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Top down, or bottom up?

by: PDiddie

Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 05:22 PM CST

(For community discussion. - promoted by Burnt Orange Report)

The following is a letter from David Van Os to one of his core supporters following last week's SDEC meeting, where the existence of a campaign/GOTV budget of $400,000 for the 2006 cycle was discussed by finance chair Dennis Speight, prompting questions from several SDEC members.

I asked DVO for permission to reprint it here. I removed only the name of the party to whom it was addressed in order to preserve that person's confidentiality.

I would be interested in BORers' thoughts regarding the ideas advanced here.

The statement that the $400,000 raised by Boyd Richie was "for the statewide candidates" is a falsehood. Whoever told you that lied to you. I am not trying to fight with you, ______. I am informing you that someone lied to you. I have my supposition as to who that someone was -- let's just say the individual is probably one of the SDEC standing committee chairs and part of Boyd Richie's leadership team.

This lie about the $400,000 is one of the party lines they have come up with to try to deflect the grassroots anger over the state party's nonsupport of the statewide ticket. The money was used to support the races of the reportedly 17 state rep candidates who were selected by the TTLA, HDCC, and/or the Trust, i.e., the consultantocracy of Ed Martin, Russ Tidwell, and Matt Angle. The statewide candidates' names, with no message information, were perfunctorily added to "vote straight Democratic" fliers in those districts to give the lip service it was felt would be needed to deflect the anger.

The other party line the insiders are using as a deflection tactic is, "there just wasn't enough money to give any to the statewide candidates." It's not about the party giving money to candidates! It is about the party promoting an environment of support and confidence about the candidates and their messages through its public and press communications. In politics, money follows excitement and hope. It wasn't the TDP's job to give money itself to the statewide or any other candidates. (Though it no doubt did so to some of the favored 17.) But it was the state party's job to build an atmosphere of excitement and hope to motivate potential donors. Some who read this will try to insult my intelligence -- and the intelligence of the fellow statewide candidates to whom I am cc'ing this email -- by claiming the TDP did use its communications abilities to promote the statewide candidates. My fellow statewide candidates and I say that it consciously and deliberately did not seriously do so. I will publicly debate this point, with evidence, anytime and anywhere the insiders want to do so. Ideally, it should be debated in front of the SDEC at the next quarterly meeting. So to anybody who's ready to challenge me publicly and in person -- I'm ready; let's get it on.

I am not talking about promoting just Chris Bell for governor. I am talking about promoting the whole ticket, all the statewide candidates. They were all selected by Democratic voters in the Democratic Primaries. No party officer or staffer has the prerogative to decide that any Democrat nominated by Democratic voters in the Democratic Primary is not worthy of his/her candidacy and message being promoted by the party with vigor and confidence.

Every election the inside consultants and staffers decide which Democratic nominees are worthy of support and which aren't. The party then promotes press coverage and donor interest for those who are selected and tells the others, you're on your own. The process is the most closely guarded ugly little secret in Texas politics.

And what happens? Year after year, good Democrats who offered themselves up for the intense level of activism involved in running for office see that their participation wasn't wanted, so they go away instead of staying around to contribute what they learned in their campaigns to the party's store of knowledge and experience. Likewise, their networks of supporters and volunteers, discouraged at the way the party treated their candidates, go away and don't come back.

And so the downward spiral of non-inclusion goes on and on, and eventually Texas Democrats find themselves unable to defeat an incumbent Republican governor who can't top 40% when a large number of should-be Democratic voters record their accumulated frustration over insider politics by voting for independent candidates.

The issue that arose toward the end of the January 8 SDEC meeting is at the heart of the matter. The Texas Democratic Insiders Consultant Money Party is going to fight tooth and nail to try to beat the pending motion to put the TDP's general election GOTV campaign strategy and budget in the hands of the SDEC. If the SDEC takes control of the process on behalf of the Texas Democratic Party of the People, the favored consultants won't be able to deliver the goods -- favored targeting -- to their principals. If the SDEC takes control, the big money special interests -- such as the mega-trial lawyers -- won't be able to control the party's political expenditures. And -- heaven forbid! -- we might end up with grassroots-directed general election campaign strategies that actually make a whole lot more people who don't have special interests in the process but just want to take our state back feel included and get involved. Then statewide Democratic tickets might actually carry the whole state!


David Van Os
Fight 'em on the ice.

Which do you want?
A party of the insiders
A party of the people


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I had such hope for many on the ticket. (4.33 / 3)
I had blockwalked and many Republicans were unenthusiastic about their candidates or said outright that they were not going to vote for them.  When the elections results came in, I honestly thought that there had been manipulation or fraud.

After reading this letter, I thought about the support I observed.  County parties were there, but I never felt a state party presence. 

One example, Judge Bill Moody was clearly more qualified, and was endorsed by most of the major cities' newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle.  We couldn't get a candidate like that elected??  I'm still learning about Texas politics, but even I know that's pathetic.

Who exactly is the "favored" consultant? (3.33 / 3)
I've been involved with the SDEC for over a year and I know everyone at the TDP. I even toured the TDP headquarters in search of a secret back room filled with cigar smoke, evil trial lawyers and puppet masters. I just saw a bunch of underpaid young Democrats trying to make a difference in Texas. The "pending motion" David Van Os refers to concerns the operating budget - what we need to keep us going. If I understand correctly, that money is not dedicated to any campaign fund. The TDP hasn't raised any campaign money to my knowledge. The focus of any successful state Party is on staff, communications/marketing, the convention and yes, the Executive Committee meetings. In a Presidential election year, we will need marketing collateral like signs and bumper stickers for the national ticket. But please, correct me if I'm wrong, and tell me what state has run a coordinated campaign for its candidates. The Republicans, with all of their money, haven't even done that.

Email me... (3.00 / 1)
and I'll be happy to let you know what we were told. And no, I wasn't working for Van Os.

[ Parent ]
Party of the People? (3.25 / 4)
Much respect and love for my friends at TDP, who work hard and do an excellent job...

However, it would be naive to deny that some "prioritizing" does occur among party officers and certain consultants close to them.  Is this such a bad thing? I certainly hope that we continue to give our officers the discretion to give due attention to candidates like Juan Garcia, as opposed to any random fruitcake who pays a filing fee (Rhett Smith, anyone?)

That being said, I have heard plenty of criticism of TDP's direction and decisions under Chairman Richie, including from a county chair in a major urban area.  With all respect to Mr. Van Os and the frustrations he surely experienced, there IS accountability in this process.  Our next state convention is not far off, and the person elected or re-elected as Party Chair will have wide discretion over the future direction of the TDP offices.

David Van OS (0.00 / 0)
Doesn't need money to win campaigns....

I remember that line. (0.00 / 0)
It's surprising that no one yet has asked him, "well, how's that working out for you?"  He's run three times now -- it boggles my mind that he's still willing to say that.  Seems like such a bright guy; you'd think he'd learn.

My take on the letter is up on The Texas Blue.

The Texas Blue: http://www.thetexasblue.com

[ Parent ]
I've got to agree with you here (0.00 / 0)
We need smart, opportunistic tactics not just passionate candidates.

Any comments I make are my own personal opinion and do not reflect the opinions of any client or consulting firm I may be associated with.

[ Parent ]
Our Top Down Rulers' skills are too horrible for us to survive Climate Collapse. Our Bottom Up Democracy must allow us to get better leaders. (3.67 / 3)
All our ancestors survived monarchs, power struggles and even anti-democratic Democracies for us to be here today. We could do that again, but this time is very different--it could be our last struggle.

