A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.
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November 10, 2008
Trying To Keep It Real
Has our long national nightmare ended with this last presidential election, or can we expect more of the same in a different package?
*BIG UPDATE* Michael Connell, Karl Rove's computer expert, ready to to testify about his role in stealing the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, has turned up dead. How convenient!
*UPDATE* One commentator has pointed out how bloggers have been the driving force behind this past election... Sarah Palin! Here's a clip of Rachel Maddow, who calls herself "a blogger on TV," responding to Ms. Palin's vitriol with a fashion statement.
This past first Tuesday in November I dragged my half-sleeping butt down to my neighborhood polling station at the inhuman time of 5:45 in the morning like I always do. This year our election district has been voting at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club on Delaware Avenue while Thomas O’Brien public school in Lincoln Park is being renovated. There are four tables at this location, one each for four different election districts, and rarely does anything exciting happen at this spot other than voting.
This year, starting at five minutes to six, I saw something I’d never seen before. There was a line out to the front door of voters waiting for the polls to open. I sure wish I’d had a camera with me. Most of the folks standing in line were first time voters, and all but a few were persons of color.
It turns out that these virginal voters had shown up early because they had all been hearing about vote suppression tactics around the nation. During the last two presidential elections, millions of voters, always in districts that primarily contain low income, minority or overwhelmingly Democratic voters, have been deliberately forced to stand in line and wait as much as 18 hours to exercise their right to vote. For this presidential election, these folks at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club were determined to exercise their rights even if it took all day.
We don’t have these kinds of problems in the City of Albany, so of course we had everyone in and out fast. By 7:30 AM the gymnasium that we were in was back to normal, with voters continuing to trickle in. The election inspectors went back to sipping coffee and discussing what they planned to have for lunch.
You may wonder what I’m doing hanging around a polling station, something I’ve been doing for about fifteen years. Technically, I’m a poll watcher, carrying an official certificate signed by the head of the local Democratic Party. My official job, as I understand it, is to make sure neighborhood Democratic voters show up to vote, and that they vote the way The Party wants them to vote.
But as far as I’m concerned, my real reason for being there is to protect my neighbors from being harassed by The Party or any other noodnicks while they vote. I do this because I believe passionately that everyone has a right to cast an equitable and secret ballot. I may be nuts, but I am able to do this because I have no fear of public officials, elected or otherwise.
This election we had record turnout in downtown Albany, what with so many people coming out of the woodwork to vote for Mr. Obama. I understand that overall polling numbers were down across the Capital District because a lot of Republicans didn’t vote. We only have a handful of those people in our election district, but I think only three of them bothered to show up at our table.
Undeniably, one big reason my black neighbors enthusiastically came out to vote was because they identified with Mr. Obama. This is perfectly understandable and not at all strange or to be frowned at. I know of a few elderly Irish Catholics who still have shrines to John F. Kennedy in their parlors.
Yet it took a lot more than first time minority voters and demoralized Republicans to hand Mr. Obama his well deserved victory. Over the past week, i’ve been chatting with middle aged white guys about the election, guys like me in other words. From almost all of them, I’m hearing two things:
1) They’re not enthusiastic about Barack Obama, but he appears quite competent while McCain and Palin clearly are not competent.
2) Anybody and anything is better than four more years of the Republican Party in the White House.
Mr. Obama appears to know perfectly well why he won by a landslide, and how much work he has ahead of him. Watching his acceptance speech broadcast after midnight on my computer, I noted how he frowned and looked grim a lot more than he smiled. This in contrast to Vice President elect Joe Biden, an old time pol, who joined Mr. Obama on the outdoor podium near the end of his speech and kept a wide toothy politician’s grin on his face the entire time.
Um, Let's Wait A Bit For This
Sure, I’m happy and relieved that we’ve finally given the boot to these unamerican Republicans, but I can’t quite bring myself to jump up and down and cry tears of joy over Mr. Obama’s victory. Nor am I ready to sign on to the notion that this election is the beginning of a new era of US history, although that is an intriguing notion. We’ll see in a few months if the president elect truly is a break with the past, or more of the same with a darker skin color.
It looks like the white voters did not secretly vote against the black guy while in the privacy of the voting booth. A few months before the election, the corporate media gave a name to this phenomena, The Bradley Effect. This phrase was deliberately inserted into the minds of everyone who watches TV. At first, I was puzzled about this. Why were the corporations instructing people to think about racial hypocrisy?
