Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Picture Worth A Thousand Words! (Scalia's Obscene Gesture To The Press)

Last Sunday, after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, a reporter asked U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia whether press reports about his lack of impartiality (due to his faith) on the issue of "separation of church and state" were true.

"The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, 'To my critics, I say, 'Vaffanculo,' punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin," photographer Peter Smith said. ("Vaffanculo" means "(expletive) you" in Italian.) Smith immediately snapped the picture in front of many witnesses, mostly from the press.

According to Smith, Justice Scalia then said to him, "You’re not going to print that, are you?"

Justice Scalia denied the entire incident after press reports about it. See: In response, Smith printed it and gave it out to the media.

Here's the picture.

You can read about the incident at:

On March 8, 2006, in a speech at the University of Freiberg in Switzerland, Justice Scalia opined that the U.S. Constitution provides no rights to enemy combatants. It was "crazy," he apparently said, that enemy combatants, like the ones held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, receive a "full jury trial." According to Newsweek Magazine, he stated, "War is war." See:

Justice Scalia is not supposed to discuss a case pending in the Supreme Court. He is supposed to wait until he has heard oral arguments by the parties before he decides the issues. This time, he publicly expresssed an opinion to the press in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld, a pending Supreme Court case which challenges the legality of the Bush Administration's military commissions set up to try terrorism suspects without the benefit of the Geneva Convention or due process. By the time the court heard oral arguments Tuesday in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld, Justice Scalia showed he had already made up his mind. Thus, Justice Antonin Scalia is disqualified from hearing the case and in participating in the court's deliberations in the matter.

Because of the statements he made in public, many have asked the obviously partial jurist to recuse himself.

In a letter delivered to the court late Monday, a lawyer for a group of retired U.S. generals and admirals cited Scalia's March 8th remarks at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland. The letter said Scalia's reported reference to the Geneva Conventions was of particular concern to the retired officers, as it is the exact issue in the case. They asked him to recuse himself.

Other calls for Scalia's recusal came Monday from the Center for Constitutional Rights, a civil rights organization that supports the challenge to the military commissions, and from Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

If he were a truly honorable jurist, he would have recused himself. He did not. He sat at the bench this week and heard oral arguments in the case. So much for the impartiality of the Supreme Court bench!

This is not the first time that Scalia has shown partiality. In 2004, after receiving great pressure to do so, he recused himself in a case on the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, after he spoke out on the then-pending case at a rally in Virginia.

The Boston Herald added the following in their article at
The notoriously media-wary Scalia just last month had a Boston man tossed for heckling him at a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. In 2004, Scalia’s bodyguard confiscated a reporter’s digital recorder and erased a talk the judge had just given to a school assembly. The Justice Department later ruled the federal marshal had broken the law. In 1996, Scalia told a Baptist prayer breakfast that America was rife with enemies of Christians. In 2004, he ruffled feathers by duck hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney while the court was considering a case on Cheney’s energy task force.
(He refused to recuse himself in Cheney's case as well. So much for blind justice.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Florida subpoenas voting machine companies

Tampa Bay's 10 News; March 29, 2006

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) — The Florida Attorney General's Office has issued investigative subpoenas to the three companies certified to sell voting machines in Florida.

Attorney General Charlie Crist is reviewing a dispute between the firms and Leon County's elections supervisor.

Diebold Election Systems, Election Systems and Software and Sequoia Voting Systems have refused to sell equipment to let disabled voters cast ballots without help in Leon County. Elections supervisor Ion Sancho has been outspoken about his concern that the devices can be easily manipulated to change race outcomes.

The companies' refusal has left Leon County, the home of the state Capitol, in violation of the federal Help America Vote Act.

Crist wants to see copies of documents relating to sales of voting machines by the companies in Florida since January 2003. Crist's office began the investigation in early February.

A spokesman for the elections division at Diebold says they haven't seen it, but will review it. Officials at Sequoia and E,S and S haven't returned messages seeking comment.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

'06 Primary voting-machine troubles raise concerns

USA Today; Washington/Politics
By Jim Drinkard, USA TODAY
Posted 3/27/2006 11:36 PM Updated 3/28/2006 7:04 AM
States receiving the most federal money to upgrade voting systems since the Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002 (in millions).
By Marcy E. Mullins, USA TODAY, Source: U.S. Election Assistance Commission

WASHINGTON — Problems using voting machines in the Texas and Illinois primaries this month have reinforced fears that the 2006 elections may be beset with glitches.

"There's a lot of evidence that some of those fears are coming to pass," says Doug Chapin, president of, a non-partisan group that studies elections. "The theory that new technology results in error seems to be borne out early in the process."

More than 30 million Americans will be voting on unfamiliar equipment this year, after modernization required by the Help America Vote Act. Congress passed the law in 2002 to address problems stemming from the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

Among early trouble spots:

• The largest jurisdictions in Illinois, Chicago and Cook County, encountered problems in the March 21 primary. In some cases, precinct election judges didn't get hands-on training before the election. There were paper jams, misplaced memory cartridges containing election results and long delays in counting.

Cook County Clerk David Orr says some problems were the result of introducing two new machines in each precinct: a touch-screen ballot and a machine that optically scans paper ballots. "We had our share of problems, but you expect it with new stuff," Orr says.

• In Texas, a candidate for the state Supreme Court will contest the March 7 primary because of what he calls widespread problems using new machines.

In Fort Worth, an initial ballot count showed about 150,000 votes even though there were only one-third that many voters, says David Rogers, campaign manager for the candidate, Steve Smith. And in San Angelo, balky new equipment and a close local race led to a recount that was halted after it appeared some votes were missing.

