Washburn's World

My take on the world. My wife often refers to this as the WWW (Weird World of Washburn)

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Location: Germantown, Wisconsin, United States

I am a simple country boy transplanted from the Piehl Township in northern Wisconsin to the Milwaukee metropolitan area who came down "sout" in 1980 for college and have stayed in the area since.
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Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Official - I am a terrorist

The Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), a military "fusion" center similar to the one in Texas and the one in Wisconsin. Check for the fusion center near you.

If you have never heard of fusion centers you are not alone. I only learned about the fusion centers this weekend. But in our defense, they are a secretive bunch. Even though the third annual conference of National fusion centeres was held this week in Kansas City, the website for the Wisconsin fusion center is a secret and a Google search for "Missouri Information Analysis Center" not bring up the URL to the Missouri Information Analysis Center? Could it be, because the MIAC robot.txt file prevents archiving of the site by all known search engines?

According to the official report from MIAC you are a terrorist if you:
  • You display or use the Gadsden Rattlesnake Flag/Symbol.✔
  • You have watched the movies zeitgeist or America: Freedom to Fascism.
  • You support a repeal of the 16th Amendment - the Income Tax. ✔ (and the 17th as well)
  • You supported the candidacy of Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). ✔
  • You are a member of a Committees of Safety.
  • You oppose mandatory citizen service for those aged 18 to 24 per Rahm Emanuel’s proposal. ✔
  • You oppose the Security and Prosperity Partnership (aka the North American Union) being out of the jurisdiction of Congressional oversight. ✔
  • You support the abolition of the FEDERAL RESERVE private central bank and favor a return to Constitutional money. ✔
  • You oppose any further restrictions on the inherent right to bear arms. ✔
  • You oppose any bailout bills for failing banks and/or private companies.✔
  • You are literate enough in in Greek history to know that "Molan Labe" does not mean "over my dead body".✔
  • Play paint ball with either true paint ball guns or Airsoft guns.✔
  • Think injecting tumor-inducing RFID chips into humans and animals is a bad idea.✔
Lest you think this is some new insanity from the the 9-11 changes everything buffoons here is a similar brochure on identifying terrorists issue to Arizona state troopers from the FBI.

It is official. I am a terrorist.

In addition to the above I have proudly done the following:
  • Opposed the immoral act of taking from the productive and giving to the foolish regardless of the name used: TARP, Stimulus, TARP II, AIG, etc.
  • Referred to and appealed to the US Federal Constitution as if it were the supreme law of the land.
  • Insisted that government officials get search warrants or permission in order to search my property
  • Called "asset forfeiture" an immoral, but legal plundering of sovereign citizens.
  • Called Presidents Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush the Younger, and Obama tyrants.
  • Supported the nomination of Ron Paul as the presidential candidate for Republican party. Boy, I am so glad we choose that "electable" John McCain instead.
  • Vowed to NEVER forego my duty to confront my accusers by appearing via television in any judicial proceeding.
And since I am now a terrorist all the provisions of the PATRIOT ACT, the Military Commission Act, John Werner Defense Authorization act, can be brought to bear on me and those who are similarly classified as terrorist.

I am heartened that may weak-kneed conservatives such as Limbaugh, Hannity, and Belling are now starting to see some of the danger of a "Unitary Executive" now that Obama is that unitary executive. But, they suffered from the same intellectual error that Democrats and progressive are currently exhibiting: "It's not tyranny if our side does it." And yes, these fusion centers are tyranny and another usurpation of power because one of the stated goals of the miltary fusion centers is The regulation of noncriminal conduct. [emphasis mine].

The problem, as always, is not whose hands are on the Sword of Government, but how long, indiscriminate, and poorly sheathed is the Sword of Government. Since someone is going to eventually wield it against you it is best that the Sword of Government be short, discriminating, and difficult to un-sheath.

Friday, March 06, 2009

More on Interim Approval of Voting Systems

I received the response from the Government Accountability Board regarding to my inquiry into the legality of interim approval of voting systems.

The summary is:
  • Approval from the Government Accountability Board is not needed for each change to a voting system fielded in the State of Wisconsin.
  • Changes to fielded voting systems need new approval from the Government Accountability Board only if the staff believes the changes are
    significant enough to warrant a recommendation that the Government Accountability Boar require the manufacturer to submit a new application for appr5oval of the entire voting system containing all modifications
I agree that this approach
balances the interests of conducting accessible elections with requiring re-approval of entire voting systems as a result of minor modifications
I stand by my earlier statement that interim approval is without legal foundation and, in the case of ES&S, there is no way to know if the staff is correct in their assessment of significant because the engineering change order is a trade secret.