Well, a lightbulb lit up over my head after reading several commentators, who wrote that they believed The Bradley Effect was meant as a cover story to account for what was supposed to be the third presidential election stolen through electoral fraud. That sounded plausible to me. As a diarist on Daily Kos put it:
First, they push a narrative (in the form of the Bradley effect) that Obama's poll numbers are artificially high and that we should expect to see those results collapse at the actual voting booth. Second, they push a baseless narrative of "that guy" engaging in voter fraud when they have a modus operandi of accusing others of what they're doing themselves... See my point? They're laying the groundwork for stealing the election.
It seems to me that this tactic, if that’s what the Re-pubs and the corporate media had in mind, ultimately backfired. As it turned out, instead of providing a cover story for a stolen election, giving a name to The Bradley Effect forced voters to examine their own racial attitudes toward the candidates. If The Bradley Effect was really in effect before the election, then it has been fatally diminished by media exposure.
Unfortunately, there are still quite a few people out there who cling to the irrational belief that electronic voting machines can be trusted. This, despite the obscenely large pile of evidence that votes are routinely altered and stolen by these machines. Even Oprah Winfrey was shocked to see one of these fraud boxes change her vote for Mr. Obama right before her eyes when she tried to cast her vote in Chicago.
Rove's Boy Michael Connell
Wait, there’s more. It is becoming apparent that in 2004 and possibly in 2000 Karl Rove’s computer expert, a character named Michael Connell, set up a special network to reroute vote totals from certain “key battleground states” through a remote computer. This vile trick is known as the Man In The Middle Attack. It appears that Rove and his boy Connell, who was a senior member of the McCain campaign, were all set to pull this trick one more time.
But this year it seems that they didn’t dare to pull it off. Thanks to the testimony of a whistleblower, Connell was forced to submit a deposition about his alleged Man In The Middle setup in a federal court... the day before election day!
As a result, it appears that Connell’s real boss, Karl Rove, was forced to tell him to cancel the planned cyber attack against the national election due to imminent exposure of the scheme. Mark Crispin Miller tells the story better than I can, you can read it here. Talk about dodging a bullet.
I guess you didn’t read about this in the Hearst Times Union, or hear it on NPR, huh? Even more distressing, most of the leading Democratic Party politicians, including Mr. Obama, have refused to so much as acknowledge that our electoral system has been severely compromised by electronic fraud. Either they are afraid to confront the problem, or the Democrats, including Mr. Obama, are colluding with the Re-pubs in committing and covering up this very serious problem.
Some one quarter of polling stations in this country use these touch screen fraud boxes. Tales of vote flipping and other similar outrages have come from so many locations and in such quantities this year that even the corporate media was finally forced to acknowledge the problem. Hey, it only took the Voice of the Corporate Political Movement more than eight years to grudgingly admit to the facts of ongoing electronic fraud.
Thus, I wonder if Mr. Obama actually won by an even greater vote count. And perhaps certain close congressional races, particularly in Minnesota and Alaska, should have been won by Democrats.
This NY Times Was Priced $40 At The Albany Institute Of History And Art Book And Ephemera Sale, 11/9/08 At The Armory. For Real.
Which brings us to an important consideration. IMHO, the 2008 presidential election will go down in history as the first to be decided with information found, published and vetted primarily by internet bloggers.
Odd to say, I have yet to discover a single commentator anywhere who has pointed this out. To me, the driving effect of the internet in this presidential campaign has been blaringly obvious. And my assertion is extremely easy to prove, as with the following examples.
During the second presidential debate, John McCain introduced us to Joe the Plumber, the alleged small businessman who was boo hooing on YouTube at Mr. Obama about slightly higher taxes for rich people. At the first mention of his name in the debate, bloggers across the nation were scrambling to check out this guy. Not the corporate media content providers, mind you. Only the bloggers.
Ten minutes after the debate ended the whole world knew all about Joe. He’s not a licensed plumber, he doesn’t live where he said he does, he’s quite a bit more well-off than middle class, he probably wasn’t registered to vote, he’s in arrears on his taxes and he was once on welfare. Within a day Joe was forced to publically acknowledge that his taxes would actually be lowered under Mr. Obama’s proposed tax plan, which he loudly denounced as “socialism.”
Best of all, it turns out that Joe is related by marriage to the infamous scam artist Charles Keating, a name John McCain surely did not want the voters to remember. The bloggers even discovered that Joe is wanted by the police in another state for unpaid traffic violations. It appears that he obtained his current driver’s license under false pretenses.
For the next few days after the second debate the corporate media tried to downplay the facts about Joe as they were openly vetted online. By the end of the week the corporate outlets were all forced to acknowledge at least some of the inconvenient details. Despite this, McCain demonstrated his inability to grasp the new media paradigm by continuing to promote Phony Joe as a model citizen right up to the end of his nasty and miserable campaign.
