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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Thursday, October 19, 2006

 

Yesterday I published a letter which I had no business publishing, and it hurt someone. I am so sorry, Victoria. I've decided that if I go on publishing A Note From a Madman, I'm going to have to change my editorial policy. Starting tonight, I will edit any and all articles or letters which I deem fit. Then I'm going to rethink a few things over the weekend. -NG


Delay

“Talk about panic. I’ve got gray-haired ladies as poll workers standing around looking stunned.”
-Freddy Oakley, Yolo County, California's top election official

What Freddy is talking about is a new audio program for visually impaired voters which operates on the new voting machines which were just delivered. There seems to be a bit of an issue with them: They only work if you speak Vietnamese!

Okay... Let's call this one a "quirk". But what do we call the fact that, after all of the problems with non-verifiable voting machines, we still don't have any way to make sure that the intent, and possibly the actual vote of the average voter is going to be counted?

There is nothing that will guarantee you that your vote will count. There is no recourse, other than the word of a technician employed by a GOP-supporting vendor, that your vote was properly counted. In this world of hackers and electronic identity thieves, the best a company, such as Diebold could do is to say, "Trust us."

We don't.

"In Maryland, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, a shortage of technicians has vendors for new machines soliciting applications for technical support workers on job Web sites like Monster.com."
-Ian Urbina from his article in The New York Times' "New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Woes"

See? The Bushies ARE creating jobs after all.

Every two years there are either 468 or 469 combined congressional and senate seats up for grabs. In a regular off-year, most of those seats would be safe for their incumbents. But due to the poor policies of the Bush administration in Iraq and right here at home (people seem to be finally catching on) and the morally bankrupt actions (or inactions, depending on your point of view) of the House GOP, the people seem ready to change things up a bit. Remember that ust a couple of months ago the GOP appeared to be able to keep both their Senate AND House majorities.

Today, most experts feel that the House will be lost to a new Democratic majority while the Senate is a toss-up.

The question is: What will happen if people feel that their vote wasn't counted?

The rest of the "civilized" world uses exit polls as a barometer to the actual vote. In the last Chancellor of Germany election, the exit polls had it by less than one percentage point. People do remember who they just voted for. The last US Presidential election (2004) showed a very different result from the exit polls to the actual vote, so much so that the same organizations who predicted the outcome of elections for years are thinking about not using them at all. The problem isn't the exit poll, it's in how the votes are counted (or not counted) that is the problem.

As we previously reported here in Note From a Madman, there are consistent problems with election machines. They can be infected with viruses or simply changed on the fly by anyone with a universal key they can buy at any hardware store. The software that many of these machines use is open for anyone to view, change and write viruses for.

Recently, two Princeton Computer Science professors held a faux election pitting George Washington against Benedict Arnold. The actual vote count was 3-to-1 in favor of President Washington. After the virus was applied, the totals were reversed and Arnold was the winner.

Who do you trust?

“We’ve got new laws, new technology, heightened partisanship and a growing involvement of lawyers in the voting process. We also have the greatest potential for problems in more places next month than in any voting season before.”
-Tova Wang of the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan research group

 

That appears to be just the way the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party want it.

Imagine an election where every seat within four or five percentage points are challenged. Two things would happen:
1- The election results wouldn't be finalized and a possibility of a new election would have top be arranged
2- The GOP would keep their majority allowing President Bush an extra few months to take advantage of a lame duck congress which would have nothing to lose in allowing the Bush agenda to steal money for their "base" of "haves and have mores"

At the very least. it would be total confusion, so much so that the dishonest soon-to-be out-of-office representatives will have a way of padding their wallets one final time.

“We’re expecting arguments at the polls in these states that will slow everything down and probably cause large numbers of legitimate voters to be turned away or to be forced to vote on provisional ballots,”
-Barbara Burt, an elections reform director for Common Cause

Delays keep people home. Delays keep votes from being counted. Delays are good for the party which is currently in power, the REPUBLICANS!