I also agree with the staff of the GAB
that the voting system approval process prescribed by statute and code did not contemplate the ongoing updates, engineering change orders and other modifications that incidentally affect the previously approved voting system
This is because the whole central, but false, premise of the voting system approval process is electronic voting systems are stable, well-engineered, well-tested, high-reliability systems which are fit for use in the mission-critical area of election administration.

All evidence from the last ten years (especially that not bought by the manufacturers) shows that no electronic voting system on the market from any vender is stable, well-engineered, well-tested, reliable, or fit for use.

This is the rock and the hard place in which the Government Accountability Board and its staff finds itself in. The approval process assumes electronic voting systems are stable, well-engineered, well-tested, reliable, and fit for use in administering election. The reality is that no electronic system currently on the market (or likely to be on the market in the next 10 years) is stable, well-engineered, well-tested, reliable, or fit for use.

What is the staff and the Board to do, but stretch the statutes and administrative code to the breaking point? The only alternative is to administer elections without electronic voting equipment. Neither clerks nor the public, which demands numbers by the ten o'clock news, will tolerate elections without electronic administration and tabulation.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Rock, A Hard Place, and Interim Certification

The state of Wisconsin elections are between a rock and a hard place. Because much of the administration of an election relies on unstable, poorly tested, and unreliable equipment, on February 17, 2009 many election jurisdictions had some tough choices. If your jurisdiction uses an Automark ballot marker as your accessibility device, you were told by ES&S on January 21, 2009 that your ES&S equipment is no longer covered by the maintenance agreement with ES&S. If your jurisdiction uses Premier(aka Diebold) equipment, then you were told that you have to upgrade your SSL certificate before the February 17, 2009 election or you would not be able to upload election results via modem or from a TSx touch screen DRE.

The squeeze from the vendors on the local municipalities and the Government Accountability Board (GAB) is clear: accede to our demands or we will make your election life difficult.

Wisconsin has its own, state-level accessibility requirement. So, even though February 17, 2009 was not a federal election, the local municipalities are required under state law to have working Automarks and TSx touch screen DRE, unless an exemption is granted by the GAB or its staff.

In an extra-legal attempt to help the municipalities navigate between Scylla and Charybdis, the Staff on their own authority granted "interim approval" to the updated systems from ES&S and Premier. To better understand this situation I filed an open records request with the GAB on these "interim approvals" and what was being approved.

The results are here and here, and they raise several serious issues.
  1. Two voting systems have been granted "interim approval".
  2. There is no public documentation of what changes were approved for the Automarks. The engineering change order (ECO) granted interim approval is a trade secret. So again, when it comes to election administration the truth is a trade secret. The GAB staff claims the ECO is a de minimus change. Maybe it is. There is no way though for the public to confirm or deny that assessment. The approved changes are a trade secret.
  3. the ES&S ECO was presented to the staff of the GAB in July 22, 2008.
  4. The threating January 21, 2009 letter from ES&S to municipal and county clerks was not limited to Automarks. The ES&S letter cited here was obtained from Taylor County Wisconsin, which has no Automarks. Taylor county has iVotronics, m100's and m150's from ES&S, but no AutoMarks. The GAB claims the July 22, 2008 engineering change order (ECO) is limited from ES&S is limited to Automarks. Perhaps what Attorney Falk meant was the interim approval of the ES&S ECO was limited to Automarks. But since the ECO is a trade secret, there is is no way to tell what the scope of the ES&S ECO actually is.
  5. The response from the GAB on January 22, 2009 indicates that they believe the withdrawl of services by ES&S to be a possible breach of the maintenace agreement. Here is the relavent quote from the GAB January 22, 2009 letter:
    The G.A.B. encourgages election officials to contact their attorney regarding contract responsibilities and obligations. From our review, it appears that only a second routine maintenance vist in a 12 month period is subject to teh 90% per unit maintenance fee and only emergency remedial maintenance services are subject to the 150% per unit maintenance fee. Your costs and rights will depend on the language of your contract with ES&S and the frequency of maintenance services.
The vendor control of election administration is a big problem, but what did the GAB and the clerks expect? When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. This is how voting equipment vendors have behaved for three decades. As troubling as this control and near extortion by the vendors is, I find the "interim approval" more troubling. It is Class I felony to use unapproved voting equipment in an election, and the staff of the Government Accountability Board has no legal authority to grant or deny approval of voting equipment. There has been ample time to bring the ES&S ECO before the GAB and get approval the legal way. There have been five GAB meetings since the ECO request was presented to the GAB staff; August, October, November, and December, of 2008 and again on January 15, 2009.