Those Republicans (DINOs too) in power have been knowingly following Frank Luntz's awful political idea that the U.S. can wait to address Climate Crisis.

Frank Luntz.

How nutty.

Since our elites are driving us over a cliff, it is important for us to steer clear for everyone's sake. This is beyond politics; this is survival. (Democrats having won at the Federal level will be addressing this very soon.)

Our GOP rulers must understand the depth of risk, because they have had to bully science, education and journalism in order to get by with their distortions. And, I might add Democracy and some Democrats.

So David Van Os is right to buck these rulers.

David's strategy is correct about supporting all our Democratic candidates.

via SmartyPants


Make the Pie Higher

Emerging Democratic Majority has a good piece on why running more challengers is good for Democrats. Of course, the conventional wisdom and "smart money" insiders disagree.


The logic and basic math behind expanding the playing field is lucidly explained in a forthcoming article by political scientists Jonathan Krasno of Binghampton and Donald Green of Yale. Here are some excerpts from their essay that summarize the case against targeting and for contesting a wide range of seats:


....[P]arty campaign committees generally take charge in identifying the hottest races. They interview candidates, evaluate their chances of victory, and establish funding priorities. Their allies among interest groups and private donors follow their lead, opening their wallets for contenders in targeted races while rebuffing less likely candidates. The results of this targeting process are evident in FEC reports. In 2004, 33 challengers spent over $2 million while nearly 200 spent less than $100,000.

The logic behind targeting is hard to argue with. Funders try to put their money where they assume it will matter most, in close races where a slight shove in either direction might mean the difference between victory and defeat. Smart bettors, they avoid long shots, reasoning that their faint hopes of winning do not warrant an investment. A few thousand more dollars may mean everything to a candidate teetering on the edge of 50 percent of the vote, but little to one struggling to get to 40 percent. Viewed in this light, targeting makes perfect sense.


Because of diminishing returns, we know that a large investment in an expensive race will bring few votes, while a small investment in a cheaper race may bring many. Parties shy away from the latter on the grounds that hopeless candidates are hopeless causes. But the math says different. Suppose that we could increase the odds of twenty candidates from 5 to 10 percent for the same cost of helping two candidates with 45 percent chances get to 50 percent. By helping the twenty hapless candidates, we would increase the expected number of victories from 20 x 0.05 = 1 to 20 x 0.10 = 2. By helping the well-heeled candidates, we would increase the expected number of victories from 2 x .45 = 0.90 to 2 x .50 = 1. The first investment portfolio has an expected return of 1 additional victory, while the second one is just one-tenth of an additional victory.

The bottom line is that targeting does not help parties win elections. Instead, it impels them into high-spending races where the value of their contributions is minimal. The narrow group of targeted contests excludes many other elections where they have a distinct, albeit distant, chance of winning. By focusing so sharply on top-tier races, the parties effectively narrow the playing field in congressional elections, limiting their potential gains. And, all of their actions are predicated on their ability to predict which races will be close well before the election, an inherently dubious endeavor....



Van Os is right.


And last, to guarantee our Democracy is true and real, the U.S. Senate will address problems with Electronic Voting Machines next week in the Senate. The following is helpful information which with your help should affect the decisions.

For EDA's analysis of Rep. Holt's HR 550 see:

HR 550 Audit Flaws

EDA Study Finds Major Flaws in HR 550 Election Audit Proposal

August 17, 2006
For Immediate Release
Attn: Political assignments

Contacts:Jonathan Simon, Election Defense Alliance, 617.538.6012
Bruce O'Dell, Election Defense Alliance, 612.309.1330
Statistical Analysts Propose Effective and Powerful Alternative


Today a group of computer security and statistical analysts released a study proving that the election audit procedure set forth in HR 550, popularly known as the Holt Bill, would in practice leave elections for the US House of Representatives completely exposed to undetected programming errors and deliberate fraud. (Read the Abstract or Download the full report at Critique of H.R. 550 Audit Methodology and EDA's Proposed Solution.)

The study demonstrates that the HR 550 audit is so ineffective that in 40% of races examined, the audit would completely fail to detect fraud or error affecting 10% of precincts in an average US House race. Fraud or error on this scale could easily alter the election outcome if left undetected.

Statistical experts and mathematicians associated with Election Defense Alliance (EDA) (www.ElectionDefenseAlliance.org) propose an effective alternative approach in their report issued today. Their validation approach detects fraud or error affecting as little as one percent (1%) of the electronic tally with a ninety-nine percent (99%) level of confidence.

EDA urgently recommends replacing the audit proposed in HR 550 with this alternative approach. The EDA study first tested the HR 550 audit by applying its protocol in 10,000 simulated congressional elections. The simulation revealed serious flaws in the HR 550 audit design that cannot be remedied by typical quantitative means, such as by selecting larger samples.

To avoid this intrinsic flaw, the report then presents and tests an alternate validation protocol that can immediately achieve 99% confidence of detection of manipulation of even 1% of the total vote. The alternative protocol calls for a hand count of 10% of the paper ballot records in a U.S. Congressional District race in 100% of the precincts. EDA will present this Universal Precinct-based Sampling (UPS) in a full report soon to be released.

Besides its extraordinary accuracy, UPS has the additional advantage of simplicity. It may be conducted "in-precinct" on election night, by public volunteers representing all concerned political parties. If conducted in-precinct, the UPS also avoids the difficult task of protecting the chain of custody of paper ballot records in 180,000 U.S. precincts.

The HR 550 audit protocol demands this monumental task as currently written. Since a 10% hand-count sample could be drawn in 100% of precincts on election night, the UPS also eases the transition to decentralized, citizen-monitored hand-count verifications of elections, placing responsibility for the integrity of the vote count in the hands of the American people, where it rightfully belongs.

The EDA study also exposes the compromising position in which the HR 550 audit leaves candidates and concerned citizens. Even if fraud or error is detected by an HR 550 audit, candidates and citizens would still lack any means by which to determine how many votes were affected by the problem. Candidates and citizens would therefore lack a preliminary basis for challenging a potentially corrupted election in a timely manner. Regrettably, HR 550 is silent on when and how candidates or election officials should act when discrepancies are caught by the HR 550 procedure.

The UPS, to be more fully described in EDA's next report, provides a simple, effective, and vastly more powerful alternative for election validation than does the proposed HR 550 audit. The UPS provides a decentralized hand count, reduces chain of custody concerns, and provides citizens a clear and timely alarm for fraud or error. Therefore Election Defense Alliance recommends UPS as an alternative to the HR 550 audit.


Despite credible reports of widespread error-prone programming and severe, inherent security vulnerabilities, electronic voting systems now tally more than 95% of votes in America.
(For example, see the recent Brennan Report.

The majority of elections conducted on these systems are unverified. Therefore there is no independent procedure to prove the machine vote tally is accurate. Even where such procedures do exist on the books, officials frequently do not conduct them properly, or at all. A well-known but by no means isolated example is the Ohio 2004 "recount." In that case, officials cherry-picked precincts to recount rather than choosing them at random, as required by law. Election system vendors provided "cheat sheets" to help officials avoid triggering full hand recounts of the selected precincts. As a result, only one of Ohio's 88 counties faced a full recount.

In response to this unacceptable risk, Rep. Rush Holt(D-NJ) recently re-introduced HR 550, "The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005." HR 550 is a bill currently pending in Congress that mandates a paper record for each vote and also calls for an audit of a fraction of the paper records of all electronic votes cast in federal elections. According to Representative Holt, HR 550 has received "bipartisan endorsement from one-third of the members of the House of Representatives, and has been endorsed by good-government groups as the 'gold standard' in [election] verifiability legislation."
(See June 12 press release at Holt.house.gov)

The authors of this HR550 audit critique, and of the UPS alternative, believe otherwise.

