Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed a sweeping bill intended to make it harder to vote in his states’ elections. Kasich’s anti-voter law drastically cuts back on early voting and erects new barriers for absentee and even for election day voters. Today, however, opponents of Kasich’s war on voting will submit over 300,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office — well over the 231,000 signatures necessary to suspend the law until it can be challenged in a referendum in November of 2012. If enough of the signatures are deemed valid, the practical effect of this petition will be that Kasich’s law will not be in effect during the 2012 presidential elections when Republicans hoped the law would weaken President Obama’s efforts to turn out early voters who support his reelection.
Ohio's new law would have overturned many of the improvements instituted in the Buckeye State by former Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner (D) after she took over from the corrupt J. Kenneth Blackwell (R) and his abhorrent, um, administration of the 2004 Presidential election there.
The case arises from the secret video taping by O'Keefe and Giles of then ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera, as part of the deceptively edited hit videos the pair would later release on Breitbart's several propaganda websites. Vera was terminated after the release of the videos, despite having committed no wrongdoing --- he had even notified local police about the pair, after he suspected they were up to no good --- as confirmed in a detailed report by the California Attorney General last year. O'Keefe and Giles, on the other hand, as the CA AG found, most likely "violated state privacy laws." While they were given criminal immunity by the AG in exchange for the raw, unedited video tapes, they remain liable for civil violations of the that law.
Now it appears Breitbart himself may be pulled into the case, and we're likely to soon learn how much he paid O'Keefe and Giles for their hit tapes.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin has adjudicated a discovery dispute by ordering both O'Keefe and Giles to disclose payments Breitbart made to them, as well as email communications and other relevant documents concerning the illicit video taping of Vera.
While that is likely to offer an interesting expansion of this story soon (and we'll offer a few more details from the court's ruling below), more than anything what caught our eye in this story for the moment, was the reporting by local journalist Heather Johnson of Courthouse News. She broke the story this week, and managed to actually report accurately on the details of O'Keefe and Giles' ACORN hoax.
So, to offer you (and, actually, the New York Times) an idea of what accurate reporting on O'Keefe --- a man who has, since his ACORN con, also pled guilty to a scheme involving an attempted wire-tap plot of a sitting U.S. Senator --- looks like, just read the first three grafs of Johnson's coverage this week...
By the way, there's been quite a bit of new news coverage on that new e-voting hack over the past 24 hours, since I last discussed it. You can check out some of it here. And still, there has been absolutely no response to the news from Dominion Voting, the current owners of what had been Diebold Election Systems, Inc., or from ES&S, which also services many of Diebold's old contracts. The voting machine companies used to get right out in front of these things, to lie about them as soon as possible. Not this time, for some reason. Perhaps more on that later.
Oh...and one more note! While we've been working on the above stories (and more to come) for quite a while, we haven't had time to do a proper fundraiser here for months and months and months. Hope to do one in the near future. But, until then, your financial support is always greatly appreciate and very much needed! Please consider leaving an online donation here, or using the snail-mail address in the light-blue box in our right sidebar if you can afford to do either. Thank you!!!
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Climate change denial industry desperately distorting EPA reports; 'Poo Power' lights London --- literally; Historic dam removal creating a bunch of new dam jobs; PLUS: Rand Paul wants the Koch Brothers to go to jail?!? (but he doesn't want you to have safer gas pipelines ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Winners of the Solar Decathlon 2011, ends this weekend; Maathai: Be "active participants" in environmental restoration; Feedlots are hazardous to your respiratory health; American 'allergy' to global warming; Google invests $75m in residential solar; Santa Fe's air among cleanest in the world; Texas air quality the worst in US; New process converts plastic into synthetic crude oil; Artificial leaf could change solar power; Keystone XL: Pipeline divides along Old lines; No one wants Japan's radioactive soil; Pakistan: another victim of climate change; Obama admin delays fed fuel efficiency rules; Gibson Guitars made illegal logging a conservative cause célèbre; Lobbyists spinning weak science to defend BPA ... PLUS: Peak Coal: The Coming Decline and Fall of Big Coal ...
This afternoon on my Pacifica Radio show on KPFK here in Los Angeles (and up and down the West Coast) I interviewed Dr. Roger Johnston of Argonne National Lab's Vulnerability Assessment Team on their $26 "Man-in-the-Middle" attack on a Diebold touch-screen voting system as I reported yesterday in my exclusive at Salon (and here at The BRAD BLOG.)
