Political MoJo

Saddam Verdict Not Yet Fully Written, Yesterday's Announcement Was Early Release

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 5:38 PM EST

In a blog post over at NBC News, reporter Richard Engel observes that details on why Saddam is being sentenced to death are still unclear. (The reasons are obvious, of course, and the verdict a foregone conclusion for years, but the court released little by way of supporting argumentation.) Turns out, the verdict hasn't been fully written and is expected to be completed Thursday. Money paragraph:

The full verdict, a document of several hundred pages, explaining how and why today's judgment was reached was not released. U.S. officials said it should be ready by Thursday. So why issue the verdict today? U.S. court advisors told reporters today it was delayed mainly for technical reasons. All insist the verdict was not politically timed and that it was an Iraqi decision; there is no reason to doubt their word.

Huh. The verdict will be completed two days after the American midterms, but the decision is made public two days before. I'll bet the Bush Administration didn't plan for that to come out.

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Another Republican Stands Up the President

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 5:27 PM EST
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President Bush went to a rally for Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist today, but Crist apparently had better things to do. His campign explained that he wasn't snubbing the prez, but that he already had the vote in the Panhandle wrapped up, and needed to campaign in other areas of the state. Riiiight. Crist isn't the first Republican to head for the hills (I know there are no hills in Flordia) when the president's come by on a campaign swing. April Rabkin collects a few more examples in our current issue, like Washington senatorial candidate Mike McGavick, who missed a Bush stop in Seattle because his son had just graduated from high school—a day earlier.

More Coverage of Push Polling

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 5:05 PM EST

The New York Times weighs in today on the GOP's push polling efforts in contested districts, noting this gem from a recent smear on Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who's running against Conrad Burns: "Does the fact that Jon Tester says he would have voted against common-sense, pro-life judges like Samuel Alito and John Roberts, and Conrad Burns supported them, make you less favorable toward Jon Tester?"

According to the Times, ccAdvertising (a/k/a FreeEats.com), which I reported on recently, has been robo-calling on behalf of an attack group called Common Sense Ohio, which "was formed in July to run issue advertisements in the governor's race there, and it became involved in the Senate races in Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Ohio and Tennessee, and in the abortion referendum in South Dakota." FreeEats, which is chaired by Donald Hodel, a Reagan-era cabinet official and the former president of both the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family, has also been working on behalf of the Economic Freedom Fund, a 527-committee bankrolled by Bob Perry (of Swift Boat Veterans fame).

The Times notes that "some experts question how much impact the calls will have amid the rest of the political fog, especially since some voters quickly get annoyed with the technique." Gabriel Joseph, the president of FreeEats, would beg to differ. As he told me, "When you make 3 ½ million phone calls a day, we generally talk to more people than watch television, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper combined."

How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts..

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 3:37 PM EST

Before you head out to vote tomorrow, you may want to take a look at some of the basic advice given us today from three different groups: Warren Stewart at VoteTrustUSA, Mary Boyle at Common Cause, and Joe Irrera of a Tennessee group called Gathering to Save Our Democracy.

Begin with this simple advice: In general, if challenged on eligibility, says Warren Stewart of VoteTrustUSA, "don't leave the voting place without casting a provisional ballot."

However, be careful what you do, for Common Cause points out "if a poll worker tells you you're at the wrong precint, don't try to vote on a provisional ballot because in many states provisional ballots won't be counted unless they are cast in the right precinct." Try to go to the correct precinct and then cast your vote.

If you vote by machine, and something looks fishy and you don't think your vote is being accurately tabulated, ask to vote on another machine.

Finally, says Common Cause, "if you run into problems, ask a poll worker for help. They are there for assistance. If your right to vote is being challenged, you can call for legal assistance at 1-800-OUR-VOTE and to report a problem or find your polling place, call 1-866-MYVOTE 1."

A real gloomy view about all this comes from Tennessee where Joe Irrera ,Vice-President of Information Systems at Gathering to Save Our Democracy, said the following:

Unfortunately, as a voter tomorrow there's not a whole lot you can watch out for except screen calibration errors on your touchscreen voting machine. In other words, candidate flipping in the final voter selection review, before confirming your vote.

As the recent Princeton University study confirms, illegal software can easily be introduced into that touchscreen voting machine via the memory card, which secretly miscounts votes. The voter would never know it when the final machine totals tape is printed after the polls close.

Most of the danger is unseen below the surface. I'm referring to the central tabulator computers. These are the ordinary Windows computers that are fed the totals from each of the voting districts. In Shelby County (Memphis area), Tennessee we're already dealing with illegal software and a network connection that was found on both the main and backup Diebold GEMS computers which would facilitate manually altering vote totals in the database. We only discovered this because several local primary candidates contested the final vote tally and were able to bring in their own computer expert to examine the equipment.

