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Here’s The Real Reason Election Voting Machines Break Down So Much

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The long voting lines caused by the breakdown and malfunctioning of our voting machines is characterized in the mainstream as a complicated, multi-faceted and difficult to solve problem, rather than being founded on one simple fact.

  • Reflect On:

    Can we use the reality of voting machine malfunction as another entry point into the realization that we are living in a thinly-veiled deception that actually makes a mockery of true democracy?

If you follow mainstream media, the answer to the question of why election voting machines break down so much is ‘complicated.’ Much too complicated, in fact, for us to come up with any kind of permanent solution. An article like Wired’s ‘Voting Machine Meltdowns Are Normal—That’s The Problem,’ will fill us with the nitty-gritty details: paper ballot scanner malfunctions, machines actually ‘flipping votes’ because of some kind of ‘bug’, machines running with ‘outdated’ Windows operating systems, about which the article states, “it stands to reason these antiquated systems would break down under pressure.” But far and above all this was the detailed explanation that the rain may have had something to do with votes not getting processed properly:

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Simply replacing old machines with new ones wouldn’t guarantee an incident-free election, though. Take the claim that the rain messed with people’s ballots—it isn’t just an excuse. Kings County in New York and Madison County in Alabama both use an optical scanner machine called the DS-200. According to its operating manual, Stewart says, it’s designed to operate in 10 to 15 percent humidity. In both Kings County and Madison County on Tuesday, the humidity was more like 98 percent. The irony there, Stewart says, is the DS-200 isn’t one of the old machines we always hear about becoming obsolete. It came out at the end of 2015. “It’s a more persnickety piece of equipment, giving you greater security,” Stewart says. But that sophistication clearly comes with unforeseen consequences.

More on this later. But even as budgetary issues, late delivery of funds or new machines or other bureaucratic matters are also pointed out as having an impact on the problem, the articles concludes that even these problems of neglect, incompetence, and disorganization, as with the voting machine issues, have to be accepted as the “new normal.”

Bull Cookies, as M*A*S*H*’s Colonel Sherman Potter used to say.

True Source Of The Problem

The true source of the problem is so simple. The people that have long held the power in the United States don’t want us living in a true democracy. They certainly want us to believe we live in a democracy, and think we have true freedom and representation; the fact is that in all realms of society, we have long been living in an oligarchy controlled by a wealthy elite who is more than happy to keep the ‘democracy’ charade going for as long as it suits them.

A thorough background check on who gets to make the voting machines and the kinds of profits they get for the sale of these pathetic contraptions, and who approves the purchase and implementation of these machines and on what basis they are approved as anchor points of the democratic process reveals of litany of self-service, conflict of interest, fraud, greed, intimidation, and corruption of the highest kind.

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Then there are the machines themselves and the ridiculous extent to which they are not secure from hacking and external manipulation. As this New York Times article points out,

In the 15 years since electronic voting machines were first adopted by many states, numerous reports by computer scientists have shown nearly every make and model to be vulnerable to hacking. The systems were not initially designed with robust security in mind, and even where security features were included, experts have found them to be poorly implemented with glaring holes.

Let me get this straight: systems that were built to be at the heart of American Democracy ‘were not initially designed with robust security in mind’? Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous in your life? And we are supposed to believe that this was some kind of ‘oversight’ and not part of the hidden agenda of the powers that be in America to manipulate voting results?

The fact of the matter is, it is not only obvious that airtight security should be one of the prime characteristics of voting machines even before they get off the drawing board, and would be if true patriots were in the positions of power in the country; it also needs to be stated that creating a secure voting machine that works 100% of the time for decades would be one of the simplest-to-make machines known to man, an unchallenging two-week homework project for a first-year mechanical engineering student.

If We Had A True Democracy

I am sure many people have devised a voting system while waiting for a bus or getting a haircut that would be a vast improvement over the one currently in place. Please indulge me as I explain how easy it would be–if, indeed, the powerful forces in our country actually valued democracy over their own personal agendas.

