By Chris Floyd
09/22/03: (Moscow Times) It's a shell game, with money, companies and corporate brands switching in a blur of buyouts and bogus fronts. It's a sinkhole, where mobbed-up operators, paid-off public servants, crazed Christian fascists, CIA shadow-jobbers, war-pimping arms dealers -- and presidential family members -- lie down together in the slime. It's a hacker's dream, with pork-funded, half-finished, secretly programmed computer systems installed without basic security standards by politically partisan private firms, and protected by law from public scrutiny. It's how the United States, the "world's greatest democracy," casts its votes. And it's why George W. Bush will almost certainly be the next president of the United States -- no matter what the people of the United States might want.
The American vote-count is controlled by three major corporate players -- Diebold, ES&S, and Sequoia -- with a fourth, Science Applications International Corporation, coming on strong. These companies -- all of them hardwired into the Bushist Party power grid -- have been given billions of dollars by the Bush Regime to complete a sweeping computerization of voting machines nationwide by the 2004 election. These glitch-riddled systems -- many using "touch-screen" technology that leaves no paper trail at all -- are almost laughably open to manipulation, according to corporate whistleblowers and computer scientists at Stanford, Johns Hopkins and other universities.
The technology had a trial run in the 2002 midterm elections. In Georgia, serviced by new Diebold systems, a popular Democratic governor and senator were both unseated in what the media called "amazing" upsets, with results showing vote swings of up to 16 percent from the last pre-ballot polls. In computerized Minnesota, former Vice President Walter Mondale -- a replacement for popular incumbent Paul Wellstone, who died days before the vote -- was also defeated in a large last-second vote swing. Convenient "glitches" in Florida saw an untold number of votes intended for the Democratic candidate registering instead for Governor Jeb "L'il Brother" Bush. A Florida Democrat who lost a similarly "glitched" local election went to court to have the computers examined -- but the case was thrown out by a judge who ruled that the innards of America's voting machines are the "trade secrets" of the private companies who make them.
Who's behind these private companies? It's hard to tell: The corporate lines -- even the bloodlines -- of these "competitors" are so intricately mixed. For example, at Diebold -- whose corporate chief, Wally O'Dell, a top Bush fundraiser, has publicly committed himself to "delivering" his home state's votes to Bush next year -- the election division is run by Bob Urosevich. Bob's brother, Todd, is a top executive at "rival" ES&S. The brothers were originally staked in the vote-count business by Howard Ahmanson, a member of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing "steering group" stacked with Bushist faithful.
Ahmanson is also one of the bagmen behind the extremist "Christian Reconstructionist" movement, which openly advocates a theocratic takeover of American democracy, placing the entire society under the "dominion" of "Christ the King." This "dominion" includes the death penalty for homosexuals, exclusion of citizenship for non-Christians, stoning of sinners and -- we kid you not -- slavery, "one of the most beneficent of Biblical laws."
Ahmanson also has major holdings in ES&S, whose former CEO is Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. When Hagel ran for office, his own company counted the votes; needless to say, his initial victory was reported as "an amazing upset." Hagel still has a million-dollar stake in the parent company of ES&S. In Florida, Jeb Bush's first choice for a running mate in his 1998 gubernatorial race was ES&S lobbyist Sandra Mortham, who made a mint installing the machines that counted Jeb's votes.
Sequoia also has a colorful history, most recently in Louisiana, where it was the center of a massive corruption case that sent top state officials to jail for bribery, most of it funneled through Mob-connected front firms. Sequoia executives were also indicted, but escaped trial after giving immunized testimony against state officials. The British-owned company's corporate parent is private equity firm Madison Dearborn -- a partner of the Carlyle Group, where George Bush I makes millions trolling the world for war pork, privatizations and sweetheart deals with government insiders.
Meanwhile, the shadowy defense contractor SAIC has jumped into the vote-counting game, both directly and through spinoffs by its top brass, including Admiral Bill Owens, former military aide to Dick Cheney and Carlyle honcho Frank Carlucci, and ex-CIA chief Robert Gates. SAIC's history of fraud charges and security lapses in its electronic systems hasn't prevented it from becoming one of the largest Pentagon and CIA contractors -- and will doubtless pose little obstacle to its entrance into election engineering.
The mad rush to install unverifiable computer voting is driven by the Help America Vote Act, signed by Bush last year. The chief lobbying group pushing for the act was a consortium of arms dealers -- those disinterested corporate citizens -- including Northop-Grumman and Lockheed-Martin. The bill also mandates that all states adopt the computerized "ineligible voter purge" system that Jeb used to eliminate 91,000 eligible black voters from the Florida rolls in 2000. The Republican-run private company that accomplished this electoral miracle, ChoicePoint, is bagging the lion's share of the new Bush-ordered purge contracts.
The unelected Bush Regime now controls the government, the military, the judiciary -- and the machinery of democracy itself. Absent some unlikely great awakening by the co-opted dullards of the corporate media, next November the last shreds of a genuine American republic will disappear -- at the push of a button.
Counts the Votes?
Southern Exposure, Winter 2002/2003
Salon.com, Feb. 20, 2003
Black Box Voting, Aug. 25, 2003
Under God's Laws
The Institute for Christian Economics,
Anthology of Reconstructist Thought
Christian Reconstructionism, November 2002
Eco Talk, Oct. 29, 2002
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