We have seen what confusion does in Iraq. It allows the theft of billions of dollars for people like Halliburton as well as setting up a situation where war profiteers will be able to stay in business indefinitely. Here at home, election confusion will delay the process of getting the United States back on the right track.

-Noah Greenberg



Caught Attempting to Steal!

On this evening when we all watch the seventh and deciding game of Major League Baseball's National League championship, we thought a baseball reference would be appropriate:

Caught Attempting to Steal!

"You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time,"
-From a letter sent, in Spanish, to Orange County, California residents, with
Hispanic-sounding last names

The letter threatens jail time. Maybe the REPUBLICANS could call out the national guard to keep these residents in their homes until the election is over. Maybe they could put some right-wing police officers with Billy-clubs on a bridge somewhere to make sure only the "Right-Folks" vote.

"We have identified where we believe the mailing list was obtained,"
-Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer

Orange County, California is the heart of conservatism in the Golden State. It is the land where REPUBLICANS in their Hummers and Landcrusiers "Rove" free. It's the land where Hispanics are made to feel as if they don't belong, so this is not surprising.

Orange County is also the home of Tan Nguyen, a REPUBLICAN candidate for congress. Amazingly, Nguyen has admitted that his campaign is responsible for the letter, although he had no knowledge of it (or at least he says so).

"The mailer was flawed and ill-conceived. Evidently, an employee took it upon herself to allow our database to be used to send out the letter. It was disseminated without my authorization or approval. The employee has been discharged."
-Nguyen, in a statement

There is only one problem with this Sergeant Schultz-style ("I know nothing - I see nothing) defense, however. No one, not even the OC GOP chairman believes him.

"I've learned that Mr. Nguyen was involved in expediting that mailer. I've had conversations with the attorney general and folks involved with the mail house. He called the mail house himself and told them to expedite the mailing."
-Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh

Oops!

Nguyen has declared his love for the electoral system. In this race for the seat now held by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (DEMOCRAT-CA), whose district includes Garden Grove, Anaheim and Santa Ana, He now has vowed to make sure that everyone who wants to vote will have a chance to vote.

"I will do whatever I can in the weeks before the election to encourage all citizens in this district to exercise the most important of their democratic privileges."
-Nguyen


This, of course, was after Nguyen said this:

'I did not do this. I did not approve of any letter,'
-Nguyen


Maybe he was just confused.

Nguyen needs all the help he can get. In 2004, Sanchez won with her district with over 60 percent of the vote.

Now this shows just how sleazy the GOOPER party really is. Their candidate sent letters to qualified immigrant voters telling them that if they voted they would be deported! Even the local GOOPER party is ashamed of these tactics.

This is from a page right out of the Karl "The Traitor" Rove playbook. The only problem is that Nguyen just wasn't smart enough to pull it off. And as for taking responsibility, well, we all know how well REPUBLICANS do that.

Someone needs to go to jail for this, and we all would love to hear the "fired staffer's" version of the truth.

-Noah Greenberg and Robert Scardapane



The Market Loses and So do Our Troops

Remember this before reading below: It is the GOP who always tout the market's influence in taking care of just about everything.

 

Making sure your pharmaceutical manufacturer "base" of "haves and have mores" happy while ripping of our enlisted men and officers has turned into a job that the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party controlled congress has added to their job description. In a move that wreaks of - well, let's say it just wreaks - Congress has killed a provision which already passed the Senate, which would have allowed the Department of Defense to distribute prescription medicines to our troops through the Tricare retail pharmacy network. If you're unfamiliar with the Tricare system, here are the details:

"If you need a prescription filled right away and are unable to use an MTF pharmacy (Military Treatment Facility), visit one of the more than 54,000 civilian pharmacies that are part of the TRICARE Retail Pharmacy program (TRRx) - otherwise known as 'retail network pharmacies.'"
-The TRICARE Retail Pharmacy Program (TRRx) - Filling Prescriptions at Retail Network Pharmacies

This allows those soldiers, veterans and other military personnel the ability to pay a whole lot less for prescription drugs when they are at home or unable to get to one of the MTF's. Passing a bill (or resolution, or whatever you might call it) so that our troops and their families who have, and are defending our nation, can get their prescription drugs locally seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? (That's a rhetorical question.)

