Votergate: Was US Elections Rigged?

A controversy — on the level of Watergate — is brewing over the possibility of voter tampering of electronic votes cast in the US elections.

The crux of the issue is the use of the touch-screen systems manufactured by Diebold Inc which may have been used by as many as one in three voters in November.

Bev Harris, the author of Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century, asserts that fraud took place in the 2004 election through such electronic voting machines.

Harris first drew suspicion about the machines nearly two years ago via a story that appeared, oddly enough, at a relatively unknown site called Scoop based in New Zealand.

In August, 2004 she finally got a chance to demonstrate how easy it is to steal an election as a guest on the CNBC program “Topic A With Tina Brown”. Brown was off and Governor Howard Dean subbed as guest host.

Harris showed that the central tabulator is – surprise, surprise – a Windows PC, and we all know how secure that is.

Journalist Thom Hartman describes what happened next: “So Harris had Dean close the Diebold GEMS tabulation software, go back to the normal Windows PC desktop, click on the ‘My Computer’ icon, choose ‘Local Disk C:,’ open the folder titled GEMS, and open the sub-folder ‘LocalDB’ which, Harris noted, ‘stands for local database, that’s where they keep the votes.’

Harris then had Dean double-click on a file in that folder titled Central Tabulator Votes, which caused the PC to open the vote count in a database program like Excel. ‘Let’s just flip those,’ Harris said, as Dean cut and pasted the numbers from one cell into the other. Harris sat up a bit straighter, smiled, and said, ‘We just edited an election, and it took us 90 seconds.'”

Several computer-security experts have weighed in the debate and demonstrated the flaws in tabulating software made by Diebold and Sequoia Voting Systems and how they could:

1. Alter vote totals without a password,

2. Record a vote for one candidate as a vote for another,

3. Cast multiple votes; or

4. Simply erase the vote totals completely.

In mid-August, Walden W. O’Dell, otherwise known as Wally, the chief executive of Diebold, made the ultimate faux pas when he went on record that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President” — in a fundraiser letter for the re-election of Bush.

In “Evidence Mounts that the Vote Was Hacked”, Hartmann writes on CommonDreams.org that the results in several counties in Florida using optically-scanned paper ballots fed into a central tabulator PC — and thus vulnerable to hacking — contained “substantial anomalies.”

In Baker County, for example, with 12,887 registered voters, 69.3% of them Democrats and 24.3% of them Republicans, the vote was only 2,180 for Kerry and 7,738 for Bush.

In Dixie County, with 4,988 registered voters, 77.5% of them Democrats and a mere 15% registered as Republicans, only 1,959 people voted for Kerry, but 4,433 voted for Bush.

The pattern repeats over and over again – but only in the counties where optical scanners were used. Franklin County, 77.3% registered Democrats, went 58.5% for Bush. Holmes County, 72.7% registered Democrats, went 77.25% for Bush.

Did all these voters flip for Bush, or was there actual tampering post-election to favour the incumbent?

Here is a detailed version of how the Diebold System had flaws that should have been addressed prior to the election.

Scoop has an extensive collection of links that are worth reading over a cup of strong coffee or you could download the book in PDF format from BlackBoxVoting.org

An open letter to Bob Bly

I used to read Bob Bly’s articles in Writer’s Digest with great enthusiasm. It came as a surprise to me that he was so quick to condemn blogging as a marketing tool.

Here is the original article that so riled some bloggers:

Can Blogging Help Market Your Product?

And here is my first reply to him:

Dear Robert Bly

I think you are the same columnist in Writer’s Digest whose ideas I used to enjoy reading. But I think you have really missed the boat here on Blogging.

The bottomline is “don’t condemn it till you’ve tried it”.  I think thousands of people jumped on the bandwagon to build websites and never made a “thin dime” either. There are reasons for that. Just as there are reasons that made some blogs “successful” while others flopped miserably. Blogging is just another tool that has come along. And it has real marketing possibilities. Dig deeper if you haven’t figured this out.

I am not overly enthusiastic enough to believe blogging is a panacea for all business ills. But it can work, like many websites have, given the right motivation and understanding of the tool and its ability to ‘engage’ customers in new ways.

As a shamefacedly, blatant self-marketeer in all your writings, you more than anyone else should know what blogging can do for your product/service which is mainly to promote Robert Bly.

Read rebuttal to your column by Bruner

Enough said.

Julian Matthews

And here’s Bly’s reply:

On Fri, 05 Nov 2004 15:45:14 -0500, Robert Bly wrote:

> You say “don’t condemn it until you try it.”

> I don’t condemn it … I just say it is not a proven money maker, and until it is, I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon.

> I prefer marketing that had demonstrated an ability to generate rapid, positive, significant ROI.

