“Daily Voting News” wants to congratulate and thank Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz for taking a stand against the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. Earlier this month the Secretary requested permission to visit veteran facilities in her state to register veterans to vote and instruct them in how to vote on the state’s machines. She was denied permission. The Secretary accompanied by the Attorney General, veterans, and representatives of veterans organizations defied the DVA and visited one facility to blast the policy, register veterans to vote, and to distribute information on the state’s new voting systems. The Secretary said, in part, “I view this denial of access both as a civil rights violation of the deepest measure and as a moral slap in the faces of those veterans who are supposed to be served by the VA Connecticut Healthcare System”....
The federal Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) has decided, this year, that veterans under their care do not need to vote, so they have ruled that any voter registration drives or other voting related issues are in violation of the Hatch Act. Of course the Hatch Act is a law that keeps federal employees from participating in partisan politics and veterans in veterans' hospitals and nursing homes are not federal employees but the DVA has chosen to ignore that fact.
The Secretary of State of Connecticut, Susan Bysiewicz, decided "Not In My State," so after asking permission to visit veterans' facilities in the state in order to register veterans and show them how to use the state's voting machines and being denied permission she, and the state AG, decided to defy the feds.
UPDATE - 7/1/08: The New Haven Register reports today that Secretary Bysiewicz registered a handful of veterans, including one 92-year old WWII veteran, while standing outside the front door of the New Haven Veterans Center.
"There was nobody here to do this last year," said Martin Onieal, the WWII vet of the Italian and North African campaigns.
Suddenly, when faced with a protest and possible law suit, the director of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System decided that he would reinterpret the rules from the Department of Veterans Affairs and blame any problems on a new employee. He told the Secretary that as long as she signs up as a volunteer and certifies that the registration drive is non-partisan, all is well. Of course this is after two unanswered letters and a phone call on Friday denying her access.
Will other states now take up the gauntlet for our veterans? Will congress step up and put a stop to the misuse of the Hatch Act and disenfranchisement of our veterans? We deserve much better than this.
The Secretary of State's original press release from yesterday follows below...
This is not a joke. Two Republican U.S. senators who disgraced themselves with extramarital affairs have signed on as sponsors of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would prohibit same sex marriage anywhere in the United States.
The senators are David Vitter of Louisiana, who admitted he consorted with prostitutes over a long period of time, and Larry Craig of Idaho, who pleaded guilty to a charge of soliciting sex in a men's room.
The amendment states, "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."
On Friday, just 10 days after the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued subpoenas to the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) for notes from a June 2004 interview the FBI conducted with George Bush and Dick Cheney regarding their roles in the CIA leak scandal, the House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas for documents related to the leak as well as the department's alleged political prosecutions.
According to a news release from the House Judiciary Committee, "[Chairman] John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) today issued a subpoena to the [DOJ] to provide to the committee a number of previously requested documents by July 9. The Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law voted this week to authorize committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. to issue the subpoena at his discretion. The documents the committee is seeking cover a broad range of issues including the Valerie Plame leak, allegations of selective prosecution, and other matters."
Today three featured articles discuss an issue of over 700 votes that just about went uncounted in Palm Beach Co. Florida this past week. But for the fact that the county did an audit and eventually found that election results on from three machines had not been reported in the totals. It is still unknown what happened with these three machines. There is speculation that a card reader may not have worked properly. Another excuse is that the cards may never have been counted at all. The county is investigating. What seems to be incredible is that the when asked by the media early Friday about the discrepancy the Supervisor of Elections, Arthur Anderson, told them that he was not aware of a problem because he was out campaigning for re-election. Typically the Sequoia spokeswoman, Michelle Shafer, ignored the fact that there is an ongoing investigation as she claimed that the public can be confident that the optical scanners worked and votes were properly recorded and tabulated. She ignores the fact that the voters were not properly reported....
While it's perhaps a bit of a busman's vacation, I made the mistake of quickly checking out the podcast of yesterday's hour from my motel room after I got off the road last night, and though I've heard (and even told [PDF]) Heller's remarkable and heroic story a million times, I couldn't stop listening to the interview. Heller --- who, in addition to putting his life on the line for fair elections, is also now a colleague of mine, helping to head up our Velvet Revolution Election Strike Force --- is a helluva gifted and articulate spokesman on the issues of Election Integrity.
Feel free to listen up. You'll not regret the time well-spent. Download the MP3, or listen online below (about 40 mins, w/ commercials removed courtesy of PBC affiliate Green960)...
