Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hagel's Electronic Theft Of A U.S. Senate Seat Was A Dress Rehearsal For Bush's Theft Of The Presidency


I kind of like Chuck Hagel-- for a Republican, and for someone I've never met. I especially like that Hagel has been speaking out, far more strongly than any cowardly Democrat careerist pols in the Senate, about what a catastrophe Bush has turned Iraq into. BUT... that doesn't lessen the gravity of the still un-investigated charges about how Hagel and the voting machine company he partially owns were able to steal elections for him and, eventually, pioneer the technological destruction of American democracy leading up to Bush's theft of the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, respectively in Florida and Ohio.

Dr. Dennis Loo from Cal Poly in Pomona recently published an article, No Paper Trail Left Behind: The Theft Of The 2004 Presidential Election, which I want to summarize before getting to the specifics of the Hagel case. Dr. Loo starts out prosaically enough, with 16 propositions. According to Loo in order "to believe that George Bush won the November 2, 2004 presidential election, you must also believe all of the following extremely improbable or outright impossible things.

1) A big turnout and a highly energized and motivated electorate favored the GOP instead of the Democrats for the first time in history.

2) Even though first-time voters, lapsed voters (those who didn’t vote in 2000), and undecideds went for John Kerry by big margins, and Bush lost people who voted for him in the cliffhanger 2000 election, Bush still received a 3.5 million vote surplus nationally.

3) The fact that Bush far exceeded the 85% of registered Florida Republicans’ votes that he got in 2000, receiving in 2004 more than 100% of the registered Republican votes in 47 out of 67 Florida counties, 200% of registered Republicans in 15 counties, and over 300% of registered Republicans in 4 counties, merely shows Floridians’ enthusiasm for Bush. He managed to do this despite the fact that his share of the crossover votes by registered Democrats in Florida did not increase over 2000 and he lost ground among registered Independents, dropping 15 points.

4) The fact that Bush got more votes than registered voters, and the fact that by stark contrast participation rates in many Democratic strongholds in Ohio and Florida fell to as low as 8%, do not indicate a rigged election.

5) Bush won re-election despite approval ratings below 50%-- the first time in history this has happened. Truman has been cited as having also done this, but Truman’s polling numbers were trailing so much behind his challenger, Thomas Dewey, pollsters stopped surveying two months before the 1948 elections, thus missing the late surge of support for Truman. Unlike Truman, Bush’s support was clearly eroding on the eve of the election.

6) Harris' last-minute polling indicating a Kerry victory was wrong (even though Harris was exactly on the mark in their 2000 election final poll).

7) The “challenger rule”-- an incumbent’s final results won’t be better than his final polling-- was wrong;

8) On election day the early-day voters picked up by early exit polls (showing Kerry with a wide lead) were heavily Democratic instead of the traditional pattern of early voters being mainly Republican.

9) The fact that Bush “won” Ohio by 51-48%, but this was not matched by the court-supervised hand count of the 147,400 absentee and provisional ballots in which Kerry received 54.46% of the vote doesn’t cast any suspicion upon the official tally.

10) Florida computer programmer Clinton Curtis (a life-long registered Republican) must be lying when he said in a sworn affidavit that his employers at Yang Enterprises, Inc. (YEI) and Tom Feeney (general counsel and lobbyist for YEI, GOP state legislator and Jeb Bush’s 1994 running mate for Florida Lt. Governor) asked him in 2000 to create a computer program to undetectably alter vote totals. Curtis, under the initial impression that he was creating this software in order to forestall possible fraud, handed over the program to his employer Mrs. Li Woan Yang, and was told: “You don’t understand, in order to get the contract we have to hide the manipulation in the source code. This program is needed to control the vote in south Florida.”

11) Diebold CEO Walden O’Dell’s declaration in a August 14, 2003 letter to GOP fundraisers that he was "committed to helping Ohio to deliver its electoral votes to the president next year" and the fact that Diebold is one of the three major suppliers of the electronic voting machines in Ohio and nationally, didn’t result in any fraud by Diebold.