And my reply to him:

I wonder who was it — oh say about ten years ago — who said the Internet is not a proven money-maker and held back because of that, and now regrets because he didn’t see the ROI.

Early adopters never get credited when they actually succeed — only when they fail. There is a lot of wariness when it comes to the Net — and granted some of this is not imagined fear — but where was the “positive, significant ROI” when anyone began using the web? Or started using Yahoo or Amazon or eBay or Google or email to market their business? Or started using websites as a tool to promote or market a service or product?

It is early days yet. And blogging is just another tool. To be so quick to say it doesn’t work seems premature. Like websites, it takes discipline, commitment and focus to make a blog work. Just as in any business in the ‘real’ world. Some may have it, some may not. There are no doubt thousands of websites conceived to be the perfect 24/7 marketing tool for companies but are now languishing because someone failed to maintain the site and could not see the longterm “positive, significant ROI”.

Blogs aren’t for every company that chooses to be online. But they are here to stay. They are a new means to engage an audience — and therefore a customer base.

You misfired when you suggested “with a blog, the reader has to go out and proactively look for it. And since your contributions to your blog may be irregular and unscheduled, he has no way of knowing when something new of interest has been added.”

Didn’t we all have to proactively look for a website before we discovered the ones we liked and could subscribe to?

Read about RSS, permalinks, trackbacks, NetNewsWire, SharpReader, Straw, AmphetaDesk, Bloglines, NewsGator, and various other tools that are coming onstream. The add-ins and “blogware” are coming and some are already here. There are even indexes on what is blogged the most like Blogdex, Popdex, and Daypop.

And there are bloggers who are committed to posting daily even multiple times on a daily basis.

Here’s a quote from Jim Carroll:

“It’s a generational thing. To be blunt, senior management in their 40s, 50s and 60s-they don’t get it. They’ll never get it, and to a degree, we won’t see significant change until the younger generation takes over the corner office, because they’ve grown up in this universe. They think differently, they act differently, they don’t have the hangups.”

as it appeared in this Marketing Magazine article

Here are more references:

Blogging for dollars

Blogging for bucks

Bloggers adopt a revenue stream more lucrative than panhandling

What is a k-log?

Overview of blogtools market

In short, if you start a blog Mr Bly, you would realize how quickly it brings “positive, significant ROI” to you directly and indirectly once it is added to the indexes and blogrolled around the world.

As for your writing, I have no doubt it will NOT be “rambling, streams-of-consciousness musings … largely bereft of the practical, pithy tips”.

I am sure it would be a significant addition to the blogosphere. Just see how quickly the bloggers found you, and how quickly they are linking to you:

Well-known author upsets marketing bloggers

Julian

Four More Years

This headline in The Daily Mirror says it all doesn’t it?

And the vicious editorial “God Help America” by Brian Reade pulls no punches:

THEY say that in life you get what you deserve. Well, today America has deservedly got a lawless cowboy to lead them further into carnage and isolation and the unreserved contempt of most of the rest of the world.

This once-great country has pulled up its drawbridge for another four years and stuck a finger up to the billions of us forced to share the same air. And in doing so, it has shown itself to be a fearful, backward-looking and very small nation…

…They had somehow managed to re-elect the most devious, blinkered and reckless leader ever put before them. The Yellow Rogue of Texas.

A self-serving, dim-witted, draft-dodging, gung-ho little rich boy, whose idea of courage is to yell: “I feel good,” as he unleashes an awesome fury which slaughters 100,000 innocents for no other reason than greed and vanity…

…America chose a man without morals or vision. An economic incompetent who inherited a $2billion surplus from Clinton, gave it in tax cuts to the rich and turned the US into the world’s largest debtor nation.

A man who sneers at the rights of other nations. Who has withdrawn from international treaties on the environment and chemical weapons.

A man who flattens sovereign states then hands the rebuilding contracts to his own billionaire party backers.

A man who promotes trade protectionism and backs an Israeli government which continually flouts UN resolutions.

America has chosen a menacingly immature buffoon who likened the pursuit of the 9/11 terrorists to a Wild West, Wanted Dead or Alive man-hunt and, during the Afghanistan war, kept a baseball scorecard in his drawer, notching up hits when news came through of enemy deaths.

A RADICAL Christian fanatic who decided the world was made up of the forces of good and evil, who invented a war on terror, and thus as author of it, believed he had the right to set the rules of engagement.

…As for the ones who put him in, across the Bible Belt and the South, us outsiders can only feel pity…

…The self-righteous, gun-totin’, military lovin’, sister marryin’, abortion-hatin’, gay-loathin’, foreigner-despisin’, non-passport ownin’ red-necks, who believe God gave America the biggest dick in the world so it could urinate on the rest of us and make their land “free and strong”

MORE.