Although John McCain was stumping in Ohio on Friday, his campaign arranged for him to talk by phone to leaders of B'nai B'rith International, a major Jewish group, who were meeting in Ottawa. Reporters were invited to dial in to the conference call at 3 p.m. to listen.
McCain soon came on the line and launched into his spiel. "Thank you for all the good you do," he began.
The state of New Mexico has a couple recounts that must be done because of close election results in those races. Previously recounts were accomplished by rereading the memory cards. One candidate in one of the recounts protested this means of finding out the real results of the election. The Secretary of State has now changed the process and the paper ballots will now be recounted. This will happen for all ballots except those from two Cibola County precincts where the ballots came up missing. Those two precincts will have their memory cards read and the Attorney General is considering an inquiry into what happened to the missing ballots....
The whistleblower lawsuit against voting machine company Hart InterCivic, as filed in federal court on behalf of former employee William Singer, has been withdrawn following a decision by the Supreme Court that makes pursuing the case nearly impossible, according to the law firm who originally filed the complaint.
The suit had been sealed for nearly two years as the Dept. of Justice asked for extension after extension during their decision on whether or not to join the case. Earlier this year, they ultimately decided not to join the case, as we reported last March, leaving the firm of Levin Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Echsner & Proctor, P.A to proceed on their own. The DoJ declines to join some 76% of such cases.
In the interim, while waiting for the DoJ, the case of Rockwell Intl Corp. v. U.S. [PDF] came before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the findings in that decision, as attorney Mike Papantonio told The BRAD BLOG, has "made it next to impossible to proceed with any and all federal whistleblower (qui tam) cases."
The decision found that Rockwell was required to pay millions of dollars under the federal False Claims Act to the federal government, but that the relator of the case --- the insider who blew the whistle --- was not entitled to any of that money, nor even for the millions of dollars accrued in legal costs since the amended complaint, filed with the Justice Dept., included information about which the relator did not have direct inside knowledge.
The SCOTUS finding, as expressed for the majority by Justice Antonin Scalia, may well hamstring future whistleblower cases in federal courts, according to legal experts.
"I used to think qui tam was the way to go," Papantonio told me as his firm was weighing their decision on how to proceed after the case was finally unsealed, "but now I just don't know anymore."
Papantonio's Florida law firm has used the qui tam laws successfully in the past, and has taken on giants such as the Tobacco Industry. After he and his radio partner Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had learned about Singer's case from The BRAD BLOG --- we originally reported Singer's extraordinary saga back in early 2006 --- they decided to launch the federal fraud suit on his behalf later that year.
(I was interviewed about the withdrawal of the federal case by Mike Papantonio for this weekend's Ring of Fire radio program, which he co-hosts with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.. A video version of the interview is also posted on their GoLeft.TV site. Both versions are now posted in full at the end of this article.)
Though the attorneys working on the case have gone out of their way to express their faith in both Singer and his remarkable complaint --- detailing more than 40 federal fraud allegations, and accusing Hart of doctoring voting machines, covering up system failures, including the loss and miscounting of votes, and other malfeasance, in order to attain contracts and payment under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 --- the chance that millions of dollars spent pursuing the case might be unrecoverable at the end of the process, even if successful, in light of the Rockwell decision, forced them to withdraw the complaint from federal court...
Committee weighs risks, benefits of electronic voting machines Fla. 'vote-flipping' programmer voices doubts about tool
Clint Curtis touched a hidden button on the screen of a simulated electronic voting machine as onlookers witnessed votes switch from one candidate to another.
The House Committee on Elections invited Curtis, a computer programmer from Florida, to testify Wednesday on the accuracy, risks, benefits and security of electronic voting technology. The committee also heard from other expert witnesses, election officials and the Texas secretary of state.
Curtis said a Florida representative approached him in 2000 to design "vote-flipping" software to help the congressman win an election. Requesting a fraudulent program for a machine is not illegal in Florida, but using one is.
"You cannot trust electronic machines, no matter how many honest people you have. It only takes one person with access to the machine," said Curtis, an advocate for hand-counted paper ballots. "Programmers can be bought."
The committee watched as Curtis clicked on an invisible button that suddenly placed the losing candidate of his mock election safely in the lead.
"24 lines of code can flip an election," Curtis said.
He offered to write a new code from scratch in less than three minutes, emphasizing the ease of creating a "flipping" code.
On Wednesday, coverage of his testimony by the Dayton-Beach News-Journal (who endorsed Curtis during his 2006 run against Tom Feeney, the Republican U.S. House Rep who Curtis alleges asked him to create vote-rigging software) included this:
"They seem to understand," Curtis said in a telephone interview afterwards. "They seem to get it. I think they'll do what Florida did, get rid of (electronic touch screens) and get something voters can count on."
