George Bush says so much about "democracy," that it's kind of ironic to realize that he genuinely has no understanding of its underpinnings. He's kind of like the newly-minted Wiccan, who can't understand why her soulmate didn't appear -- after all, she read the spell exactly as it was printed in the Llewellyn
Book of Love Spells. She even did it wearing a red dress and burning that expensive Incense of Love that she bought at the Ren Faire. Bush, similarly, seems to believe that if he keeps repeating the word -- democracy, democracy, democracy -- the Bush junta clusterfuck that is Iraq will magically turn into an oasis in a desert of theocratic despotism. It isn't working for him, any better than the Incense of Love is working for the baby Wiccan.
One of the most important underpinnings of democracy that Bush completely fails to understand is the concept that a democratic government derives its authority from the consent of the governed. In a functioning democracy, people consent to be governed by the winner of an election, even when they voted for the other person. But that lasts only as long as people on both sides -- and ESPECIALLY people on the losing side -- believe that the election was fair and that the votes were accurately counted. Otherwise, people tend to do things like riot, burn buildings, and generally refuse to be governed. Beginning in 2000, the essential underpinnings of our democracy began to crumble. The Bush junta got a despicably-partisan SCOTUS to stop the accurate counting of votes in Florida and Bush assumed power in what I believe was an unconstitutional manner.
Well, a two-hundred-year-old democracy such as ours might have been able to sustain that kind of blow -- once. But the Republicans saw that Americans didn't riot in the streets, burn down any buildings, or refuse to recognize the junta's actions. That led them to make (what I hope will be shown to be) an unwarranted leap of logic. They decided that they could continue to steal elections. They almost certainly stole the 2002 midterm elections and they certainly stole
presidential election. And, they are planning to steal the 2006 midterm elections, as we sit here.
With each election that they've stolen, they, like many criminals, have become more skilled. One of the most important tools in their black bag has been the Diebold voting machine. The president of Diebold is a huge Bush supporter and promised to "deliver" Ohio to Bush
. And, he did.
Last week's fiasco concerning the primaries in Maryland
-- where [m]ajor mistakes bogged down Tuesday's primary election. Equipment abruptly turned off or went missing, vote totals didn't arrive on time, and many volunteers lacked the know-how to start and operate the state's new and, for the first time, entirely electronic voting system. Circuit judges ordered polls to stay open an extra hour in Baltimore, where many election judges were no-shows, and in Montgomery County, where [what the Sun is please to call] human error prevented a crucial electronic component from being delivered to polling stations.
Today's WaPo suggests that even more such fuck-ups are to be expected this November
. (Guess who those "errors" are going to favor? Bend over, Democrats. HICA.)
And, just this week, came news of a careful study
from Princeton University (hardly a bastion of liberalism or tin-foil-wearing anarchists) demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that Diebold
voting machines are some of the most-easily hacked
machines in the universe. Some of the more disturbing results from the Princeton report:Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss. We have constructed demonstration software that carries out this vote-stealing attack.
Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to the machines.
AccuVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses — computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and post-election activity. We have constructed a demonstration virus that spreads in this way, installing our demonstration vote-stealing program on every machine it infects.
While some of these problems can be eliminated by improving Diebold's software, others cannot be remedied without replacing the machines' hardware. Changes to election procedures would also be required to ensure security.
If you believe that a supporter of the Bush junta would just accidentally market a machine like this and that, given motive and opportunity (both of which they've had in spades), the Bush junta just kept its hands clean and didn't steal votes, then I have a Llewellynn Book of Love Spells and some Incense of Love that I can let you have for a few thousand dollars. I got them from a hereditary witch, the last of a long lineage with its roots in Lascaux, who died just after passing them on to me, but making me promise not to reveal her identity. Really.
I think it's going to take some serious rioting to ever get back to the days when most Americans felt comfortable that their votes were counted correctly rather than stolen, but then I'm a cynical old bitch. The Princeton Study demonstrates, though, why I've vowed not to donate any money to any Democratic presidentiall candidate until the Democrats figure out that they've GOT to re-take the Secretary of State positions in Ohio and Florida. Otherwise, donating to a Democratic presidential candidate is just a way to enrich the Bonna Draziles and Danny Lavises of the world.
However, on the assumption that there might be a step short of national riots that provide the sadist Secretary of the Air Force with the opportunity to microwave-tase Americans
for which he's been jonesing, here is one modest suggestion. Diebold
stock (ticker name: DBD) was selling on Friday afternoon for $41.97. Call your broker and buy a share. Go on line and buy a share. Ask your parents to buy you a share for xmas.Shareholder activism
may be our last, best hope for a peaceful solution to this problem. Every spring, thousands of annual general meetings take place across America. . . . Shareholder meetings are also the one opportunity each year where minority shareholders and advocacy groups have a chance to speak directly with the company boards in a public forum. Participation ranges from mild-mannered opposition to radical, attention-getting activism. In 1998, for instance, environmental activists from Amazon Watch splashed fake blood on the exterior of the Occidental oil company's headquarters and carried a "pipeline" of eight oil barrels welded together into the lobby of the building. Other meetings have prompted large scale banner drops, traffic obstructions, and puppet parades.
Amazon Watch's Leila Salazar, who was present at this year's ChevronTexaco meeting, believes that participating in these annual meetings is a useful way to be heard as an activist. "A lot of times we don't have that access." She says. "Its rare to be able to go and meet with companies that normally wouldn't listen to activists."
The meetings are also a convenient springboard for social responsibility investors and NGOs to introduce resolutions for shareholder votes to change company practice and generate media attention for their cause against standing policy at a company's expense.
That's exactly what a consortium of groups, including Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and the United Steelworkers Union, aimed to do in mid-April at the lumber giant Weyerhaeuser'’s annual meeting. They assembled a group of shareholders who collectively owned more than $400,000 in Weyerhaeuser stock to ask pointed questions to board members about the company'’s practices of recklessly logging endangered old-growth forests in North America, using wasteful tree-cutting procedures, and abuse of trust in the cutting of billions of dollars worth of cedar forests on the Haida Nation tribe's lands in British Columbia.
Weyerhaeuser CEO Steve Rogel's anticipated his Big Day might be ruined and brought in a large contingent of security guards and eliminated the custom of allowing shareholders to ask direct questions to the board members. Instead, shareholders were directed to write their questions on cards, which board members then chose from.
From the company's perspective, the meeting did not go well. Many shareholders and representatives were furious that they were unable to communicate directly with the board. The Steelworkers said they submitted more than fifteen questions in the meeting and got just one response. Some of the attendees began shouting and were forcibly removed from the meeting. RAN'’s Old Growth Campaign director Brant Olson said that Weyerhaeuser'’s elimination of direct question/answer sessions in the meetings "“set a dangerous precedent for other publicly-owned company meetings. It also shows the contempt Weyerhaeuser has for its shareholders --— the people who actually own the company."
Steve Rogel told the press after the meeting, "Obviously there are elements of society who will do anything to have their views heard." Yet it was Weyerhaeuser'’s attempt to stifle the activists that really sent a message that day. News about the meeting spread throughout the local and national press. That day, The New York Times ran a story under the heading "Manager to Owners: Shut Up."”Diebold's last annual meeting was April 27, 2006
. That gives you six months to go buy a share of Diebold and make plans to attend their next annual meeting. I have some ideas about a derivative action
following that meeting, but I need to do some more research and flesh that out before I blog about it.