Cellphone detector – every teacher’s dream gadget

When I was in New Zealand the one thing that never ceased to amaze me — besides the postcard scenery — was the amount of creativity in such an isolated nation of only 4 million people.

Perhaps it is the very isolation or maybe because the fact the sun rises there first that brings out the best in people. The effects in Lord of the Rings is testimony to that.

Here’s a gadget I think that would be a hit worldwide — even as debate rages about cellphone jamming — and if the Chinese don’t rip it off sooner than you can say CellTrac-r.

CellTrac-r is a cellphone detector. It enables flight attendants, teachers, prison wardens and parents (the last three may have more things in common with this device) to be aware of cellphone use. Here’s the spiel:

Cellphones use two kinds of electromagnetic radio frequency signals to operate. Low radio frequency indicates that the cell phone is in standby while high frequency indicates that the cell phone is receiving calls or text messages.

CellTrac-r is an Electromagnetic Transient Anomaly Detector and only reveals the location of high radio frequency cellphones.

When a cellphone in operation is detected, the location is revealed by four lights on the CellTrac-r panel. If all four light up, the cell phone is near. If one lights up, the cell phone is about 98 feet away.

That is according to Katheryn Troyer who filed this news story for Kidsnewsroom.org

What’s exciting about the CellTrac-r is that it has already found its niche.

Two students were caught using cellphones in end-of-year exams recently, reports the New Zealand Herald. The device picked up incoming and outgoing calls and text messages.

You can see the possibilities.

The CellTrac-r was invented by six secondary school students at St Thomas of Canterbury College in Christchurch.

The teenagers did it as part of 2004 Canterbury Young Enterprise competition at school and have now created their own company, Stopcom, and sold every model they made.

Unfortunately, according to their website, Stopcom is no longer taking orders for the device and is not seeking investors – I wonder why. But the company and all its assets are up for sale.

Sobhraj now using Internet to escape

This news item bears repeating:

Charles Sobhraj’s plan to escape from jail foiled

Press Trust of India

“Kathmandu, November 3: Notorious serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who is serving life sentence in a Kathmandu jail, has made an attempt to escape, but police on Wednesday claimed to have foiled it by unearthing an e-mail sent from his laptop asking a friend to help drug prison guards.

“Authorities seized a laptop, a mobile phone and a cordless phone from the prison cell of Sobhraj, known as “The Serpent”, and discovered the mail asking for some specific chemicals to drug the prison guards, spokesman of the Nepal police Ramesh Singh said.

“The criminal, known for his talent for disguise and escape, has given a list of chemicals that can make people unconscious and sought arrangements for taking him to India and then to France, a police official said.

“The Home Ministry had formed a three-member inquiry committee last week to investigate reports that Sobhraj was being allowed to use a mobile phone inside the jail.”

MORE.

This brings me to my point. Why does Sobhraj, a known con man, jewel thief, drug dealer and murderer who has escaped from prison before been given a laptop, Internet access, a cordless phone and -if I can be excused – a cellphone?

Perhaps he was finalizing the script to his movie. To me, a prison with Internet access and wireless communication is home. That reminds me. I need to get out more.

Butting Bush

Igor Knezevic summed up the US Elections in this graphical Haiku.

Click to enlarge

Boingboing.net sums up why someone as hated as Bush can still be re-elected — just like Nixon was, and we all know what happened then.

And Dan Gillmor clarifies it like no other:

The Republicans have an even stronger congressional majority. They have shown how gladly ruthless they can be in using their power. Bush and his allies have never believed in compromise. They have even less incentive to govern from the middle now, even though the nation remains bitterly divided.

There’s no secret about what’s coming. We don’t have that excuse this time.

Here comes more fiscal recklessness — as we widen the chasm between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else, cementing a plutocracy into our national fiber, we’ll pay our national bills on the Treasury Bill credit card for the next few years. Many economists expect a Brazil-like financial crisis to hit the U.S. before the end of the decade. If we muddle our way though the near term, we’ll still have left our kids with the bill.

Here comes an expansion of the American empire abroad, a fueling of fear and loathing elsewhere on the globe. This is also unsustainable in the end. Empire breeds disrespect.

Our civil liberties will shrink drastically. This president and his top allies in Congress fully support just one amendment in the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Say goodbye to abortion rights in most states. Roe v. Wade will fall after this president pushes three or four Scalia and Thomas legal clones onto the Supreme Court. Say hello, meanwhile, to a much more intrusive blending of church and state.

The environment? We’ll be nostalgic for Ronald Reagan’s time in office.

This is not sour grapes. This is reality.

I hope, but doubt, that the Democrats re-discover enough of their collective spine to block the most extreme moves. If they do it’ll be a change for a party that stands for so little these days.

People say there are two Americas. I think there are at least three.