About the Authors

Bruce O'Dell, Coordinator of Data Analysis, Election Defense Alliance. O'Dell is an information technology consultant with 25 years' experience who applies his expertise to analysis of the technical security and integrity of voting systems. His current consulting practice centers on e-Commerce security and the performance and design of very large-scale computer systems for Fortune 100 clients, most recently as the chief technical architect in a company-wide security project at one of the top t20 public companies in America.
Bruce O'dell

Jonathan Simon, JD, Co-founder of Election Defense Alliance. Simon is a graduate of Harvard College and New York University School of Law and is a member of the Bar of Massachusetts. He applies his prior experience as a political survey research analyst for Peter D. Hart Research Associates to studies of the accuracy of exit polls and other election integrity mechanisms. He collaborated on several studies assessing the accuracy of the 2004 presidential exit polls.
Jonathan Simon

Josh Mitteldorf, PhD, is affiliated with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, and is currently specializing in computer simulations that demonstrate how natural selection can act on groups and communities. He has taught physics, mathematics, astronomy, and evolution at Harvard, Berkeley, Temple, the University of Pennsylvania, LaSalle and Bryn Mawr. Since the 2004 presidential election, he has been part of a coalition of statisticians who analyze voting patterns for evidence of errors or fraud.
Josh Mitteldorf

Steven Freeman holds a Ph.D. from MIT's Sloan School of Management and an M.S. in Social System Science from the University of Pennsylvaniaís Wharton School. Since 2000, he has held several academic positions at the University of Pennsylvania, where he currently serves as Visiting Scholar and a member of the teaching faculty of the Graduate Program of Organizational Dynamics in the School of Arts and Sciences. His election research has won an award from Project Censored as one of the three most important ìcensoredî stories of 2005. He is the author, with Joel Bleifuss, of Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count (New York: Seven Stories Press 2006).
Steven Freeman

About Election Defense Alliance

Election Defense Alliance (http://www.ElectionDefenseAlliance.org.), founded July 4, 2006, is a coalition of election integrity activists working at the state and local levels across the nation to detect and counter covert, antidemocratic manipulation of voter registration databases and all electronic voting systems, and to promote honest, secure and transparent elections in which every vote is counted as cast so that our official election outcomes are truly worthy of the public trust.

EDA Contacts:

Jonathan Simon, 617-538-6012
jonathan [at] electiondefensealliance [dot] org

Sally Castleman
sallyc [at] electiondefensealliance [dot] org

Dan Ashby, 510-740-0572 [voicemail and fax]
dan [at] electiondefensealliance [dot] org

No press releases (0.00 / 0)
In the comments. Next time it will be deleted.

Now, a very great man once said that some people rob you with a fountain pen.

[ Parent ]
EDA's analysis of Rep. Holt's HR 550 (4.00 / 2)
The Rush Holt Bill is changing significantly, so some of the issues addressed in this press release are already being addressed.  I know that a more recent version of HR 550 bans using software counts in recounts and audits.  All recounts and audits must be done by a hand count of voter verified paper ballots.

The percentage of audits, which are a comparison of hand counted paper ballots, to the machine tally is included, but the percentage has not been set in stone. And audits will take place before certification of the race.

Finally I think the position taken by a large number of voting rights groups to this letter to Congress detailed at Voters Unite is the real key to fixing the issue nationally. They screwed it up with lax standards in HAVA, they have to fix the mess. 37 national groups signed on to this letter delivered to Congress.

Voters Unite proposes the following concepts for consideration to include in any election reform bill to be introduced in the 110th Congress.
HR-2239, HR-550, What Now?

  • Remove any requirement for VVPAT. Mandating VVPAT means, on a practical level, forcing jurisdictions to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on bad technology to add on to their current democracy-endangering technology. Federally mandating yet another change of election equipment is likely to cause even more chaos in the next election and increase the already seething resentment of election officials, poll workers, and the country as a whole. It cannot avoid being yet another unfunded (or partially funded) mandate. Even more egregious, mandating VVPAT implicitly approves the use of DREs.

  • Require disclosed source code for all election equipment and provide penalties for reluctant, tardy, or incomplete disclosure to individual citizens. In addition to increasing the transparency of our elections somewhat, we believe this will have the effect of reducing the use of DREs - partly because many vendors may refuse to disclose their DRE source code, and partly because the complete inadequacy of the software will become more and more apparent very quickly as it is examined by the public.
  • Prohibit the direct recording of votes on any medium other than paper.

Much, much more at link above.

[ Parent ]
HR 550, if reintroduced, Amend or End because of its capacity to give the Executive Branch Complete Control Over all Elections (0.00 / 0)
Sonia, complete agreement on voting on paper ballots that are then hand counted thereby Proving Our Democracy. More about EDA's idea to get there follows. However, first I have included another important idea to consider about HR 550.

Hopefully, there is recent movement among election intregrity groups to see the following corrected, if HR 550 is reintroduced:


Stop the Executive Branch from Taking Over our Elections: Amend or End HR 550

What's wrong with the Holt Bill in three easy bullets

Common Cause, MoveOn.org, TrueMajority, VerifiedVoting.org,, and many other large election reform groups are pushing - and pushing hard - for passage of HR550 (the Holt Bill), national legislation aimed to amend the Help America Vote Act. The bill is being sold as a way to put "auditable paper trails" into national law. Sounds like a great idea. But many activists disagree with the approach to support "paper trails" that might be audited when what we want are real paper ballots that are - not might be - counted.

The other problem with HR550 is that it is about much more than paper trails. Read below the dangerous details that the groups pushing for passage of HR550 "as written" aren't talking about.

The democratic processes of the American Republic are based on decentralized power. Centralized power led to the American Revolution. Centralized power is the antithesis of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

1. Centralization of Executive Power-White House Control over Counting the Votes: HR550 extends beyond the existing expiry date the power and authority of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), establishing a Presidential Commission authorized to control the counting of votes in every election--federal, state,and local--in the nation.

2. Centralization of Executive Power-Crony Appointments: The potential for stacking of the EAC is evident in the scenario already played out under the current Administration. In early 2006, the Bush White House made numerous recess appointments, putting political cronies into positions of power and authority without any Congressional oversight or checks and balances. Of the eight recess appointments made on January 4, 2006, three were Commissioners to the Federal Election Commission. Two of those appointed Commissioners are known for their opposition to voting rights and clean elections. The third is a political crony of Senate Minority Leader Reid of Nevada. (Nevada is now positioned to take a lead role in the Democratic presidential nomination process. For this privilege, Nevada has promised to play the nomination process by Party
rules, financed by the Casino industry.)

3. Centralization of Executive Power-Regulatory Authority: Federal regulatory authority means the federal entity preempts state and local authorities. The EAC was created as an advisory commission with one exception: it was granted regulatory authority over the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The EAC has been steadily positioning and even suing to assert its regulatory authority in other areas under its domain. Even if it does not succeed through litigation, the EAC could, with the insertion of a single line of text in ANY congressional act, become regulatory. This is how the FEC gained regulatory powers. A regulatory EAC means that a Presidential Commission-potentially stacked with political cronies-would have legal decision making and enforcement power over the following areas, for every state in the nation:

  * Which voting systems are approved for use in our elections
  * Who counts the votes in every election
  * How votes are counted in every election
  * How recounts are administered and how their outcomes are determined

A recent editorial in the New York Times, entitled "Strong Arming the Vote" (August 3, 2006) describes how the Department of Justice under the Bush Administration has been heavily involved in partisan ploys to negate necessary checks and balances in election practices. HR 550, if passed as written, will establish a whole new arm of Executive power with dangerous authority to subvert the entire democratic process of elections that supports our system of government. It would result, in effect, in a bloodless coup.

