*This piece has been edited (30 March) since its original posting to clarify the investments of the Ahmanson family in vote-machine companies.*
Two weeks ago, an obscure, unelected, Republican-appointed official in California decided the future of the world. That future – at least for the next several years – will be an accelerating nightmare of war, corruption, repression, breakdown, atrocity and terror. That's because the loyal apparatchik has, with the stroke of a pen, guaranteed the perpetuation of the militarist Bush Faction in power in 2008 and beyond.
One of the few certainties in modern American politics is that no Democrat can hope to win the presidency without carrying California. Thanks to the infantilizing Electoral College system set up by the Founding Oligarchs to keep the low-born rabble from voting directly for president, the big haul of California's electoral votes is crucial for Democrats to offset the multitude of small, sparsely-populated states that reliably vote Republican. Bagging California doesn't guarantee Democratic victory, obviously; but without it, the cliff-hanger electoral counts in the goosed elections of 2000 and 2004 wouldn't even have been close.
Thus the sudden, hugger-mugger decision by California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson to override the objections of his own experts and certify the eminently hackable voting machines of the politically partisan private firm, Diebold, for use throughout the state means, quite simply, that the fix is in for the 2008 race. It doesn't matter who the Democrats run – Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, George Clooney, or Jesus H. Christ in an Uncle Sam suit – it won't make a bit of difference. California is lost, the presidency is lost, the Bushists are in – already. It's over.
After Diebold's machines failed miserably in a battery of tests last year, McPherson vowed to put their certification on hold until his own hand-picked panel of experts had fine-combed the system to a fare-thee-well, investigator Brad Friedman reports. The panel delivered their conclusions last month – and the results were staggering, far beyond the worst fears of the most hard-core "conspiracy theorist." The panel found that Diebold's machines were riddled with curious built-in glitches that effectively "ceded complete control of the system" to hackers who could "change vote totals, modify reports, change the names of candidates, and change the races being voted on."
What's more, "hackers wouldn't need to know passwords or cryptographic keys, or have access to any other part of the system to do their dirty work," the Los Angeles Times notes. "Voters, candidates and election monitors wouldn't necessarily know they'd been rooked." A more perfect vehicle for fixing an election can hardly be imagined. And it would require nothing more than a handful of high-tech zealots, not a vast, easily-rumbled conspiracy.
Naturally, after such a blistering condemnation, McPherson did what any official charged with the responsibility for guaranteeing the integrity and credibility of his state's elections would do: he approved the slipshod system by the dark of the moon, on a late Friday before a holiday weekend, without any public hearings – indeed without waiting for the results of a pending federal review of Diebold's mole-infested code. Now the Diebold contraptions – whose chronic "breakdowns" have featured in numerous contested elections and last-second "miracle" victories by Republican candidates across the country in recent years – will control California's pot of electoral gold.
A good example of how this control really works can be found in Alaska. There, the state Democratic Party has long been seeking an audit of some of the 2004 Diebold-counted returns, which produced a series of strange anomalies – including awarding George W. Bush an extra 100,000 votes that turned out to be phantoms. First, state officials blocked the request because that information – the vote count of a public election – was a "company secret" that belonged exclusively to Diebold, Friedman reports. Then they decided that the returns could be examined – but only on the condition that Diebold and the Republican officials be allowed to "manipulate the data" before it was released. In the end, even this tainted transparency was too much for the Bushist ballot crunchers; late last month, Alaska officials suddenly declared that examining the returns would pose a dire but unspecified "security risk" to the state.
America's votes are increasingly controlled by a small number of interrelated corporations: Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia, all of which have close political and financial ties to the Bush Faction – and to other dark forces as well. Companies that later became Diebold and ES&S were bankrolled by members of the Ahmanson family. Its leading member, tycoon Howard Ahmanson, was also a major funder of the Christian "Dominionist" movement, which openly advocates a totalitarian theocracy in America, including the death penalty for homosexuals, slavery for debtors, stoning for sinners and stripping non-believers of citizenship. Although Howard Ahmanson himself apparently had no direct personal investment in the vote machine companies, the extremists he backed for years have been heartily welcomed as a key part of the Bushist "base" of politicized evangelicals, whose cadres have been quietly filling government posts for the past five years, as Max Blumenthal reports. Meanwhile, Sequoia – whose machines racked up 100,000 "mistakes" in just one Florida county in 2004, according to a recent audit – is owned by a business partner of the Carlyle Group, the investment firm whose insider deals and war profiteering has earned millions for the Bush family.
Thus the 2008 election will be conducted largely on wide-open machines programmed by avowed partisans and paymasters of a ruthless gang that has already committed demonstrable vote fraud on a massive scale in engineering narrow "victories" in 2000 and 2004. So it doesn't who runs; it doesn't matter who votes; it doesn't matter how deeply unpopular the Bush Faction becomes through the murderous ruin of its radical militarist-corporatist agenda. The "consent of the governed" will be drowned in the blood money that has bought the nation's electoral process.
Chris Floyd/This article originally appeared in the March 3 edition of The Moscow Times..