A spokesman for the secretary of state's office, Scott Haywood, says human factors accounted for any glitches, and they have been fixed. "Anytime you are using a new system, officials have to get used to it," he says. "Our biggest focus now is to increase training."

The next test: 10 states hold primaries in May, including Pennsylvania, which is scrambling to train voters and poll workers.

The state is "a disaster waiting to happen," says John Gideon, director of, a group that is skeptical about electronic voting.

The task is manageable, counters Michelle Shafer of Sequoia Voting Systems, an equipment maker that has customers in Pennsylvania and 19 other states. "We have seen this coming and have ramped up as best we can," and will be ready by November, she says.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

How Elections Became a Criminal Enterprise

I obtained these links from Democratic Underground Dot Com and I strongly recommend that you read the articles at the following links:

How Elections Became a Criminal Enterprise

Part One:

Part Two:

A blogger named "Amaryllis" posted the above links to Democratic Underground. Amaryllis provides the following quotes that give us hope:

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall - think of it, ALWAYS.” - Gandhi

If we give up, we are beat and they've won. As long as we don't give up, there is still hope of turning it around. We've made a lot of progress and it is mushrooming now.

Election Whistle-Blower Stymied by Vendors

Finally, the "Main Stream Media" is reporting on Diebold and the other two faulty election machine companies that manipulate our vote! This is about time!

Diebold produes bank ATMs that are totally secure and invulnerable to attack, and their ATMs produce a verifiable paper receipt. It is unconscionable that Diebold says they cannot produce an equally secure, capable, tamper-proof e-Voting machine. Worse, it is completely outrageous that their lawyer says they only want their "authorized" people to test their machines and that they do not want independent experts to test them. Something is wrong in Denmark . . .


After Official's Criticism About Security, Three
Firms Reject Bid for Voting Machines

By Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 26, 2006; Page A07

MIAMI -- Among those who worry that hackers might sabotage election tallies, Ion Sancho is something of a hero.

The maverick elections supervisor in Leon County, Fla., last year helped show that electronic voting machines from one of the major manufacturers are vulnerable, according to experts, and would allow election workers to alter vote counts without detection.

Now, however, Sancho may be paying an unexpected price for his whistle-blowing: None of the state-approved companies here will sell him the voting machines the county needs.

"I've essentially embarrassed the current companies for the way they do business, and now I believe I'm being singled out for punishment by the vendors," he said.

There are three vendors approved to sell voting equipment in Florida, and each has indicated it cannot or will not fill Sancho's order for 160 voting machines for the disabled. Already, he has had to return a $564,000 federal grant to buy the machines because he has been unable to acquire the machines yet.

"I'm very troubled by this, to be honest -- I can't believe the way he's being treated," said David Wagner, a computer scientist at the University of California at Berkeley who sits on a California board that reviews voting machine security. "What kind of message is this sending to elections supervisors?"

The trouble began last year when Sancho allowed a Finnish computer scientist to test Leon County's Diebold voting machines, a common type that uses an optical scanner to count votes from ballots that voters have marked. Diebold Election Systems is one of the largest voting machine companies in the United States.

While some tests showed that the system is resistant to outside attack, others showed that elections workers could alter the vote tallies by manipulating the removable memory cards in the voting machines, and do so without detection.

A Diebold spokesman scoffed at the results, and compared them to "leaving your car unlocked, with the windows down and keys left in the ignition and then acting surprised when your car is stolen."

State officials similarly played down the results.

But last month, California elections officials arranged for experts to perform a similar analysis of the Diebold machines and also found them vulnerable -- noting a wider variety of flaws than Sancho's experts had. They characterized the vulnerabilities as "serious" but "fixable."

"What he [Sancho] discovered was -- oops -- that the conventional wisdom was all wrong," said Wagner, a member of the panel that reviewed the Diebold machines. "It was possible to subvert the memory card without detection."

In the wake of that finding, Florida elections officials issued new guidelines this month for handling the memory cards. They require records showing who had custody of the memory cards, and are aimed at the same kind of security attack Sancho had simulated.

"It was total vindication," Sancho said.

Diebold officials maintain that their systems are secure when standard safety procedures are used to protect the memory cards from tampering.

"It didn't vindicate Mr. Sancho," said Diebold spokesman David Bear. "You basically follow these industry standards, and you don't have issues."

Now Sancho is required under federal laws instituted after the Florida voting debacle in 2000 to acquire 160 voting machines for disabled people -- and none of the state-approved vendors will provide the machines.

A spokesman said Diebold will not sell to Sancho without assurances that he will not permit more such tests, which the company considers a reckless use of the machines.

"While we welcome authorized testing and examination of our products by qualified professionals," Diebold attorney Michael E. Lindroos wrote Sancho last year, "actions such as yours only serve to undermine the public's confidence in the security and accuracy that good systems can provide when used with the proper procedures and by authorized personnel."

Another company, Sequoia Voting Systems, backed out of discussions with Sancho earlier this year. Spokesman Michelle Shafer said the company lacks the capacity to fill his order.

The third voting machine company, Election Systems & Software Inc., did not respond to three calls for comment directed through their sales representative.

The dispute highlights what many elections experts say is a failure in federal oversight. In Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere, elections officials have called into question the security and accuracy of new voting machines. The experts said that a more rigorous federal oversight process, in which machine testers have no financial connections to the voting machine companies, is needed to ensure election security in the United States.

"The federal certification process for voting machines is broken, sadly, when it comes to security," Wagner said. "It was designed for the era of mechanical machines, and it hasn't kept up."