People often ask, so what DO you support?

Here's an amended bill that might gain grassroots support:

We, the grassroots, can support the Holt Bill when it is amended to remove those dangerous provisions that centralize Executive power and expand Judicial election decision making authority. A Holt Bill that amends HAVA and provides real solutions to the problems in our election system need only include three items:

  * The incontrovertible and legally defensible system of verifiable elections through the use of real, voter-marked and verifiable paper ballots (as distinguished from paper trails)

  * The elimination of secret vote counting through the use of black box voting products.

  * An extension of all HAVA mandated deadlines pending a complete independent investigation, analysis, and audit of HAVA monies distributed and spent on electronic voting systems, the outcomes thereof, with said investigation including information on the most advanced system of checks and balances for elections: hand counted paper ballots.



Computer Security and Statistical Analysts Describe a Simple and Powerful alternative


Today the Election Defense Alliance released a report describing the practical implementation details of a simple, unimpeachable method for ensuring the accuracy of electronic voting systems by a public handcount of paper ballot records. This "Universal Precinct-Based Handcount Sample" (UPS) is a simple, feasible method of hand-counting a sample of paper ballot records in-precinct, on election night, by citizens themselves. It not only returns oversight of elections to the American people, where it rightfully belongs, the UPS is also far more accurate than alternative election audit proposals-where only a few percent of precincts are hand-counted, often in secret, and always after the fact. (Download the full report at www.electiondefensealliance.org/UPS.pdf )

The simple, practical UPS validation approach detects fraud or error from any source altering the electronic tally by as little as one percent (1%) with a minimum ninety-nine percent (99%) level of confidence.

In our current political climate, any challenge to a corrupt election must be timely and have very strong justification, or candidates risk being labeled "sore losers" and accompanying ridicule. The UPS validation, by virtue of being accurate to such a high degree of confidence, enables any candidate of any party to contest any Outcome-altering problems with the electronic tally. And since the UPS hand count is done in-precinct on election night, its findings would be available on election night, enabling candidates in federal or statewide elections to challenge a corrupted tally before the election's outcome becomes a foregone conclusion in the mind of the public, and before the results are officially certified.

The report describes the specific means of effectively conducting a public hand count of 10% of the paper ballot records in 100% of the precincts in federal and statewide races. The UPS is to be conducted "in-precinct" on election night, by citizens representing all concerned political parties, and open to general public observation. Because it is conducted in-precinct, the UPS avoids the difficult task of protecting the chain of custody of paper ballot records in 180,000 U.S. precincts. In fact, all the alternative after-the-fact "spot-audit" schemes (such as HR 550, often referred to as the Holt bill) impose this monumental burden - since in all those protocols, all precincts must safeguard ballot records until just a few percent are "randomly chosen" some time after the election. Integrity of the chain of custody will be especially suspect, of course, in just those suspect elections which such audits are proposed to safeguard. Since a 10% hand-count sample would be drawn in 100% of precincts on election night, the UPS also eases the transition to decentralized, citizen-monitored hand-count verifications of elections, placing responsibility for the integrity of the vote count in the hands of the American people, where it rightfully belongs.

Most importantly, the UPS is inherently resistant to manipulation. The report describes how any attempt to systematically manipulate the UPS audit would be extraordinarily difficult to conduct and to conceal. Not only would it require a very large number of participants, any effort to skew the 10% paper hand count in favor of a candidate would be very likely to increase the overall discrepancy, not decrease it. The UPS provides a simple, effective, and vastly more powerful alternative for election validation than does the proposed HR 550 audit, and all such "spot-audit" proposals. The UPS provides a decentralized hand count, reduces chain of custody concerns and provides citizens and candidates a clear and timely warning of fraud or error. Therefore Election Defense Alliance recommends UPS as an alternative to the HR 550 audit.

In order to restore and maintain citizen trust in the integrity of American democracy, it is critical that wherever electronic vote tallying is performed, paper ballot records must always be produced and must always be checked by the best possible "security mechanism" - the American people, working together in public.


[ Parent ]
Sonia, Source Code Irrelevant, says O'Dell with apology on behalf of the information technology profession (0.00 / 0)
The following is wonderful...especially the apology part.


Part I | Pull the Plug on E-Voting

By Bruce O'Dell
OpEd News
Wednesday 25 October 2006

The FBI is investigating the "possible theft" of the Diebold touch screen voting software in Maryland. Excuse me ... but I fail to see what all the fuss is about. I certainly don't condone theft; it's just that I don't understand why anyone would bother with stealing the Diebold source code - or why anyone would take the time to read it.

Don't get me wrong: I've spent twenty five years in the financial services industry helping to protect billions of dollars of other people's money. I designed internet security services as an employee of American Express to protect the online financial identities of hundreds of thousands of people, and recently spent a year at one of the twenty largest companies in America as chief architect of a project to replace the foundation of all their internal and external security systems. I understand risks from thieves and embezzlers - I've designed financial audit and control systems. In the world I work in, there's no room for excuses.

Source Code Is Irrelevant

I'll let you in on a dirty little secret of the computing profession: in the real world, there's simply no way to ensure that any program alleged to be written by Programmer Bob on June 24th bears any relationship whatsoever to what actually runs on computer "X" thousands of miles away on November 7th. Even if Programmer Bob's corporate public relations and sales reps swear up and down that it must be so.

When it comes to security, source code is irrelevant. The actual behavior of a computer at point of use is the only thing that matters. Yet many of my IT colleagues continue to believe that it is somehow possible to look at a vendor's source code and determine what a particular voting computer will actually do in a precinct or county election office during an election. This seems to be the rationale behind "open source voting": if I can see the program is benevolent, then must be safe to use. Sounds plausible. But in reality any computer academic or professional practitioner who tells you that anyone on earth can determine whether a vote tabulation system is secure and accurate simply by looking at a source code document ... is either ill-informed or lying.

Consider Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. As a critically-important widely-used program nevertheless riddled with bugs and security holes, this is a particularly apt comparison to voting software. Even if I could obtain a copy of the current Windows XP source code and read its millions of lines of text in its entirety with perfect comprehension, the act of reading the program text tells me precisely nothing at all about the integrity and security of any of the hundreds of millions of computers running Windows XP all around the world.

Think about it. Some surveys indicate 70% or more of Windows PCs are infested with viruses, spyware or, worst of all, rootkits. Rootkits hijack precisely those portions of the operating system that are used to detect the presence of malicious software and in so doing so become effectively undetectable. Can looking at the source code version of Windows XP tell me whether your particular PC is echoing all your keystrokes to a server owner by the Russian mob while you're innocently doing your online banking?

Software Is Inherently Untrustworthy ...

How do so many of my colleagues get such a fundamental issue so wrong? Although computer technology can seem endlessly complex, the fundamental issues are simple enough.

Computer program "source code" is just a text document. It's written using a word processor in a highly specialized dialect that is a shorthand mishmash of English words and math symbols. In order to get a computer to do my bidding, I first edit and save a text file, then run other programs (called "compilers" or "interpreters") to convert my human-readable text into the binary electrical impulses that a computer can understand and execute.