It is a no-brainer except when you realize that our House of Representatives is occupied by no-brainers.

Due to pressures by drug industry lobbyists (duh!) and the White House (double-duh!), our GOP leaders in the House of Representatives have again sacrificed our nation's troops to the Bush "base" of "haves and have mores", (this time, the drug companies) for the almighty dollar.

Your tax dollars at work. Don't you wish that we could stop paying these phonies?

"House Republicans were under enormous pressure last month to sideline a provision inserted in the 2007 defense authorization bill that would cut 40 percent or more off the cost of many drugs available to Tricare beneficiaries through retail network pharmacies and stores."
-Tom Philpott, writing in Stars and Stripes (
http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=40844)

To go along with the raise in prices (when you pay more at one place than you would pay at another, it IS a price raise), the Bushies have decided to give their troops a raise of 2.2 percent, or about half of what their average cost of living increase should be.

In this case, the DoD attempted to do a good thing. They tried to offer all of those eligible a deep discount in drug costs. The White House undercut that effort with their "partners", the drug manufacturers and the help of a willing Congress.

Nice, huh?

"Tremendous forces” attacked members of the armed services committee. “Pharmacies, drug manufacturers … the politics went right through the roof.”
-an unidentified house staff member

Rep. Chet Edwards (DEMOCRAT-TX) and other Democratic committee members attempted to shift the debate behind closed doors in order to rid themselves of the outside pressure from Bush's White House and the drug makers' lobbyists, through a "motion to instruct" their GOP counterparts to accept the Senate bill. According to Edwards, approving the bill would have saved the US taxpayer about $251 million in 2007 alone and would have kept the co-payments paid by the military families at a reduced rate.

"DOD officials contend that the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 requires drug-makers to include Tricare retail drugs in Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) discount agreements negotiated with the Department of Veterans Affairs."
-The Stars and Stripes article


That didn't stop the drug makers from filing suit to protect their profits or the Bush administration from seeing to it that thier drug company well doesn't run dry.

The guy who helped make all of this possible is Rep. Steve Buyer (REPUBLICAN-IN), the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. he is known as a "friend" to drug manufacturers, and Eli Lilly & Company in particular. (Lilly's headquarters is just outside of Buyer's district.) Just by coincidence, Eli Lilly is Buyer's second largest campaign contributor.

(Just as a reminder, boys and girls: Whatever campaign contributions are left over, after a politician retires, goes directly into their bank accounts.)

"I have come to the floor, as chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, appalled. Appalled,. I am just dumbfounded that we are — what — going to vote on a motion to instruct that we should accept what the Senate does? It seems that some people in this body are possessed in their fight against drug companies."
-Buyer

That's right, Rep. Buyer... always err on the side of the big drug companies over our troops, veterans and their families. That's what makes you a valued member of the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party.

Somehow, Buyer was attempting to tell us all that by passing this bill, it would somehow harm veterans. He didn't explain how, of course and he refused to answer any questions.

It was just about a year ago that Rep. Chris Smith (REPUBLICAN-NJ) was ousted as the chairman of the Veterans Affair Committee. Smith came out publicly against the Bush administration budget that cut the VA funding. The choice of Buyer certainly fits in with their plans. It appears that he was hand-picked by the drug lobby itself.

Similarly, the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (I left the word "Benefit" out intentionally) is also prohibited to negotiate drug costs to benefit our elderly. And also similarly, the increase in Social Security payments that they will receive will not keep up with the rising costs of the drugs and the plans' deductibles.

Way to stick it to them all, GW.

Originally, the House passed the Senate provision by a score of 370 to 30, with Buyer the leader of the minority pack of drug lobby whores. But the motion wasn't binding, and this opened the door for the Bush-Drug Company pressure on the House REPUBLICANS. in the end, the provision was removed from the bill.