12) There was no fraud in Cuyahoga County Ohio where they admitted counting the votes in secret before bringing them out in public to count.

13) CNN reported at 9 p.m. EST on election evening that Kerry was leading by 3 points in the national exit polls based on well over 13,000 respondents. Several hours later at 1:36 a.m. CNN reported that the exit polls, now based on a few hundred more-- 13,531 respondents-- were showing Bush leading by 2 points, a 5-point swing. In other words, a swing of 5 percentage points from a tiny increase in the number of respondents somehow occurred despite it being mathematically impossible.

14) Exit polls in the November 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections, paid for in part by the Bush administration, were right, but exit polls in the U.S., where exit polling was invented, were very wrong.

15) The National Election Pool’s exit polls were so far off that since their inception twenty years ago, they have never been this wrong, more wrong than statistical probability indicates is possible.

16) In every single instance where exit polls were wrong the discrepancy favored Bush, even though statistical probability tells us that any survey errors should show up in both directions. Half a century of polling and centuries of mathematics must be wrong."
Dr Loo points out this list is far from exhaustive and doesn't take into account all the other irregularities, documented vote tampering, and all the tried and true methods the Right uses to discourage minority voters from exercising their franchise. He concludes that "a plethora of reasons clearly exists to conclude that widespread and historic levels of fraud were committed in this election" and then shows how public officials with the connivance of the corporate mass media covered the whole thing up. First off, they labeled the exit polls as spectacularly wrong and then claimed that the recently dubbed "moral values" voters in the so-called "red states" were the reason for Bush's so-called victory (even though the conservative-leaning Economist pointed out that the percentage of American voters citing moral and ethical values as their prime concern (22%) is actually down from 2000 (35%) and 1996 (40%). "And third, people who brought forth any of the evidence of fraud were dismissed as 'spreadsheet-wielding conspiracy theorists' while mainstream media censored the vast majority of the evidence of fraud so that most Americans to this day have never heard a fraction of what was amiss."

The Hagel case was covered spectacularly well by Thom Hartmann for CommonDreams.org in a piece he wrote January 31, 2003, If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines. Please bear in mind that Hagel's theft of the Nebraska senate seat was not the only dress rehearsal for Bush's Ohio grand finale's of 2004. Loo also points out that on "Nov. 3, 2002, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed Democratic Sen. Max Cleland with a 49-to-44 point lead over Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss. The next day, Chambliss, despite trailing by 5 points, ended up winning by a margin of 53 to 46 percent. This was, in other words, an unbelievable 12-point turn around over the course of one day!

In the Georgia governor's race Republican Sonny Perdue upset incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes by a margin of 52 to 45 percent. This was especially strange given that the October 16-17, 2002 Mason Dixon Poll (Mason Dixon Polling and Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C.) had shown Democratic Governor Barnes ahead 48 to 39 percent, with a margin of error of ± 4 points. The final tally was, in other words, a jaw dropping 16-point turn-around! What the Cleland 'defeat' by Saxby and the Barnes 'defeat' by Perdue both have in common is that nearly all the Georgia votes were recorded on computerized voting machines, which produce no paper trail.

In Minnesota, after Democrat Sen. Paul Wellstone's plane crash death, ex-vice-president Walter Mondale took Wellstone’s place and was leading Republican Norm Coleman in the days before the election by 47 to 39 percent. Despite the fact that he was trailing just days before the race by 8 points, Coleman beat Mondale by 50 to 47 percent. This was an 11-point turn around! The Minnesota race was also conducted on electronic voting machines with no paper trail.

Welcome to a world where statistical probability and normal arithmetic no longer apply! The Democrats, rather than vigorously pursuing these patently obvious signs of election fraud in 2004, have nearly all decided that being gracious losers is better than being winners, probably because-- and this may be the most important reason for the Democrat’s relative silence-- a full-scale uncovering of the fraud runs the risk of mobilizing and unleashing popular forces that the Democrats find just as threatening as the GOP does."

