in the Congress. He has about a 100 percent record when it comes to the veterans. So, I don’t understand exactly what the problem is. He didn’t owe anybody an apology. He owed an explanation” (“Situation Room,” CNN, 10/31).

There was a surprising voice supporting the truth yesterday, Bill O’Reilly:

I don’t believe John Kerry meant to demean any American military member. I just don’t. I think that fair-minded people know that that would be political suicide for the senator. He wouldn’t do it” (“O’Reilly Factor,” 10/31).

Not to mention Kerry’s long time support of the troops, which the right wing has gone to great lengths to attempt to distort. On the other side, Morton Kondracke had a comment mangled even worse than Kerry’s joke:

“I think that he was criticizing the troops, but I don’t think that he meant to do it” (“Special Report,” 10/31).

John Kerry was criticizing George Bush, not the troops. If you accept that he didn’t “mean to do it”, this leads to the truth that he was actually criticizing Bush, not the troops.

Kerry appeared on Imus this morning (video here) apologizing for botching a joke and clarifying once again that he was criticizing George Bush, not the troops. From AP’s report:

Sen. John Kerry apologized for “a botched joke” about President Bush’s Iraq policies that led Bush and fellow Republicans to accuse him of insulting U.S. troops. Even some Democrats assailed Kerry, who had some campaign appearances scratched Wednesday.

“Of course I’m sorry about a botched joke. You think I love botched jokes?” Kerry said during an appearance on Don Imus’ nationally syndicated radio program. “I mean, you know, it’s pretty stupid.”

Kerry, D-Mass., said he meant no offense to troops. “You cannot get into the military today if you do badly in school,” he said. But he said the White House was purposely twisting his words, and asserted that it is Bush who owes troops an apology for a misguided war in Iraq.

“I’m sorry that that’s happened,” he said of his comment. “But I’m not going to stand back from the reality here, which is, they’re trying to change the subject. It’s their campaign of smear and fear.”

In the long run this incident may be of value, as it allowed John Kerry to show how he has learned from the 2004 race and will quickly defend himself should anyone try to Swift Boat him again. This also leaves Kerry as a leading spokesman for the Democrats and a leading opponent of Bush’s failed policies in Iraq–not a bad position to be in as the 2008 race heats up after the midterm elections.

Related Story: John Kerry, A Mangled Joke, And The Truth

Update: Taylor Marsh has posted about those Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Harold Ford who have tried to distance themselves from Kerry. We know that sooner or later the Republican Noise Machine will create their own lies to attack the other Democrats. They will learn that a right wing lie should never be given any credibility.

It is also a safe bet that, when they inevitably come under attack, John Kerry will be one of the first to stand up and defend them.

Update II: Statement from John Kerry

As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and never intended to refer to any troop.

I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.

It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don’t want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.

–John Kerry