"The Morning After" By Zina Saunders: Coyote Ugly
Here’s another kind of example. The bloggers acted as media watchdogs (Woof!) catching and preserving the fleeting lies that passed across TV screens. Like when a Fox “News” content provider doing a live broadcast walked into a diner in Pennsylvania filled with several dozen working class white guys.
The content provider asked the customers, “How many of you are voting for McCain?” One old guy sheepishly raised his hand. But then his wife knocked down his arm.
Then the Fox shill asked ”How many are for Obama?” Every single person in the joint shot an arm up in the air, vigorously. As fast as he could the content provider walked the camera away from the uncooperative customers, and then he told the folks at home, “There you have it. See, it’s split... perhaps leaning a little heavier toward Obama.
Now, in the bad old days, when the corporate media was the only game in town, no one would ever have seen or even heard rumor of this obvious lie ever again. But not only do we have YouTube to act as our collective audio and visual memory, we have a small army of bloggers carefully watching for and recording such moments.
Because of the internet, the moribund corporate media has been forced to slouch away from their usual lies and reluctantly report actual facts. Their arrogance and their power to manipulate public opinion is shrinking down to nothing right before our eyes. No wonder the radical right has started crying loudly about this new “liberal” (i.e. factual) media. The corporate media simply isn’t able to cooperate with them like they used to.
But so far, the corporate media has not been forced to adequately report on the ongoing crisis of fraudulent electronic voting machines containing secret software. No one, not even an election official is legally allowed to examine voting software. This is astounding to me. This is exactly equivalent to stuffing the ballot box and outlawing accountability.
The Wife is a computer programmer by trade. She’s been telling me for years that voting software would not be difficult for her to write. And if she wanted to she could insert subroutines into the program that, for instance count backward or erase votes on command. “Any programmer could do it,” she told me.
Several years ago she also told the same thing to the Albany County Legislature, the government body responsible for equipping and running the polling stations. Because of pressure from the public and from some of our brighter county legislators, Albany County has held off buying and forcing us to use these fraud boxes in our polling stations.
We still use the battered old mechanical voting machines. These antiques are tough, and the number of votes cast on them during election day are easy to count and verify. In fifteen years I haven’t seen or heard of a single example of one of these machines changing votes or giving massively false tallies at the end of the day, common problems with electronic machines.
Actually, each polling station in the county now has exactly one of these electronic voting machines. One of these touch screen fraud boxes appeared at our polling station during the September primary this year “for disabled voters.” I guess this is so the county is minimally in compliance with bogus federal regulations. I mean, since when did the Republican rad righty neocons start caring about the rights of the disabled?
The Optional Electronic Voting Machine Used In Albany.
Note The Classy Cardboard Privacy Shield
The way it works is that anyone can request using the electronic machine, handicapped or not. In September exactly one person, a Republican Party official, insisted on using the machine at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. This past Tuesday, unless I heard wrong, absolutely no one went near the thing. Why should they?
In the middle of the afternoon I drove one of my neighbors, a woman who is severely sight impaired, up to the Hoffman Park polling station. Before she could vote, an election inspector I’d never seen before (a Republican) tried to steer her toward the electronic machine. My neighbor was confused by these sudden options, so I translated for her.
The Old Reliable
Mechanical Voting Machine
“What she’s saying,” I told my neighbor, “is that you can vote on the same old machine you’ve always voted on, or you can vote on the new electronic machine in the corner.” “Hell,” she answered without hesitation, “I’d rather vote the way I’ve always done. Let’s go with what works.”
So my sightless neighbor voted at the mechanical machine, properly assisted by both a Democratic and a Republican election inspector. The inspectors read aloud the choices, my neighbor verbally made her selections, and the inspectors pulled the levers for her. If she had chosen the electronic machine, the same exact procedure would have been followed. No difference to my handicapped neighbor.
During the course of the day at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club there was a lot of confusion about where people are supposed to go to vote. About a dozen mostly first time voters searching for their polling stations asked me the same question. “Why do they make it so hard for people to vote?"
I had a ready answer. “It’s because the politicians don’t want you to vote. Oh yeah, they tell you otherwise. But they make these crazy election districts that split up neighborhoods and send you wandering all over the place far from where you live. They’re hoping you give up in frustration and go home without voting.”
I say that to people because it’s true, and all of them readily agreed with me. I like to keep the voters informed. And I like to see the voters get angry, more determined than ever to track down their proper polling places and pull those levers.
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