For those who don't know Curtis, where have you been? You can read his remarkable story, first broken by The BRAD BLOG back in late 2004, summarized here. He is now hoping to run against Feeney again in Florida again this year, though he must first win his Primary against a Democratic Party-backed candidate. If you'd like to help him beat the millionaire chosen by the short-sighted Dem insiders, please stop by (and feel free to donate!!!) at www.ClintCurtis.com.
DISCLOSURE: We were invited, by the Republican who heads the committee, to testify at the hearing this week as well. Due to prior travel plans, unfortunately, we were unable to be there, but happy that Curtis, and several others who we recommended, were able to show up and speak truth to power.
Charlie Black, John McCain's senior adviser, made news earlier this week when Fortune Magazine editor David Whitford reported that Black told him "with startling candor" when asked how a terrorist attack inside the United States would affect the campaign, "Certainly it would be a big advantage to [McCain]."
Keith Olbermann has been reporting on this story all week on his MSNBC news hour, in part to make that point that if a Democrat had made a similar gaffe, the Beltway punditocracy would have been in high dudgeon, demanding the adviser's head on a pike and lambasting the candidate for associating himself with such scum.
Longtime political junkies know that Charlie Black was among a handful of angry young rightwingers who remade the Republican Party after the debacle of Richard Nixon's resignation. Along with Roger Stone, Terry Dolan, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and George Bush Jr., he is one of the inventors of today's GOP attack machine, a style of media-driven slash and burn politics that can be traced to the establishment by Black, Stone and Dolan in 1975 of a political action committee that raised millions from conservatives using deceptive direct-mail advertising and spent the money on TV ads that slimed Democrats.
Black, one of the most successful lobbyists and political strategists of the Reagan and Bush eras, has backed his share of losers over the years, too. But even when he has bet on the wrong horse, he has always landed on his feet --- which may explain why John McCain needs Charlie Black this year much more than Black needs McCain.
Ohio counties were required, in the March primary, by the SOS, to have paper ballots on hand, at each polling place, for any voter who wanted to use them and in case there were problems with DRE voting machines. Secretary Brunner wants the same thing for the general election. The difference may be that counties will have to actually ensure those ballots are at the precincts and that the voters are told they have an option. The Ohio Association of Election Officials is making excuses for those counties that do not already have paper ballots and they are fighting any directives from the SOS....
In an interview posted on the website of the London Telegraph, John Bolton, one of the most belligerent of the neocon war hawks, predicted that Israel will attack Iran sometime after the U.S. presidential elections on November 4 and before January 21, the day George Bush and Dick Cheney leave office.
Attacking Iran has long been a neocon objective. Last February, New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh revealed that Dick Cheney had secret plans for creating an "open confrontation" with Iran, and that he had the Pentagon ready to start bombing with 24 hours of a signal from the White House. At the same time, the Times of London reported that top U.S. military brass had let it be known they would resign if Cheney launched the attack.
Public outcry generated by the Hersh article and other reports quickly dampened the fervor for attacking Tehran. Two months after the report, however, John McCain ramped up the bellicose rhetoric when, during a campaign stop in South Carolina in April 2007, he made a joke about bombing Iran by singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys song, "Barbara Ann."
John Bolton now believes Bush and Cheney have succumbed to political reality and will not pursue the attack using U.S. forces. According to the Telegraph, Bolton said, "It's clear that the administration has essentially given up that possibility... I don't think it's serious any more. If you had asked me a year ago I would have said I thought it was a real possibility. I just don't think it's in the cards."
About his suggested timeframe for the attack of November to January, Bolton said, "The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defenses by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations.
Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.
John Yoo and David Addington, the architects of Bush's illegal torture policies, testified before the House Judiciary Committee today. The hearing included this frothy exchange between Yoo and the committee chairman, John Conyers (D-Mich.):
CONYERS: Could the President order a suspect buried alive?
YOO: Uh, Mr. Chairman, I don’t think I’ve ever given advice that the President could order someone buried alive…
CONYERS: I didn’t ask you if you ever gave him advice. I asked if you thought the President could order a suspect buried alive.
YOO: Well Chairman, my view right now is that I don’t think a President — no American President would ever have to order that or feel it necessary to order that.
CONYERS: I think we understand the games that are being played.
Yoo was serving in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003, when he wrote the infamous memo and contributed to the PATRIOT ACT. He is now a professor of law at UC Berkeley.