Hartmann postulates that it is possible that Nebraska radio talk show host Chuck Hagel honestly won both U.S. Senate elections (and that "maybe it's true that the citizens of Georgia simply decided that incumbent Democratic Senator Max Cleland, a wildly popular war veteran who lost three limbs in Vietnam, was, as his successful Republican challenger suggested in his campaign ads, too unpatriotic to remain in the Senate. Maybe George W. Bush, Alabama's new Republican governor Bob Riley, and a small but congressionally decisive handful of other long-shot Republican candidates really did win those states where conventional wisdom and straw polls showed them losing in the last few election cycles.") But his article for CommonDreams doesn't make it sound probable.

He points out that "perhaps, after a half-century of fine-tuning exit polling to such a science that it's now sometimes used to verify how clean elections are in Third World countries, it really did suddenly become inaccurate in the United States in the past six years and just won't work here anymore. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that the sudden rise of inaccurate exit polls happened around the same time corporate-programmed, computer-controlled, modem-capable voting machines began recording and tabulating ballots.

But if any of this is true, there's not much of a paper trail from the voters' hand to prove it.

You'd think in an open democracy that the government-- answerable to all its citizens rather than a handful of corporate officers and stockholders-- would program, repair, and control the voting machines. You'd think the computers that handle our cherished ballots would be open and their software and programming available for public scrutiny. You'd think there would be a paper trail of the vote, which could be followed and audited if a there was evidence of voting fraud or if exit polls disagreed with computerized vote counts." But, he concludes, "You'd be wrong."

And now, as promised, the dope on Hagel. Hartmann draws on research from The Hill to confirm that former conservative radio talk-show host, Senator Chuck Hagel was the head of, and continues to own part interest in, the company that owns the company that installed, programmed, and largely ran the voting machines that were used by most of the citizens of Nebraska. "Back when Hagel first ran there for the U.S. Senate in 1996, his company's computer-controlled voting machines showed he'd won stunning upsets in both the primaries and the general election. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's 'Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election.' According to Bev Harris of www.blackboxvoting.org, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely Black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska. Six years later Hagel ran again, this time against Democrat Charlie Matulka in 2002, and won in a landslide. As his hagel.senate.gov website says, Hagel 'was re-elected to his second term in the United States Senate on November 5, 2002 with 83% of the vote. That represents the biggest political victory in the history of Nebraska.'

What Hagel's website fails to disclose is that about 80 percent of those votes were counted by computer-controlled voting machines put in place by the company affiliated with Hagel. Built by that company. Programmed by that company.

'This is a big story, bigger than Watergate ever was,' said Hagel's Democratic opponent in the 2002 Senate race, Charlie Matulka. 'They say Hagel shocked the world, but he didn't shock me.' Is Matulka the sore loser the Hagel campaign paints him as, or is he democracy's proverbial canary in the mineshaft?

'The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected,' wrote Thomas Paine over 200 years ago. 'To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery...'

That slavery, according to Hagel's last opponent Charlie Matulka, is at our doorstep.

'They can take over our country without firing a shot,' Matulka said, 'just by taking over our election systems.'

Taking over our election systems? Is that really possible in the USA?

Bev Harris of www.talion.com and www.blackboxvoting.org has looked into the situation in depth and thinks Matulka may be on to something. The company tied to Hagel even threatened her with legal action when she went public about his company having built the machines that counted his landslide votes. (Her response was to put the law firm's threat letter on her website and send a press release to 4000 editors, inviting them to check it out.

'I suspect they're getting ready to do this all across all the states,' Matulka said in a January 30, 2003 interview. 'God help us if Bush gets his touch screens all across the country,' he added, 'because they leave no paper trail. These corporations are taking over America, and they just about have control of our voting machines.'

In the meantime, exit-polling organizations have quietly gone out of business, and the news arms of the huge multinational corporations that own our networks are suggesting the days of exit polls are over. Virtually none were reported in 2002, creating an odd and unsettling silence that caused unease for the many American voters who had come to view exit polls as proof of the integrity of their election systems.