Here's where it becomes one twisty hall of mirrors. All means of verifying the version and features of any program as it is running in a computer require use of other software, the version and features of which in turn are verified by use of other software, the version and features of which in turn is verified by other software ... and so on. Software alone can't vouch for software. It is a very well-known maxim in my profession that the only way to truly know what is running in a computer at any given time is to present all the inputs, record all the outputs, and verify that the two match up as expected.

All computer systems which process high-value transactions include audit mechanisms that monitor the advertised features of the system to enable an independent means of detecting flawed or fraudulent program logic ... uh, everywhere that is except for voting systems, which arguably process the most important transactions of all. Go figure.

I'm so tired of hearing e-voting compared to using an Automated Teller Machine. Voting could not be more different than using an ATM. ATMs ask for not one but two forms of identification - a bank card and a PIN. Whereas the act of voting is private and anonymous. "Private, anonymous banking" is just another way to say "robbery in progress" - as in sawing open the ATM and taking its cash. ATMs exchange transaction and audit records with multiple counterparties and offer the user a receipt. Some but not all e-Voting systems may create or scan a paper vote record, but the voter surely can't keep it, or votes could be coerced or sold. e-Voting machines and ATMs are truly "apples and bicycles".

When it comes to electronic voting, we can't use any of the techniques we apply to securing electronic financial transactions all of which are predicated on the strong proofs of identity and exchange of transaction data with multiple counterparties that are rightfully banned in voting systems. Voting systems are national security systems demanding a much higher standard of protection than mere financial systems.

... Yet the Behavior of Voting Software Is Allowed to Go Unaudited

Many voting systems provide only an internal electronic audit trail of electronic vote tallies. What foolishness to allow programs to vouch for programs in such a way; as if it is somehow impossible to make two programs lie consistently!

Rep. Rush Holt's HR 550 legislation and its supporters in the academic computer science community are trying to salvage computerized voting by requiring that e-Voting touch-screen equipment always produce a "voter-verified paper audit trail" (VVPAT). This is a kind of receipt which in theory could be audited sometime after an election if the official results were contested. Setting aside the chain of custody problem - as soon as paper leaves the room, it is potentially compromised - when it comes to observing voters actually verifying their paper audit trail, the results are startling.

A 2005 study by the Caltech-MIT Voting Project concluded the following: " no errors were reported in our post-survey data ... and over 60 percent of participants indicated that they were not sure if the paper trail contained errors." That's right: in test elections full of deliberately engineered VVPAT errors - including swapped votes and even missing races - no one reported a VVPAT error while voting, a majority were unsure wtether there were any errors or not, and almost a third of the participants continued to insist that there no errors at all even after they were told otherwise by those who switched the votes!

But even that subset of touch screen voting systems with some kind of voter-verified paper trail, and optical scan systems that could in theory be audited ... in practice, are not. Certainly not by the standards of the financial services industry.

HR 550 was regarded as something of a revolutionary breakthrough in voting accountability simply by requiring a random audit of 2% of precincts after the fact. Under the Sarbanes-Oxley financial accountability law passed in the wake of the Enron scandal in 2002, the board of directors of any public company foolish enough to apply the same standard of auditability to their own books now have personal criminal liability for their decisions and so would face prison time for approving such a threadbare scheme.

But apparently when it comes to elections, no standard of protection is too lax.

Voting by Computer Considered Harmful

There was a remarkable article published by the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility in 2001, citing work by the Caltech-MIT Voting Project:

... our best efforts applying computer technology have decreased the accuracy of elections, to the point where the true outcomes of many races are unknowable. Many technologists and technology enthusiasts will read the above words and refuse to believe them. 'There must be some other explanation,' they will say. 'Nothing has been proven,' they will say. 'Future technology will be better,' they will say. But there is no other plausible explanation: new technology may have reduced the cost of elections, and certainly has increased counting speed, but the above results show no statistically significant progress in elections accuracy over people counting paper ballots, one at a time, by hand.

Let me recap: voting by computer may be inherently untrustworthy and in practice poorly crafted, overpriced, prone to breakdowns and wide open to subversion - but at least it's less accurate than counting by hand.

Here's an indictment of the IT profession, and a fine irony: the degree of independent hand-auditing of paper ballot records sufficient to verify the corresponding computerized vote tallies is comparable to the effort required to more accurately count all the ballots by hand in the first place, dispensing with the machines. But until that day arrives, the programs that the voting vendors actually distribute - as opposed to the software they may say they distribute - will continue to determine who takes power after the votes are tallied.



Part II: Pull the Plug on E-Voting

By Bruce O'Dell
Thursday 26 October 2006


Software developers and other insiders pose the greatest risk

Above and beyond the well-documented criminal records of some of the key programmers who wrote a large portion of our current voting systems (just start at http://www.bbvforums... and go from there), there's ample room for insider misconduct in any organization. My profession has largely failed to adequately inform the public that the most severe security risks in any organization are from insiders. Quoting from Dan Verton's book "Identity Thieves:"' as excerpted at CSO Magazine Online:

The modern American bank has recognized the security risks associated with the new electronic frontier and, as a result, has deployed all the state-of-the-art electronic security devices that one would expect to find in a security conscious enterprise - firewalls, intrusion detection devices, password management systems, and powerful encryption technologies. Yet banks and financial institutions continue to lose millions of dollars every year to trusted insiders who understand where the weaknesses are in the system. In fact, insiders accounted for approximately 70%, or $2.4 billion, of the $3.4 billion that banks lost as a result of both internal and external fraud and hacker incidents in 2004."

Electoral systems grant regulatory power over a $12 trillion economy and access to the world's largest checkbook: the federal procurement budget. By the Willy Sutton rule, voting systems are truly "where the money's at".

Constant, ruthless and highly sophisticated attempts by insiders to subvert voting software should be assumed as a given. And yet a representative from Diebold can still say - with a straight face, and without being laughed out of the room: 'For there to be a problem here, you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software,' he said. 'I don't believe these evil elections people exist.' (New York Times, 5/12/2006)

Testing can't prove software is safe

The second link in the chain - testing - is no better. When it comes to computerized voting systems, internal and field software testers as well as external "certification labs" are one astonishingly lackadaisical and inattentive bunch, judging by the vast array of bugs in the public record (as tallied at
http://www.votersuni... and many other places). As a consultant to financial institutions I'd be fired - and then likely sued for gross professional misconduct - if I did my job so poorly and so publicly.

To be fair, of course, although bug reports show voting software testing is mind-bogglingly lax, all any software testing process can do is find problems that testers know to look for and report honestly. There are countless billions of internal states within all but the simplest of programs. Both practically and theoretically, it is impossible through testing to determine that any computer system has no flaws - much less, to rule out the existence of secret backdoor functions to be triggered on a future date. (This is no science fiction; see http://www.bbvdocs.o... ).

Software distribution: a shell game with an invisible pea

It will come as no surprise that the third link from programmer to voter, field deployment, is also wide open to covert manipulation. As soon as the programmer is done typing, software becomes invisible - it lives on as magnetic and electrical impulses on silicon chips, disk drives, memory cards, and CD-ROMs. Specialized software called a "configuration management system" is then used to control which of the many versions of which of the thousands of software components are sent to which device in the field.

This is not a magic process ordained by saints and administered by angels.

Voting software is software distributed through use of software, vouched for by other software, that itself vouches for other software. Surely nothing can possibly go wrong with such a system, even though the highly complex logistics of installing thousands of software modules on tens of thousands of precinct devices and country central tabulators is under the full control of ordinary people fully susceptible to blackmail, greed, or the pursuit of their own ideological agendas.