  1. There would be one system country-wide that would be agreed on at the Federal level in cooperation with state representatives that proved to be the best, most secure, most reliable, and easiest to operate and use. While I am a strong advocate of decentralization of power and the rights of local and state governments over the Federal government, I still believe an independent Federal election agency would be the best thing for implementation of this system (Of course, this is contingent on it being an honest, uncorruptable agency)
  2. Funding matters we hear about are all hogwash. Not only would overall funding be significantly reduced through the mass production of a single model of voting machine of the highest quality that would be readily available as needed, the cost would further be slashed tremendously if there were no special interests and middle-men gaining huge amounts of money in these transactions. With an honest Federal agency getting the best price for the American people, the cost would be an absolute pittance, a drop in the bucket, and would likely be touted as one of the most important and worthwhile expenditures in the federal budget.
  3. The machine itself simply needs to help the user fill in a simple online form. Each machine would be linked to a State database (that could be off the internet, if this was a security concern) which would contain one read-only database file with the ballot information (candidate, party, referendum questions, etc) and one read/write file to record the voter’s identification and their votes on candidates and proposed laws.
  4. Each voter would work with a touch-screen to make their choices, laid out clearly, one-by-one on the screen. When they had finished, they would be able see all their votes on the screen and ‘CONFIRM’. Then they would get a paper copy of all their votes under their vote id (consisting of, for example, a combination of State code, District code, Polling Station, Machine number, and timestamp), and would again be able to check if their paper copy exactly matched the screen, before pressing ‘END’.
  5. Each machine would record transactions on their own hard drive as well as sending them to the state database. Vote-counting would be instantaneous for each state, complied by secure programs accessing the state database. This information could then be securely uploaded to the internet on a federal government website. All citizens would be able to see their own vote as part of a detailed list of vote count by state, by district, by polling station, even by machine, based on their vote id.

I’m sure there are better systems out there, which is fine. This is really just off the top of my head. My personal preference would be a system through which voters names were made public on the internet, and verification of fraud would become much simpler, but that is a matter for a later discussion. Suffice it to say that, solely based on my 8 years as a computer programmer/analyst in earlier days, making secure software for reliable machines grounded in a reliable system seems like a simple project to me, let alone for the technological wizards in the country who could be brought into such a project, if only the sole motivation was the proper functioning of this aspect of the democratic process.

The Takeaway

If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you will recall that I have said there is no good reason to waste your time voting under the current circumstances, because indeed, I don’t believe we are currently living in a representative democracy, but rather a thinly-veiled, poorly disguised mockery of it. But I wrote this article in order to bring forth the idea that our democracy is not failing due to the haphazard incompetence, laziness, or even greed of our elected officials, vendors, technicians, and bureaucrats. Our democracy is failing because many of the citizens of this country have stayed asleep while the powerful elite has continued to push its agenda of control and domination right under our collective noses.

I believe the Founding Fathers had great wisdom and the best of intentions setting up the Republic in the way they did through the Constitution; they were very well aware of the dangers posed to our liberty by the powers that are afforded to centralized governments and the undue external influence that is brought to bear upon them. If we are to honor the Founding Fathers and be part of the process of reclaiming our liberty, we will do so by awakening collectively to the veil of illusion that we live under now, and creating the conditions through which such deception is no longer possible.

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‘Jeffrey Epstein Committed Suicide’ Rules Medical Examiner

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    New York’s chief medical examiner has ruled Jeffrey Epstein's death suicide by hanging.

  • Reflect On:

    How could the biggest most important witness of our lifetime die so carelessly before trial? Why is there still so much we haven't been told about this Epstein case?

New York’s chief medical examiner has completed their autopsy and ruled that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide by hanging himself his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City.

Epstein was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges that had been reported for years but not much was done about them. His case is the highest profile case in a very long time involving many high level and elite figures and politicians.  Due to this, many believe he may have been murdered, and regardless of this ruling, that may still be the case.