If anyone wanted to argue for a change in the House, this should be a large part of that argument. It is in mine.

-Noah Greenberg



Bozo the Congressman

"As we go through the city of Baghdad, it was like being in Manhattan... you would never know that there was a war going on... car bomb goes off... but the rest of the country is functioning,"
-Rep. Peter King (REPUBLICAN-NY), from the podium of the Merrick Jewish Center in Merrick, NY (Long Island)

Yep... You know, just the other day, I was riding on West 38th Street in Manhattan's garment center when... BOOM!... a car bomb went off. Well, you know, since it happens every day, it was, like, no big deal. Although they did close the street for about an hour, it's not like it meant anything. As long as the rest of the nation was okay, right, Rep. King?

"Up in Mosul (Iraq), I remember seeing news reports about roller coasters? Where you had two or three parking lots filled with their cars on a Sunday afternoon. Again, that’s not something you’d see on television, and at any given time a suicide bomber can walk into an amusement center, but the point I’m making is that the situation is more stable than you think,"
-Rep. King


Funny that Mr. King should mention the roller coaster. This past summer, my family and I went hurricane-dodging and decided to go to Sandusky, Ohio for a mini-vacation. It was a slightly overcast and windy day when we went to the Cedar Point Amusement Park, which sits on Lake Erie. We had such a swell time that maybe, next year, we should book a two week vacation package to the Mosul Roller Coaster and Amusement Park. And after the Roller Coaster, we'll go on the "Dodge-A-Bomb" followed by the "Un-Armored Humvee Race". I think that, maybe, we'll avoid the "72 Virgins and the Suicide Bomb" ride. You can only go on it once.

I hope I can find a parking space.

View the video at: http://thinkprogress.org/2006/10/17/king-baghdad-manhattan/

-Noah Greenberg



Senator Hobbit

I guess someone must have told Senator Rick Santorum (REPUBLICAN-PA) that if he compares the war in Iraq to a popular movie that almost all of America has seen (except me, of course), that he'll be able to communicate more efficiently. Let me re-phrase that: He had better hope that this was the case; he had better hope that comparing the real loss of American lives in Iraq to the Lord of the Rings trilogy was someone else's idea. If not, this guy has simply lost it.

"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else. It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."
-Sen. Santorum

The first time I heard this, I just sat there for awhile with my mouth agape. Just how can someone be so insensitive as to compare fantasy with the real horrors of war? You'd think that a guy like Santorum, who says he values all life, would thkink of something else to say.

Santorum, the number three REPUBLICAN in the senate is on the list of those who may make a run at the GOP presidential nomination for 2008. By then, perhaps the soon-to-be former Senator from Pennsylvania (we hope) will be able to tell the difference between "hobbits" and the Children of America who fight and die in Iraq.

Hey, if I read to the end of the Lord of the Rings, will that tell me how the Iraq war ends?

-Noah Greenberg



Already In Recession?

The Philly Fed's Business Activity Index (chart) unexpectedly fell from -0.4 in September to -0.7 in October, remaining in contractionary territory. Economists were expecting 7.0 reading. New orders rebounded from -1.3 to 13.4, while prices paid and prices received remained in positive territory but continued to recede. This index of regional manufacturing activity has recently contradicted readings from other regional gauges, which have shown continued expansion.

The Leading Index (chart) rose 0.1% in September, below the forecast of a 0.3% rise. The Conference Board said that the economy has slowed, but that the evidence does not yet point to a recession. No economic data is scheduled for release on Friday.
****

Who are these money heads trying to fool! We are in a recession already. Okay, I know you need two consecutive quarters of negative GDP for a recession but that's just the technical definition. If you look at the long term unemployment, it is stuck at 2.5 million. The real unemployment percentage is around 10% when you count the discouraged. The housing market has busted, personal debt is at record levels and now the business activity index is in the red. The Bushitas economy stinks. It may be okay for the stock market mavens but for the vast majority of Americans six years of Bush has been an economic disaster.

-Robert Scardapane


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-Noah Greenberg