As all this comes to light, many citizens and even a few politicians are wondering if it's a good idea for corporations to be so involved in the guts of our voting systems. The whole idea of a democratic republic was to create a common institution (the government itself) owned by its citizens, answerable to its citizens, and authorized to exist and continue existing solely 'by the consent of the governed.'

Prior to 1886-- when, law schools incorrectly tell law students, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations are 'persons' with equal protection and other 'human rights'-- it was illegal in most states for corporations to involve themselves in politics at all, much less to service the core mechanism of politics. And during the era of Teddy Roosevelt, who said, 'There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains,' numerous additional laws were passed to restrain corporations from involvement in politics.

Wisconsin, for example, had a law that explicitly stated:
No corporation doing business in this state shall pay or contribute, or offer consent or agree to pay or contribute, directly or indirectly, any money, property, free service of its officers or employees or thing of value to any political party, organization, committee or individual for any political purpose whatsoever, or for the purpose of influencing legislation of any kind, or to promote or defeat the candidacy of any person for nomination, appointment or election to any political office.
The penalty for violating that law was dissolution of the corporation, and 'any officer, employee, agent or attorney or other representative of any corporation, acting for and in behalf of such corporation' would be subject to 'imprisonment in the state prison for a period of not less than one nor more than five years' and a substantial fine.

However, the recent political trend has moved us in the opposite direction, with governments answerable to 'We, The People' turning over administration of our commons to corporations answerable only to CEOs, boards, and stockholders. The result is the enrichment of corporations and the appearance that democracy in America has started to resemble its parody in banana republics.

But if America still is a democratic republic, then We, The People still own our government. And the way our ownership and management of our common government (and its assets) is asserted is through the vote.

On most levels, privatization is only a 'small sin' against democracy. Turning a nation's or community's water, septic, roadway, prisons, airwaves, or health care commons over to private corporations has so far demonstrably degraded the quality of life for average citizens and enriched a few of the most powerful campaign contributors. But it hasn't been the end of democracy (although some wonder about what the FCC is preparing to do-- but that's a separate story).

Many citizens believe, however, that turning the programming and maintenance of voting over to private, for-profit corporations, answerable only to their owners, officers, and stockholders, puts democracy itself at peril.

And, argues Charlie Matulka, for a former officer of one of those corporations to then place himself into an election without disclosing such an apparent conflict of interest is to create a parody of democracy.

Perhaps Matulka's been reading too many conspiracy theory tracts. Or maybe he's on to something. We won't know until a truly independent government agency looks into the matter. When Bev Harris and The Hill's Alexander Bolton pressed the Chief Counsel and Director of the Senate Ethics Committee, the man responsible for ensuring that FEC disclosures are complete, asking him why he'd not questioned Hagel's 1995, 1996, and 2001 failures to disclose the details of his ownership in the company that owned the voting machine company when he ran for the Senate, the Director reportedly met with Hagel's office on Friday, January 25, 2003 and Monday, January 27, 2003. After the second meeting, on the afternoon of January 27th, the Director of the Senate Ethics Committee resigned his job.

Meanwhile, back in Nebraska, Charlie Matulka had requested a hand count of the vote in the election he lost to Hagel. He just learned his request was denied because, he said, Nebraska has a just-passed law that prohibits government-employee election workers from looking at the ballots, even in a recount. The only machines permitted to count votes in Nebraska, he said, are those made and programmed by the corporation formerly run by Hagel.

Matulka shared his news with me, then sighed loud and long on the phone, as if he were watching his children's future evaporate.

'If you want to win the election,' he finally said, 'just control the machines.'"

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At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If a bank's ATM can provide an acccurate receipt of a transaction then why can't a voting machine?

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to sond like a Luddite. But what's to stop a mass movement of voters from, in the privacy of the votin booth, physically breaking touch-screen voting machines on election day?


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