During the January 15, 2009 meeting of the Government Accountability Board, the Board approved delegating some of its authority to Kevin Kennedy and Shane Falk. It is item L on page 58 of the meeting agenda. Approving voting equipment was not on the agenda. Nor did the GAB vote to delegate such authority.

In fact the Wisconsin legislature has expressly limited the powers the Government Accountability Board CAN delegate to its staff. Specifically, WI States 5.05(1)(e) reads [emphasis and reformatting mine]:
Delegate to its legal counsel the authority to
  • intervene in a civil action or proceeding under sub.(9),
  • issue an order under s. 5.06,
  • exempt a polling place from accessibility requirements under s. 5.25(4)(a),
  • exempt a municipality from the requirement to use voting machines or an electronic voting system under s. 5.40 (5m),
  • approve an electronic data recording system for maintaining poll lists under s. 6.79, or
  • authorize nonappointment of an individual who is nominated to serve as an election official under s. 7.30 (4) (e),
subject to such limitations as the board deems appropriate.
The approval, interim or otherwise, is not a power the GAB can delegate even if it voted to do so. Interim approval is without legal foundation. I have three times asked the staff counsel of the Governmental Accountability Board, Shane Falk, to provide me with the legal citations which he believes allow for the staff to provide "interim approval" to voting equipment. He has refused to provide an answer even after having had more than a week to provide it.

In summary, to help relieve the pressure voting equipment vendors were putting on municipal and county clerks, the staff of the GAB decided the best choice was to break the law, exceed its authority, and grant "interim approval" to the offending equipment. On option which was within the law to do (if the Board had delegated such authority to the Staff) was to exempt polling locations from the state requirements to provide Automarks if those Automarks were broken. Admittedly, a poor option, but it has the virtue of being legal.

But, given the corner that the vendors back them and clerks into, what was the staff supposed to do but break the law?

The Anthrax Case Will Not Go Away

Much as the FBI would like the Amerithrax case to go away, it won't.

I think the reason it won't go away is because the FBI does not want to find the person or persons who killed 5 Americans and injured 17 others with a bio-weapon manufactured by the US military. Too many awkward questions.

Last August, I pointed out, the official FBI story, The Dead Guy Did It, has some serious holes in it.

It turns there is one more hole. The anthrax spores Bruce Ivins had access to do not match the weaponized anthrax spores used to kill Americans in October 2001.

My one complaint about the article is the last paragraph:
Ivins, 62, a bio-defense researcher who spent years searching for a better anthrax vaccine, overdosed on Tylenol and Codeine last year after learning that the FBI was preparing to indict him on murder charges.
First, there was no autopsy done when Bruce Ivins died. It is a leap of faith to claim the cause of death was an overdose of any kind let alone by an overdose of a prescription-only drug. Second, as everyone touched by suicide knows, there are only guesses as to why a person commits suicide. In defense, of the Raw Story, the story of Ivins-committed-suicide-to-avoid-indictment is the official FBI story and they are merely quoting the official story.

In spite of this latest obstacle (no murder weapon), the FBI is sticking to its official story: The Dead Guy Did It. Quoting the article:
The results don't necessarily exonerate Ivins.

The mailed spores could have been removed from the flask and grown under different conditions, resulting in varying chemical contents, Jason Bannan, a microbiologist and forensic examiner at the FBI's Chemical Biological Sciences Unit in Quantico, Virginia, told Kwok.

"It doesn't surprise me that it would be different," said Bannan.
There you have it. Even though the murder suspect, The Dead Guy, had no access to the murder weapon, the official fable is unchanged; The Dead Guy Did It. You would think the murder weapon not matching would make it a lead pipe cinch that Ivins is not the guy. But, if you thought like that, i.e. rationally, then you wouldn't be an FBI Amerithrax investigator.

The still untold story is:
How were US manufactured bio-weapons released on members of Congress and the unfortunate postal workers who delivered that deadly mail? Just how does that happen?
Until the FBI wants to ask some uncomfortable questions and follow the evidence wherever it my lead, we will never know.

In the meantime, the FBI wants you to just go back to sleep with the lullaby:
The Dead Guy Did It.
The Dead Guy Did It.
The Dead Guy Did It.
The Dead Guy Did It.