While yesterday's reports included information on the team's previous, similar-ish hack of a Sequoia touch-screen system, and the fact they feel they could do the same with most other e-voting systems, among the interesting new points raised during our discussion on KPFK today is that Johnston believes they could use a similar method to manipulate the vote count on a paper-ballot based optical-scan system as well!
So, in other words, the low-rent attack Argonne has demonstrated --- requiring no knowledge of the voting system software, $10 to $26 in off-the-shelf computer parts, and little more than an 8th grade computer lab education --- could also be implemented not just on touch-screen e-voting systems, with or without a so-called "paper trail," but also on the paper ballot op-scanners used to count the majority of votes that will be cast in the U.S. in next year's Presidential election.
Note: Of the media outlets listed above, only CNET got the ownership of Diebold voting equipment correct in their reports. Both The Register and ComputerWorld incorrectly report that ES&S now has ownership of what had been Diebold Election Systems, Inc. In fact, while ES&S, the world's largest e-voting company, did purchase the company (that some refer to as DESI, but I do not, for personal reasons) in late 2009, the DoJ ordered them to sell it off due to anti-trust concerns. It was then purchased by Canadian firm Dominion Voting, though ES&S was allowed to retain a fair number of the contracts from Diebold jurisdictions that preferred to stay with ES&S. So while Dominion officially owns what was Diebold's election division, ES&S still maintains and services many Diebold machines as well. Dominion also took over Sequoia --- and lied about it --- shortly thereafter.
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Government shutdown showdown, now starring FEMA in the role of 'Hostage'!; GOP candidate Herman Cain bucks his party, says 'fund FEMA now'; More than 100 arrested in very polite Canadian pipeline protest; Celebrating the legacy of one woman in Africa; PLUS: Climate Science Rapid Response Team, ACTIVATE! ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Appalachian leaders turn tables at congressional mountaintop removal field hearing; BP oil spill affected Gulf fish cell function; Obama On Perry: ‘You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire, denying climate change’; Japanese rice radiation levels prompt more tests; 'Unavoidable climate disruption' locked in; Oil co's flaring natural gas on the ND prairie; Labour Party threatens UK's six biggest energy companies; DOE report: U.S. should focus on transportation fuels; Proof that fracking can make water flammable; New lithium ion battery charges faster, runs longer; BP will be messing up Australia next; China invests $313B on clean tech; U.S. military moving to clean energy; Moving Planet actions around the globe; Only 8 fish stocks out of 136 by 2022; Media fact-check on Solyndra bankruptcy; the American 'allergy' to global warming...PLUS: U.S. Engineers: We have all the tech we need to cut carbon ...
[UPDATE 9/28/11: I interviewed Argonne National Lab's Roger Johnston on my Pacific Radio show on KPFK today. In the interview, Johnston concedes that it's not only touch-screen systems of the type described below which are vulnerable to this newly developed hack, but that paper-ballot based optical-scan systems can likely be manipulated by the same techniques. My interview with Johnson is now posted here. - BF]
As noted by the computer scientists and security experts at Argonne's VAT, largely all that's needed to accomplish this hack is about $26 and an 8th grade science education.
"This is a national security issue," VAT team leader Dr. Roger Johnston told me, echoing what I've been reporting other computer scientists and security experts telling me for years. "It should really be handled by the Department of Homeland Security."
Johnston should know. While the VAT folks have been dabbling in the security (or lack thereof) of e-voting systems in their spare time of late, most of the work they do is related to issues like nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation.
What makes this hack so troubling --- and different from those which have come before it --- is that it doesn't require any actual changes to, or even knowledge of, the voting system software or its memory card programming. It's not a cyberattack. It's a "Man-in-the-middle" attack where a tiny, $10.50 piece of electronics is inserted into the system between the voter and the main circuit board of the voting system allowing for complete control over the touch-screen system and the entire voting process along with it.
Add an optional $15 radio frequency remote control device, and votes can be changed, without the knowledge of the voter, from up to half a mile away. Without the remote, the attack can be turned on and off at certain times, or by other triggers. The voter would have no idea that their votes have been changed after they've already approved them as "correct" on the various confirmation screens, and even on the so-called "paper-trail" (on e-voting machines which offer them --- though VAT has learned how to manipulate those as well, see photo at right.)
The inserted chip can later be removed after the election without there being any way to ever know that someone had completely manipulated the system. But since election officials rarely --- if ever --- examine the inside of their voting machines, it doesn't much matter, in truth.