Did I mention this is done entirely outside public view?

To make things even more interesting, sometimes a lot of voting software is changed all at once with distribution of a brand new version with many new features, while other times, just a few software modules are updated (often called a "patch"). Patches occur especially frequently to poorly-written software; just ask any PC user who pays attention to the pitter-patter of incoming Microsoft security updates. The level of scrutiny that a patch receives is even less than the ordinary lax standard applied to voting software. That there were last-minute patches to voting software in Georgia and Minnesota immediately before the elections of 2002 is indisputable. That may have had nothing at all to do with the surprising outcomes of two US Senate races a few days later... but we can never know for sure.

Pre-Election Slumber Party

Sure, just one vendor insider with access to just one of the master copies of one of the software version or patch distributions can compromise thousands of devices long, before the equipment ever reaches the voter. But you'll be comforted even further to know that even after the devices are readied for an upcoming election, local election officials have a surprising degree of cozy hands-on access to voting equipment. In fact, all over the country -most notoriously in California Congressional District 50 this year - voting machines are commonly brought home by poll workers for "storage" prior to the election. Voting equipment vendors allege that their equipment has tamper-proof seals, while in reality, it takes only minutes using household tools to gain sufficient access to voting equipment to permanently and in practice undetectably alter the software....


An apology on behalf of the information technology profession

Here's the truth, and the truth hurts: my profession has enabled the development and deployment of voting systems which are obviously and patently unfit for use.

In fact, the whole system of computerized voting in America is so far removed from standard best practices for information technology that I can only conclude that - far from being the product of accidental defects or stupid sloppiness - the vast array of security vulnerabilities found in every type of electronic voting equipment that has ever been independently examined can quite plausibly be seen as deliberate features introduced to subvert the voting process itself.

And so I can only say: I apologize on behalf of my profession, to the American people. You have been so ill-served by those of us who bear the unique responsibility of ensuring that the computer systems upon which our civilization is now almost totally dependent operate in the public interest.

But even knowing what we do know, many of my IT colleagues continue to try to salvage some application of computer technology to voting. To them I say - just look at what we have done in the name of automation. We led the public into this predicament and we owe it to them to help lead the way out. We have an ethical duty to honestly advise the public when most appropriate choice is not to use computers.

Pull the Plug!

So let it be computer professionals who finally help the public to pull the plug on electronic voting.

The most urgent ethical duty facing the American information technology profession is for once to see past our technocentric arrogance and acknowledge that from a whole-systems perspective, computerized voting is surely one of the great blunders in the history of technology. Let us lend our full support to replacing computers as quickly as possible with the worst way of tallying votes - except, of course, for all the others: citizen-run elections using the most appropriate and secure vote tallying technology of all, hand counted paper ballots. While it may take a while to get there, let's start now. This is the least we can do to be worthy of all those who laid down their lives to win and defense our right to vote, the foundation of our freedom.

Don't throw good money after bad: ban computer technology in voting. Put ballots back on paper for everyone, using the VotePAD device for the visually impaired. My profession has talented user interface designers who can craft a paper ballot to meet the needs of the people who fill it out and count it - rather than dumbing it down to accommodate the pitiful limitations of an optical scan program, or making a paper ballot look like a 19th century newspaper to skimp on printing costs. Get serious about security for early and absentee ballots; treat them at least as well as if they were bearer bonds; their true value is, of course, priceless.

Let citizens take control of the election process to cast paper ballots by hand, and count them on election night in the polling place, in public. In the final analysis, we ourselves are the only people we can trust - or should ever trust - to safeguard the Republic.

We, the people, have the inalienable right to run our own elections. Pull the plug.

[ Parent ]
top down..... (3.00 / 1)
I have known David Van Os for over 20 years,since he was a lawyer at AFL-CIO and I was Oscar Mauzy's briefing attorney. I admire his fighting spirit and ideals. The anger he feels toward the Democratic Party leadership, consultants, and chairman Boyd Ritchie is misplaced.
  As a fighter on the ground in Dallas during last November's election,I can tell you the state parties assistance was extremely helpful to the outstanding local effort turning out the straight ticket
Democratic vote that was instrumental in sweeping in every countywide Democratic candidate. I understand they provided similiar help to Houston and other areas. These Democratic votes were part of the vote total of all our statewides as we targeted increasing straight ticket votes and suceeded. Texas Democrats picked up 5 (and nearly more) House seats. It was our best showing in years. Leadership does not deserve all the credit, but they certianly deserve their fair share for organizing, modernizing,and putting the party back in the black.
David got 39.89% in a supreme court race in 98; 40.76% in a run for the court in 04 and 37.21 in his run for AG.
The downtick in David's numbers is disconcerting but is more likely due to his
"fight`em on the ice" message failing to resonate with moderate voters.
  Our failure to capture statewide office cannot realistically be laid at the feet of the hardcharging volunteers and staff of our underfunded overworked state party; none of which were in place when we lost control.(Not that it would be fair to place all blame on those who were)
Our best state-wide showing was for Bill Moody at 44.81. It is not credible to say a change in party strategy, given the limited financial resources they control, would have moved the needle sufficiently to push any of our statewides over the top. Conversly it certainly could have cost us some of our victories.
I am also a member of TTLA. Most of the money we trial lawyers give in elections is not given through TTLA's PAC. It is given by individual trial lawyers who personally believe in the candidate's vision and chances without seeking clearance from anyone. All the money the party gets from trial lawyers comes from individual members. The trial lawyers I am close to do not seek to control the party ,rather we support it because we believe in its principles.
Democratic sweeps reversing years of Republican domination in Dallas and Hays County as well as our % gains in Harris, Bexar and elsewhere are extremely encouraging.
As with any race or election; there are things we can all learn from and do better next time. I know Boyd Ritchie and everyone in the state offices is breaking down the data from 06 to determine what worked and what didn't. I encourage David and all of us to take a critical look at what we personally did in the campaign to see what worked and what did not. Lets share that information on these blogs and continue moving forward. 

I agree with you that DVO's (0.00 / 0)
anger is misplaced.

Believe it, or not.

My anger is directed at those who backed Strayhorn while they also held a de facto veto on Democratic candidates in down ballot races.

Any comments I make are my own personal opinion and do not reflect the opinions of any client or consulting firm I may be associated with.

[ Parent ]
David's response to Clay (2.00 / 2)
posted elsewhere (and reposted here with permission):

My friend Clay Jenkins and I agree on 99% of our political and social opinions. But I respectfully disagree with him on the issues raised here.

While I agree that what was accomplished in Dallas was marvelous, I do not buy the argument that it could not have been accomplished on a wider scale.

Nor do I agree that my populist message failed to win over voters. While I definitely would have preferred 50.1% of the vote, the 37% that I garnered was a positive accomplishment, in an uphill battle against an entrenched Republican incumbent who outspent me by a factor of between 55 and 60 to 1, whose multi-million-dollars of lies peppered the TV waves unanswered every 5 to 10 minutes in the last 2 weeks, and who nevertheless was not able to outperform the Republican I ran against in 2004 (the difference statistically being the Libertarian on the ballot this time).