One is Bush’s America: an amalgam of the extreme Christian “conservatives,” corporate interests and the builders of the burgeoning national-security state.

Another is the Democratic “left”: wedded to the old, discredited politics in a time that demands creative thinking.

I suspect there’s a third America: members of an increasingly radical middle that will become more obvious in the next few years, tolerant of those who are different and aware that the big problems of our times are being ignored — or made worse — by those in power today.

That third America needs a candidate. Or, maybe, a new party.

What frightens me is what happens now to the media in America? Did you see how awash CNN was in ‘national colours’ in covering election night. Now look at the different sets of translations for Osama’s final message just before the election in a side-by-side comparison by Mark Taw.

The crunch is in the CNN version which suggest that Osama said this: “Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.” There was no mention of this in the Al-jazeera version. Is the media contorting the threat to fuel patriotic zeal?

And note the Al-jazeera version of 9/11:

But because it seemed to him that occupying himself by talking to the little girl about the goat and its butting was more important than occupying himself with the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers we were given three times the period required to execute the operations.

Versus the softened CNN version:

He was more interested in listening to the child’s story about the goat rather than worry about what was happening to the towers. So, we had three times the time necessary to accomplish the events.

Why did they choose to leave the goat’s butt out? Creative editing, licence to contort, how far will CNN go?

"We want to change the world…"

When was the last time you heard someone say that in the tech world and cringe. Yeah, yeah, you and me and Eric Clapton. The cynic in me always found such statements wanting. “Can you please qualify that you pathetic piece of marketing shit?,” said the Jaded Journalist in the back.

The quote this time was from Dan Shine, AMD Marketing Director, no less. Thanks Catherine of PC.com for the heads up.

The story thus far: Intel’s only rival AMD has decided to plunge into the zero-margin world of PC manufacturing.

And here is the miracle box that is about to change the world.

Looks like an ugly toolbox doesn’t it? It’s called the Personal Internet Communicator (PIC). Argh. Just another acronym to add to the dungheap of Oracle’s New Internet Computer (NIC) and other such low-cost, near-free PC ideas. The idea of the sub-US$200 PC is not a new one, but why AMD has decided to be the champion of this project is beyond me.

Let’s nitpick on the NIC/PIC. Here’s the specs:

The PIC device is a box 8.5 inches long and 5.5 inches wide. It consists of an AMD Geode GX 500 processor, 128 MB of RAM, a 3.5-inch 10 GB hard drive, a 56K modem, four USB ports, and one VGA port. For a suggested retail price of $249, purchasers get the central PIC device, a 15-inch monitor, a USB keyboard, a USB mouse, a preinstalled custom version of Windows based on Windows CE, and bundled software including Internet Explorer 6.0, Macromedia Media Flash Player 6, Windows Media Player, PDF document and image viewers, WinZip, a spreadsheet, a word processor, and an instant messaging client.

“It will be manufactured by contract manufacturer Solectron with partners Seagate, Samsung and Macromedia.”

What? No Microsoft?

“It will be branded and marketed by in-country service providers, who will focus on leasing and lease-to-buy pricing models for consumers who can’t afford the whole sum up front.”

You are selling cheap PCs to people who can’t afford it?

“The PIC is a sealed device, operates without a fan and can only be upgraded by the service provider, thus reducing the risk of human errors such as the accidental deletion of critical system files.”

In short: It’s not upgradeable. Oooh. Thanks. Not only can I NOT open it up, you have saved me from my own idiocy of the dreaded disease of the first-time user: Accidental Deletionitis.

“AMD is taking a geo-sensitive approach….”

Target countries are India, Mexico, the Caribbean and maybe Russia, China and Brazil. Just some of the most corrupt nations in the world. They are calling it AMD’s 50×15 strategy which is to get 50 percent of the world’s population on the Internet by 2015. My math 50 X 15 = 750. In sq ft, that is the size of the room the AMD marketing dept should be locked up in and the keys chucked away.

Pricing different bits

Andrew Odlyzko, a professor at the University of Minnesota, thinks that price discrimination might not be in telecoms companies’ interests after all. Unlike on canals, toll roads and so forth, internet capacity is abundant. Internet service is therefore a commodity. Simpler, flat-rate pricing, he argues, is likely to increase usage: discrimination would turn some users away.

Hey, celcos take heed!

More at the Economist.

The full thesis is here.

Bohemian Presidency

Another poke at the presidential elections, this time to the tune of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Motorola’s stab at wi-fi phone

The new wi-fi phones are coming. Here’s a look at the Motorola MPx which comes with tri-band GSM/GPRS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 1.3Megapixel camera and a dual-hinge case that can make it a palmtop or a clamshell phone.

Here are multiple photos of it, but the review is in French. And here’s another view of it with a little about its features from PocketPCCentral.

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