The Diebold GEMS central tabulator software is frighteningly insecure and when you couple this with an internet-enabled network connection to the PC, you have the capacity to alter tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of votes for that county, from anywhere in the world! Thanks to the internet, I have a downloaded, working copy of GEMS on my home PC, including the Shelby County primary vote totals database. I'm less knowledgeable of the ES&S central tabulator because of the wall of secrecy the voting machine manufacturers have been legislatively allowed to hide behind. However, considering both Diebold Election Systems and Election Systems & Software originated from the same company (Data Mark), I'm not optimistic.

Iraq Scrapes Bottom of International Corruption Index

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 1:20 PM EST

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International just released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, and Iraq is almost at the bottom of the barrel, tied with Myanmar and Guinea. This is the first year TI has not figured Iraq's pre-war record of corruption into its findings. Not that the transition has helped: Last year, Iraq was ranked 137 out of 158; this year it's 160 out of 163. Goodbye, Oil for Food scam, hello Bagmen of Baghdad. Not that we care where our billions of dollars in reconstruction money are going, anyhow...

More Election Day Problems

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 1:14 PM EST

According to a press release from People for the American Way, there are several different sorts of voting problems that have already occurred:

Voter intimidation:
California, Maryland, Illinois, New York, Texas

Machines and technology snafus:
Maryland, California, Illinois, Tennessee

New voter ID laws:
Ohio, Arizona, Indiana

A run on absentee ballots:
Pennsylvania, California, Maryland

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Election Irregularities: Already Happening

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 12:56 PM EST

Warren Stewart, policy director for VoteTrustUSA, a nonprofit that tracks voting irregularities at the state and local level, is reporting that voting problems have already begun. In 15 states there are provisions for early voting, and that's where the problems are occurring.

So far 5 states are involved. Voter choices are being flipped to the opposite candidates on all 4 electronic voting machines -- Diebold TSx, Sequoia Edge, ES&S iVotronic, and Hart InterCivic eSlate.

"Three counties in Texas report vote-flipping on the Diebold and ES&S machines," Stewart writes. "Three counties in Florida report vote-flipping on the ES&S and Sequoia machines. One county in Illinois, on the Sequioa Edge, and one county in Arkansas, on the ES&S iVotronic. In some cases, when the voter selects one candidate, the machine shows an opponent is selected instead."

A South Florida voter reports: "When I touched the one [button] for the Democratic vote, that button disappeared and the vote went to the Republican."

And from Illinois: "Corrine Stoker pushed the button for one candidate, but her voting machine showed she voted for the opponent."

Unions Might Win Big in Nevada in '08

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 12:01 PM EST

In an effort to shake up their presidential nomination process, the Democratic National Committee has moved Nevada up to second in line in the 2008 primaries - right after the Iowa caucuses. Since Las Vegas is home to some of the few genuinely thriving unions in the nation, the move is likely to give another boost to the powerful culinary workers' union. "We can be a very good ally," says a local union leader. "And we can be a very bad foe. Working people are going to have a real place at the table."

Will Alt-Energy Initiative Boomerang?

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 11:50 AM EST

Tax oil corporations and use the money to fund alternative energy development? Sounds like a no-brainer. That's the gist of California's Proposition 87, and indeed, I'm for it and think all right-thinking people should be too. But today's LA Times does have a good counterpoint:

"(V)enture capitalists with investments in alternative energy firms are huge donors to the campaign... There is nothing to prevent such investors from sitting on the board that allocates the research money generated by the proposition, which is precisely the conflict-ofinterest problem that has tainted California's last experiment with taxpayer-funded research, 2004's stem cell initiative ."

The Times goes on to say, less convincingly, that there's already plenty of money going into alt-energy development and that oil companies are overtaxed in California as it is.

Army Recruiters: "War Ended a Long Time Ago"

| Mon Nov. 6, 2006 11:10 AM EST

There are 138,000 American soldiers in Iraq, and no signs of a drawdown in sight. But don't tell that to the bunch of Army recruiters caught on tape by ABC lying to potential recruits about whether they might end up in the sandbox.

"Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?" one student asks a recruiter.

"No, we're bringing people back," he replies.

"We're not at war. War ended a long time ago," another recruiter says.

And if the recruits don't like Army life? One recruiter falsely claimed they could easily get "a 'Failure to Adapt' discharge.... It's an entry-level discharge so it won't affect anything on your record. It'll just be like it never happened."