It appears Epstein fashioned a noose out of a bedsheet and hung himself from a bunk bed in his cell. Epstein was allegedly able to kill himself just days after being taken off suicide watch at the prison as he had previously attempted suicide. Just so happens, guards on duty at the prison reportedly left Epstein unsupervised for longer than prison regulations require, giving him the time to commit suicide.

If Epstein’s case is this high profile, and he is likely the biggest most important witness is perhaps our lifetimes, how is it that the prison could have let this happen so easily and carelessly? Worthy of questioning regardless of the medical examiners ruling.

More details to come.

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The First & Only No-Kill State For Shelter Animals In The US Has Been Declared

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Photo courtesy of Brandywine Valley SPCA
Photo courtesy of Brandywine Valley SPCA

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    America has finally announced its first no-kill state: Delaware. All brick-and-mortar shelters in the First State have at least a 90% save rate which qualifies it as the very first full state working to lead a no-kill movement.

  • Reflect On:

    The no-kill movement is a beautiful one. It shows that the human-animal bond is not only seen and felt, but important enough to us as a collective to take action. Do you believe the goal of having all of America being no-kill by 2025 is attainable?

Sound the alarm! Happy news to share with you all today… Amid all of the perceived chaos that is taking over our screens and mainstream media, it’s always important to touch base on the good news that occurs. This week, Delaware has become the first official no-kill state for shelter animals, and I couldn’t be happier to hear and share this.

As not only a pet lover myself, but a cat-mom of 3 amazing shelter animals as well, I know and have seen the various traumas that can result from either life before being placed into a shelter or during their time there due to anxiety, etc. — and it doesn’t stop there. We’ve all heard the stories, and though I had yet to dive into the details myself personally due to not having the heart for it, it is a fact that some shelters rid themselves of ‘unwanted pets’ every cycle as the shelter seeks more room for new-coming potentials.

A volunteer cradles three rescued kittens.

Photo courtesy of Brandywine Valley SPCA

With that said, this is very BIG news — not only has Delaware taken on the task to reevaluate how its shelters are run and deal with overcrowding, but Delaware has also taken initiative in the ‘no-kill’ movement.

A Best Friends Animal Society volunteer hugs a rescue dog.

Photo courtesy of Brandywine Valley SPCA — The work of staff and volunteers at rescue organizations across the country and public support have already helped drastically reduce the number of pets dying each year in shelters from an estimated 17 million in the 1980s to now around 733,000 dogs and cats. Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

The nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society, which is working with shelters, animal welfare organizations and government agencies across the country to make America a no-kill country by 2025, announced the news at their annual conference in Dallas, Texas.

Linda Torelli, director of marketing for the Brandywine Valley SPCA, which has three locations in Delaware and cares for more than 14,000 animals each year, credited a multipronged approach with helping the First State achieve no-kill status — and its citizens.

“The community in Delaware is very oriented to pet advocacy, so we had their support,” she told TODAY.

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Brandywine Valley SPCA implemented numerous programs so that 95% of animals that enter the open-admission shelter find homes. Torelli said because cats are euthanized at twice the rate of dogs, the nonprofit instituted the practice called trap, neuter and return, aka TNR, to save the lives of feral or “community” cats that would otherwise be euthanized. In TNR, advocates humanely trap the felines, and veterinarians spay or neuter them before they are released back into the community.

Open adoptions — which don’t require time-intensive applications that involve things like home inspections but instead focus on matching a pet with a potential adopter’s lifestyle — help move animals more quickly through the shelters. – As reported by TODAY

The Takeaway

We all either know someone or are that someone who has gone to a shelter and adopted their best friend at some point. And while we all aim to do our part, it’s a HUGE step to know that shelters themselves are now also taking initiative so that there is ‘no pet left behind’ if you will.

So many wonderful pets, companions, and memories are birthed thanks to adoption and it is beautiful to see that more intention is being set on creating a community that is aware of a movement to aid in eliminating the need to kill for the lack of insufficient adoptees. As a personal thank you to all of you who have or will adopt and welcome a new friend into your lives & homes – a reminder to remember you are saving a life when doing so. So, THANK YOU! And thank you, Delaware, for being the shift!