Clay has not looked closely at the county by county data in rural West Texas, where my comparative results generally out-did 2004. The interesting thing is that my best improvements were in smaller population counties. This says to me that the data corroborates my empirical experience of favorable responses from my audiences of strangers. In the small population rural counties where my results improved, I believe this is because the live persons whom I addressed at the courthouses comprised a bigger percentage of the local populations. I am very confident that my messages won people over, but I will be the first to point out I did not have much of a megaphone to widen the range of the message beyond the courthouse audiences. Clearly there was also an operational flaw in my campaign tactics, for which I am solely responsible, in that I did not have sufficient plans to leave behind me at each county seat meaningful tools for my newly won supporters to expand the support network in their community.

I am supremely confident that the populist messages my ticketmates and I carried and delivered were and are winning messages. I am also supremely confident that the TDP did not perform its proper mission to promote the campaigns and messages of the statewide candidates proudly, extensively, and confidently with the Party's in-house communications capabilities. I am not talking about just my candidacy, I am talking about my ticketmates as well. I can prove this with hard evidence, and as I have previously stated publicly, I will eagerly debate this point with anyone who wishes to debate me on it in front of any interested Democrats.

Clearly the TDP's dereliction is not the sole reason for defeat. There are several factors going into the fact that the good messages of our statewide candidates did not have enough exposure. Some we do not have control over and some we do. One factor that members of the Texas Democratic Party do have control over is making sure that the state party does its part. As far as the value of a Democratic candidate for a major state office touring all of the 254 counties, most of which are usually ignored, I would love to debate the point with anybody the Insiders choose to put up, in front of a group of rural Democratic county chairs.

Again, contrary to my friend Clay Jenkins' gentle chiding, I know that my hard-charging populist message did win over voters, to the extent that the message reached them. Regretfully, I must retort to my friend Clay that while the trial lawyer community did generously support selected Democratic candidates, the known evidence is overwhelming that most of the trial lawyer community - I did not say "all", I said "most" -- stood to the side in the cases of the statewide candidates, and that they did so because of the whisper campaigns of both trial lawyer leadership and Democratic Party leadership -- de jure and de facto leadership -- pronouncing that we couldn't win.

I don't say it was motivated by personal malevolence; certainly it was not. But I do say that the defeatism has to stop. Already the same Insiders have pronounced that Democrats cannot win Texas in 2008. Folks, this has to stop. For myself, I am confident of the power and appeal of the Democratic Party's message of egalitarian democracy -- that government belongs to all the people and is supposed to serve all the people, in the framework of Constitutional checks and balances and equal human rights and liberties. Anyone who is confident of his or her party's message should be willing to fight to get the message out to every voter at every level of political office in every election. All I am asking for is that we Democrats require our party to have confidence in our party's messages and fight for it at every level of political office in every election. I readily admit that my approach to this issue threatens to break some eggshells. Unfortunately, when an entrenched insiders club does not want to listen, you have to break eggs in order to cook a new omelette.

David Van Os

Afflicting the comfortable via...

[ Parent ]
Bottoms Up: 14 Million Online Politics Activists, Says Pew (5.00 / 2)
Getting to be a very big base.

14 Million Online Politics Activists, Says Pew


by Micah Sifry


The Pew Internet & American Life Project is releasing another of its ongoing reports tracking Americans' use of the internet today (and someone leaked me an advance copy), and this report contains some really important news:


By far the most interesting discovery from their survey: 23% of campaign internet users has either posted their own political commentary to the web via a blog, site or newsgroup (8%); forwarded or posted someone else's commentary (13%); created political audio or video (1%); forwarded someone else's audio or video (8%). "That translates into about 14 million people who were using the 'read-write Web' to contribute to political discussion and activity," the study's authors Lee Rainie and John Horrigan write.

[ Parent ]
VanOS (3.60 / 5)
This was my first time to really get involved with my party. I once thought voting was all I was responsible for. However, 2000 brought a change of heart. In 2006 I became a precinct chair and attended the Convention. I was devastated by the experience. I know in my head politics is corrupt but my heart was not ready to accept it. People said they wanted a change not just the same old thing we had been dealing with. However, when it came time to vote there were a lot of people voting for Richie simply because it is what they were told to do. Others voted for Richie because their arms were twisted and they were promised that Richie would bring money to our areas. Some were allowed to vote who didn't even bother to make the drive. Those who were doing the arm twisting were allowed to count the votes. I resigned my chair position, I quit going to the meetings of our groups. I continued to support those I believed were best for the positions for which they were vying. Democrats are no different from Republicans when power is involved, they will lie, cheat, steal, and trample all over you to get what they want. I was a lot more impressed with David VanOs and his ability to be honest and forthright than I was with Boyd Richie. I did a lot of research on the candidates for State party chair and found Richie wanting. Others did no research at all; this way of voting is what has left us with the leadership in the Whitehouse. I have no doubt that only the favored received money from the TDP.

Thanks for sharing your perspective (3.00 / 1)
I don't doubt there are many who had the same reaction.

I hope, however, you'll reconsider getting active with the party in some way.  Nothing changes without a lot of concerted effort, and we need to have as many talented, dedicated people working with us as we can.

Before you win, you have to fight. Come fight along with us at TexasKaos.

[ Parent ]
boadicea, what remedy to arm twisting/bullying in the future? (0.00 / 0)
This sounds just like the tactics described in "Conservatives Without Conscience" by John Dean about the authoritarian personality capacity to bully because they have nothing else to offer.

And, on our team.

What Remedies for next time so that we welcome new and protect all our Democratic activists. We want the force of ideas to win...not force itself.

A contest of ideas, a contest of remedies?

[ Parent ]
Sunshine, and organization (3.00 / 1)
JMMcConnell has a diary right now about learning the rules, and that's a good start.

Before you win, you have to fight. Come fight along with us at TexasKaos.

[ Parent ]
Top Down--Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy which is incompatible with democracy (0.00 / 0)
via Digby:
The Aristocrats

What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

Philip E. Agre
August 2004

Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves "conservatives" have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.

//1 The Main Arguments of Conservatism
From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

The defenders of aristocracy represent aristocracy as a natural phenomenon, but in reality it is the most artificial thing on earth. Although one of the goals of every aristocracy is to make its preferred social order seem permanent and timeless, in reality conservatism must be reinvented in every generation. This is true for many reasons, including internal conflicts among the aristocrats; institutional shifts due to climate, markets, or warfare; and ideological gains and losses in the perpetual struggle against democracy. In some societies the aristocracy is rigid, closed, and stratified, while in others it is more of an aspiration among various fluid and factionalized groups. The situation in the United States right now is toward the latter end of the spectrum. A main goal in life of all aristocrats, however, is to pass on their positions of privilege to their children, and many of the aspiring aristocrats of the United States are appointing their children to positions in government and in the archipelago of think tanks that promote conservative theories.

Conservatism in every place and time is founded on deception. The deceptions of conservatism today are especially sophisticated, simply because culture today is sufficiently democratic that the myths of earlier times will no longer suffice.

Before analyzing current-day conservatism's machinery of deception, let us outline the main arguments of conservatism. Although these arguments have changed little through history, they might seem unfamiliar to many people today, indeed even to people who claim to be conservatives. That unfamiliarity is a very recent phenomenon. Yet it is only through the classical arguments and their fallacies that we can begin to analyze how conservatism operates now.

1. Institutions

According to the first type of argument, found for example in Burke, social institutions are a kind of capital. A properly ordered society will be blessed with large quantities of this capital. This capital has very particular properties. It is a sprawling tangle of social arrangements and patterns of thought, passed down through generations as part of the culture. It is generally tacit in nature and cannot be rationally analyzed. It is fragile and must be conserved, because a society that lacks it will collapse into anarchy and tyranny. Innovation is bad, therefore, and prejudice is good. Although the institutions can tolerate incremental reforms around the edges, systematic questioning is a threat to social order. In particular, rational thought is evil. Nothing can be worse for the conservative than rational thought, because people who think rationally might decide to try replacing inherited institutions with new ones, something that a conservative regards as impossible. This is where the word "conservative" comes from: the supposed importance of conserving established institutions.