"The level of sophistication it took to develop the circuit board" used in the attack "was that of basically an 8th grade science shop," says Argonne's John Warner. "Anybody with an electronics workbench could put this together."
The team, he says, had no knowledge of the voting machine's computer circuit diagram or owner's manual when they devised the attack. Moreover, VAT team leader Roger Johnston told me they believe they "can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine." Indeed, in 2009, with little fanfare, they were able to carry out a similar manipulation of a Seqouia AVC Advantage e-voting system (as used across most of the state of New Jersey, for example). You can see that video demo here.
The team at Argonne has shared their demo video of the new Diebold Accuvote hack exclusively with The BRAD BLOG, as posted below. But please go check out the full details over at Salon (where we've embedded the video as well). The full details are chilling --- particularly as about 20% to 30% of U.S. voters are still set to use Diebold touch-screen systems, and others very similar to it, across the nation in the 2012 election cycle, no matter how many years The BRAD BLOG has been desperately trying to illustrate that these systems are simply antithetical to American democracy.
Among the states where voters will use these systems on Election Day in 2012, according to VerifiedVoting.org: Georgia, Maryland, Utah, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Missouri, Texas and many more.
UPDATE The original graphic we used above had been posted by Pelosi's office on 5/3/11, even though they had updated the graphic on 5/19/11. We had linked to the updated one, but had posted the older one here (which illustrates the same idea, though George W. Bush's increase to the debt was seen as 115% versus 86% in the update, and Barack Obama was responsible for increasing the debt by 16% versus 35% in the updated version, which is now posted above.) Thanks to longtime BRAD BLOG commenter Soul Rebel for catching the mistake!
Since taking power in statehouses across the nation in 2010, Republicans have been feverishly implementing new restrictions on democracy in advance of the 2012 Presidential election. A number of those laws, clearly --- and often deceptively --- designed to carve out blatant partisan advantage for the GOP next year, were examined during a recent hearing by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The video of the hearing on "New State Voting Laws: Barriers to the Ballot" can be viewed here.
This is the second of our two-part analysis of the hearing.
In Part 1, we covered the subcommittee's examination of new polling place photo ID restrictions designed to make it more difficult for lawfully registered (and disproportionately Democratic-leaning) voters to cast their ballots at the precincts on Election Day. That issue --- which included some devastating cross-examination of long-time GOP "voter fraud" front-man Hans Von Spakovsky by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) --- was the first of three categories, as defined by committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) of new state voting laws covered in the hearings. All of the new voter suppression laws have been recently rammed through Republican-majority statehouses across the country.
In this concluding piece, we will cover the two additional categories examined: laws erecting barriers to the ability of individuals and non-partisan, non-governmental organizations to offer convenient registration for new voters and laws imposing significant reductions on early voting periods. Both are likely to restrict the number of voters able to cast their lawful vote in 2012 and, again, each is likely to disproportionately affect Democratic-leaning voters.
Finally, We'll also touch upon the status of legal challenges to these new laws by democracy proponents and challenges to the Voting Rights Act itself by operatives on the Right. Moreover, it's impossible to look at any of these issues without drawing inferences about what the combination of new laws in all three categories means, particularly in light of the fact that the models for these new laws were drafted by the billionaire Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-founded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)...
First, hearty congratulations are in order to the Koch brothers who, according to Forbes, are now worth $25 billion each!
That's up from the pathetic $17 billion each were worth back in 2009. So it looks like this economic downturn...this "Obama recession"...despite all of those "job killing tax increases" (there were none, he's cut taxes repeatedly)...and "job killing regulations" (there were very very few new regulations)...seems to be working out great for the two "job creating" co-owners of Koch Industries, the oil and chemical conglomerate the brothers were fortunate enough to inherit from their father.
But, as Rachel Maddow discussed last week (video posted below), for some odd reason, all that increased personal wealth for the "job creators" at Koch Industries, the country's second largest private company, doesn't seem to have translated into the actual creation of, ya know, jobs for some odd reason...
Weird. Even though their personal wealth has increased by some 40% during the worst economy in nearly a century, even though they now personally are worth more than the GDP of some 48 different countries, they keep killing jobs by firing thousands of Americans.
It's almost as if that whole "job creator" thing --- the notion that people who already have a whole lot of money will simply create more jobs, out of the kindness of their wallets, if only they have still more money --- is a crock of shit that only the dumbest, most brainwashed, misinformed, incurious jackasses could possibly fall for...or something.