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What Are The Hong Kong Protests All About?

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Photos by Anthony Kwan & Peter Y. Chuang, Unsplash

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Protests in Hong Kong against an 'Extradition Bill' that threatens the freedom of residents have ramped up, to the point where the Hong Kong Airport had to be shut down and the Chinese army is closer to intervening upon this semi-autonomous nation.

  • Reflect On:

    Is Hong Kong now the central theatre playing out the struggle between Eastern and Western sociopolitical ideologies?

I decided to take on this article, first to inform myself better about the motivations behind the Hong Kong protests, which have been ratcheting up in recent days, and then to pass on a basic understanding to you, the reader, so that together we can follow the events going on in this allegedly ‘autonomous’ Chinese territory with some degree of context.

First, it must be understood that Hong Kong developed into a commercial powerhouse as a British colony, and its residents enjoyed some aspects of democratic freedom not available on mainland China. British rule of Hong Kong ended when it was returned to China in July of 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems.” The “Basic Law” constitution guaranteed to protect, for the next 50 years, the democratic institutions that make Hong Kong distinct from Communist-ruled mainland China.

The struggle for an expansion of democratic freedoms on the island have been ongoing in some form or another ever since, with some initiatives specifically supported by the “Basic Law.” Meanwhile, the national Chinese government has attempted to resist such reforms, and has been working to augment its own power and influence over Hong Kong:

  • In 2003, Hong Kong’s leaders introduced legislation that would forbid acts of treason and subversion against the Chinese government. But when an estimated half a million people turned out to protest against the bill, it did not go forward.
  • In 2007, China delayed constitutional plans to implement universal suffrage in elections for the chief executive of Hong Kong until 2017; however, they added more seats for lawmakers elected by direct vote in a way that divided the pro-democracy camp.
  • In 2014, the Chinese government introduced a bill allowing Hong Kong residents to vote for their leader in 2017, but the candidates still needed to be approved by Beijing. Massive protests led legislators to formally reject the bill, and electoral reform stalled. As a result, the current chief executive, Carrie Lam, was hand-picked in 2017 by a 1,200-person committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites.

In other words, it was not a question of if there would be another populist uprising in Hong Kong, but when.

New Extradition Bill Is The Catalyst

Earlier this year, Chief Executive Lam pushed amendments to extradition laws that would allow people to be sent to mainland China to face charges. In some ways, this had a similar agenda to the bill introduced in 2003 that would have directly forbidden acts of treason and subversion against the Chinese government.

This latest bill is a bit more subtle, but the end result would be the same: those Chinese dissidents who are working for greater autonomy from mainland China and full democracy in Hong Kong are de facto enemies of the state, since they are working to erode China’s power over the economic and political affairs of Hong Kong. And China wants to be able prosecute such activities.

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Even before this bill, Beijing’s influence over Hong Kong had been on the rise. Activists have been jailed and pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from running or holding office, while independent booksellers started disappearing from the city, before reappearing in mainland China facing charges. And so when the extradition bill came out, the population of Hong Kong clearly saw it as an attempt to undermine and subvert The “Basic Law” and give Beijing full authority to try pro-democracy activists under the judicial system of the mainland.

Protests Erupted

Protests started small, relatively speaking, but as we have seen with the Yellow Vest protests, attempts to crack down with a hard hand are not deterring people as much as they used to, and in fact protesters become emboldened by seeing an increase in participation. Here is an early timeline of the protests:

  • March 31: the first protest was attended by 12,000 pro-democracy protesters according to organizers (police put the peak figure at 5,200).
  • April 28: an estimated 130,000 protesters joined the march against the proposed extradition law (police estimated 22,800 joined at its height), the largest since an estimated 510,000 joined the annual July 1 protests in 2014. A day after the protest, Chief Executive Carrie Lam was adamant that the bill would be enacted and said the Legislative Councillors had to pass new extradition laws before their summer break.
  • June 9th: while reports suggested it had been the largest ever, it was certainly the largest protest Hong Kong has seen since the 1997 handover, surpassing the turnout seen at mass rallies in support of the Tiananmen protests of 1989 and July 1st demonstration of 2003. CHRF convenor Jimmy Sham said that 1.03 million people attended the march, while the police put the crowd at 270,000 at its peak.
  • June 16th: even though a day earlier Carrie Lam announced that she would suspend the second reading of the bill without a set a time frame on the seeking of public views, the pro-democracy camp demanded a full withdrawal of the bill, and went ahead with the rally, which the Civil Human Rights Front claimed saw the participation of “almost 2 million plus 1 citizens.” The government issued a statement at 8:30 pm where Carrie Lam apologized to Hong Kong residents and promised to “sincerely and humbly accept all criticism and to improve and serve the public.” Still, she did not meet the protesters’ demands of withdrawing the bill completely or resigning.

As the timeline goes forward beyond the suspension of the second reading of the bill, the protests have grown bigger, with more widespread involvement. It is impossible to list all the events that have taken place, but a good compilation can be found here.

Police have violently clashed directly with protesters, repeatedly firing teargas and rubber bullets. As well, it seems that there have been instances of unsanctioned pro-Beijing thugs on a mission to injure protesters, where police did not intervene. However, as political authorities are slowly learning in recent times, protests that resist strong-arm tactics see their demands grow beyond their initial grievance and demand reparations for state violence that has occurred during the protests themselves. Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until these core demands are met:

  • the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam
  • an independent inquiry into police tactics
  • an amnesty for those arrested
  • a permanent withdrawal of the bill

The Geopolitical Context

The protests here are emblematic of a larger struggle between different systems of national governance. Hong Kong is a particularly unique case as it is a region that developed some mature institutions of Western Democracy while still always being tied to a major Eastern civilization.

Beijing has issued increasingly shrill condemnations of the protest but has left it to the city’s semi-autonomous government to deal with the situation. But that does not mean they cannot influence even more serious internal measures. On Thursday, Chen Daoxiang, the head of the Chinese army garrison in Hong Kong, said the military was “determined to protect [the] national sovereignty” of Hong Kong and would help put down the “intolerable” unrest if requested. The army released a promotional video showing tanks and soldiers firing on citizens in an anti-riot drill.

A tweet yesterday from the Editor in Chief of China’s state-owned tabloid, Hu Xijin, warns of an imminent showdown in the wake of protests at the Hong Kong airport that were so disruptive that the Hong Kong airport authority advised all passengers to leave the terminal buildings as soon as possible:

There is an implied threat that the mainland Chinese army may get involved. Chinese military vehicles have gathered in Shenzhen, a city in mainland China bordering Hong Kong, and military exercises may soon be underway.

Of course, the actions of the Chinese government are being closely watched by the Western world, and there has been no lack of condemnation for the strong-armed tactics of police. The condemnation will only increase if the Chinese government institutes even more severe measures. Countering this, Beijing has ramped up its accusations that foreign countries are “fanning the fire” of unrest in the city. China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi has ordered the US to “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form”.

Whatever happens, the people in Hong Kong seem quite steadfast in demonstrating that they don’t want to allow meaningful change to be kicked down the road any longer, and certainly don’t want any more limitations to their freedom. We will see how this struggle plays out this time around.

The Takeaway

Before we start taking sides on the issues behind this protest, it is important to note that neither Chinese-style communism nor any current implementation of Western-style democracy present themselves as true vehicles for the full burgeoning of our individual sovereignty and our collective evolution.

Certainly the struggle in Hong Kong provides more and more individual citizens the opportunity to implicate themselves directly in our system of governance, and the ripple effect of this is that more people in the world will awaken to the fact that each and every one of us has an innate choice in the way we consent to be governed as a society.

Once we clear the veils of control-based deception and come to truly grasp our sovereignty and our ability to choose, we will then be in a much better position to give an informed consent to any social or political institutions we decide to create and maintain.

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