After all, the conservative order had gone to insane lengths to deprive them of the education, practical experience, and patterns of thought that would be required to operate a democracy. They could not invent those things overnight.

Even so, the argument about conserving institutions is mostly untrue. Most institutions are less fragile and more dynamic than conservatives claim. Large amounts of institutional innovation happen in every generation. If people lack a rational analysis of institutions, that is mostly a product of conservatism rather than an argument for it. And although conservatism has historically claimed to conserve institutions, history makes clear that conservatism is only interested in conserving particular kinds of institutions: the institutions that reinforce conservative power. Conservatism rarely tries to conserve institutions such as Social Security and welfare that decrease the common people's dependency on the aristocracy and the social authorities that serve it. To the contrary, they represent those institutions in various twisted ways as dangerous to to the social order generally or to their beneficiaries in particular.

2. Hierarchy

The opposite of conservatism is democracy, and contempt for democracy is a constant thread in the history of conservative argument. Instead, conservatism has argued that society ought to be organized in a hierarchy of orders and classes and controlled by its uppermost hierarchical stratum, the aristocracy. Many of these arguments against egalitarianism are ancient, and most of them are routinely heard on the radio. One tends to hear the arguments in bits and pieces, for example the emphatic if vague claim that people are different. Of course, most of these arguments, if considered rationally, actually argue for meritocracy rather than for aristocracy. Meritocracy is a democratic principle. George Bush, however, was apparently scarred for life by having been one of the last students admitted to Yale under its old aristocratic admissions system, and having to attend classes with students admitted under the meritocratic system who considered themselves to be smarter than him. Although he has lately claimed to oppose the system of legacy admissions from which he benefitted, that is a tactic, part of a package deal to eliminate affirmative action, thereby allowing conservative social hierarchies to be reaffirmed in other ways.


The issue is both narrow and enormous: no aristocracy should be allowed to trick the rest of society into deferring to it.


The real discovery is that democracy is a particular kind of social organization of knowledge -- a sprawling landscape of overlapping knowledge spheres and a creative tension on any given issue between the experts and the laity. It is not a hierarchical divide between the knowledge-authorities in the professions and a deferential citizenry; instead it democratizes the skills of knowledge-making among a citizenry that is plugged together in ways that increasingly resemble the institutional and cognitive structures of the professions. This generalized application of entrepreneurial skills in the context of a knowledge-intensive society -- and not simply the multiplication of associations that so impressed Tocqueville -- is civil society. The tremendous fashion for civil society as a necessary complement and counterbalance to the state in a democracy, as launched in the 1980's by people like John Keane, has been one of the most hopeful aspects of recent democratic culture. Indeed, one measure of the success of the discourse of civil society has been that conservatism has felt the need to destroy it by means of distorted theories of "civil society" that place the populace under the tutelage of the aristocracy and the cultural authorities that serve it.


This work emphasizes knowledge and the very general social conditions that are required to produce and use it. Simply put, knowledge is best produced in a liberal culture. This is why the most prosperous and innovative regions of the United States are also the most politically liberal, and why the most conservative regions of the country are also the greatest beneficiaries of transfer payments. Liberals create wealth and government redistributes it to conservatives. This is, of course, the opposite of the received conservative opinion in the media, and indeed in most of academia. But it is true.


Lastly, an important innovation of democracy during the sixties was the rights revolution. Rights are democratic because they are limits to arbitrary authority, and people who believe they have rights cannot be subjected to conservatism. Conservative rhetors have attacked the rights revolution in numerous ways as a kind of demotic chatter that contradicts the eternal wisdom of the conservative order. For conservatism, not accepting one's settled place in the traditional hierarchy of orders and classes is a kind of arrogance, and conservative vocabulary is full of phrases such as "self-important". Institutions, for conservatism, are more important than people. For democracy, by contrast, things are more complicated. The rights revolution is hardly perfect. But the main difficulty with it is just that it is not enough. A society is not founded on rights alone. Democracy requires that people learn and practice a range of nontrivial social skills. But then people are not likely to learn or practice those skills so long as they have internalized a conservative psychology of deference. The rights revolution breaks this cycle. For the civil rights movement, for example, learning to read was not simply a means of registering to vote, but was also a means of liberation from the psychology of conservatism. Democratic institutions, as opposed to the inherited mysteries of conservative institutions, are made of the everyday exercise of advanced social skills by people who are liberated in this sense.

//5 How to Defeat Conservatism

Conservatism is almost gone. People no longer worship the pharaohs. If the gentry were among us today we would have no notion of what they were talking about. For thousands of years, countless people have worked for the values of democracy in ways large and small. The industrialized vituperations of conservative propaganda measure their success. To defeat conservatism today, the main thing we have to do is to explain what it is and what is wrong with it. This is easy enough.




U.S. Senate should consider TX U. S. Reps. Jackson-Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson groundwork for Democracy's sake. (0.00 / 0)
The Senate for Democracy's future, should consider the earlier work by two great Texas Congresswomen which would have us comply with the (still existing) TX State Constitutional requirement for numbered ballots counted in an observably honest election.


Now we're getting somewhere --
Congressional hand counted paper ballots bill introduced in U.S. Congress

Bev Harris
Board Administrator Posted on Sunday, October 15, 2006 - 05:00 pm:

Here is the text of the bill, courtesy of Paul Lehto:

Paper Ballot Act of 2006 (Introduced in House)
HR 6200 IH

2d Session
H. R. 6200

To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require States to conduct Presidential elections using paper ballots and to count those ballots by hand, and for other purposes.

September 27, 2006

Mr. KUCINICH (for himself, Ms. CORRINE BROWN of Florida, Mr. CLAY, Mr. CONYERS, Mr. FILNER, Mr. GRIJALVA, Mr. GUTIERREZ, Mr. HASTINGS of Florida, Mr. HINCHEY, Mr. JACKSON of Illinois, Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas, Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas, Ms. KAPTUR, Ms. LEE, Mr.MCDERMOTT, Ms. MCKINNEY, Mrs. MALONEY, Ms. SOLIS, Ms. WATERS, and Ms. WOOLSEY) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on House Administration, and in addition to the Committee on Government Reform, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require States to conduct Presidential elections using paper ballots and to count those ballots by hand, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Paper Ballot Act of 2006'.


Section 301(a) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (42 U.S.C. 15481(a)) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

`(7) SPECIAL RULES FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS- Notwithstanding any other provision of this subsection, in the case of a regularly scheduled general election for the electors of President and Vice President (beginning with the election in November 2008), the following rules shall apply:

`(A) The State shall conduct the election using only paper ballots.

`(B) The State shall ensure that the number of ballots cast at a precinct or equivalent location which are placed inside a single box or similar container does not exceed 500.

`(C) The ballots cast at a precinct or equivalent location shall be counted by hand by election officials at the precinct, and a representative of each political party with a candidate on the ballot, as well as any interested member of the public, may observe the officials as they count the ballots. The previous sentence shall not apply with respect to provisional ballots cast under section 302 a).'.


Section 6103(a) of title 5, United States Code, is amended--

(1) by inserting `the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November in 2008 and every fourth year thereafter, and' after `Washington's Birthday,'; and

(2) by inserting `in any other year' after `February'.

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