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Rachel Maddow's thoughts on the "job killing" Koch brothers follow below. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)'s thoughts on throwing the Koch brothers in jail, are right here...
There are two important late Friday announcements from the newly revived, post-Bush Voting Unit at U.S. Dept. of Justice's Civil Rights Division this afternoon. In both cases, they've raised serious concerns about discrimination by Republican Presidential front-runner Rick Perry's Texas against Hispanic and African-American voters.
Given the Lone Star State's history of discrimination against racial minorities, new laws and regulations which relate to elections and voting must be pre-cleared by the Dept. of Justice before they can be put into effect, as per Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.
In one finding, the DoJ sees purposeful discrimination against minorities in the state's redistricting plans [PDF] for apportioning both new statehouse districts, as well as four new U.S. House seats being added in the wake of the 2010 census. The new seats are being added due to an increase in the TX population, thanks in no small part, ironically enough, to huge growth in the state's Hispanic population. The DoJ finds the proposed statehouse plan violates Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, stating that it "was adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to the Texas House of Representatives."
The TX plan for the U.S. House didn't fare much better (see below), with similar findings that minorities are likely to see a "retrogressive effect" in their ability "to elect their preferred candidates of choice to the United States House of Representatives" under Perry's approved scheme.
Moreover, in a letter that echoes questions recently sent by the DoJ to the state of South Carolina about their new polling place Photo ID restrictions, as The BRAD BLOG detailed earlier this month, the DoJ has a series of questions concerning Texas' new, very similar restrictions. As the law mirrors the one in South Carolina --- and in many of the other states where the GOP has been able to ram through similar voter suppression bills over the past year --- many of the questions from the DoJ to TX also ask about the their plans for notification about the law, and issuance of free IDs to the more than 600,000 otherwise-legally qualified voters who don't currently own state-issued ID that would meet the strict new requirements to cast a vote at the polls on Election Day.
In TX, the DoJ voting unit is curious about how many of those residents who don't have such IDs also happen to have Spanish surnames...
"I don’t want to pollute the water. I don’t want to pollute streams," said Paul, "If you dump benzene in the stream, I want you to go to jail."
Really, Senator? Are you calling for the billionaire Koch brothers --- likely two of your biggest and wealthiest fans --- to be thrown in jail then?
As Fang details, Koch Industries was indicted by the DoJ in 2000 for knowingly dumping "at least 91 metric tons of uncontrolled benzene in its liquid waste streams" at its Corpus Christi refinery, and for conspiring to cover it up in an attempt to deceive regulators.
After George W. Bush took office in 2001, however, "his Attorney General John Ashcroft dropped 88 counts against Koch for the benzene spill and cover-up" in exchange for a guilty plea to falsifying documents and a $20 million fine (a settlement from $350 million in potential fines.)
The Kochs made out pretty well in exchange for their $32,200 contribution to the 2000 Bush campaign. The job killing Koch brothers are making out even better under Barack Obama. But more on that later. [UPDATE: Those thoughts now here.]
Suffice to say, neither the Kochs, nor anybody who works for them, went to jail for "dump[ing] benzene in the stream," as Paul is calling for, even as he calls for doing away with even more environmental regulations in his remarks to The Street.
A nearly two-hour hearing in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights earlier this month (full video available here), carefully examined the partisan, multi-state effort by the billionaire Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-founded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-fueled GOP effort to enact new state voting laws across the country.
"Our country has not seen such widespread attempts to disenfranchise voters as we have seen this year in more than a century. Inclusive democracy is under attack," she testified, while Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) described the "brazen" GOP attempts to undermine the right to vote.
Subcommittee Chair and Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin (D-IL) broke the new state voting laws into three major categories, and the discussions of each are worth covering here over two different articles. In Part 1 here, we'll cover the first category: Polling place Photo ID laws restricting the ability of lawfully registered voters to cast their ballot on Election Day. The hearing produced several remarkable face-offs, including between Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and long-time GOP "voter fraud" front man Hans von Spakovsky (cue James Bond villain music), as detailed below.
In Part 2, we will cover the discussion of the other two categories at the hearing --- draconian new restrictions on voter registration, and laws which significantly reduce early voting periods --- plus a very troubling event that "reactionaries" have planned for the 2012 election, according to Dianis' testimony [UPDATE: Part 2 is now posted here]...