Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Asteroid Misses The Earth

In October, like many other Americans, I was obsessed by the presidential election.  In the first debate, I was suprised by Obama's tepid performance and dismayed by Romney's brazen capacity for lying and distortion.  Obama's lead in the polls evaporated and my cautious optimism was replaced by creeping horror.

Even though Obama has been a disappointment to progressives, he seemed clearly to be the lesser of two evils.  Transition Voice issued a mock endorsement:
vote Romney-Ryan to hasten industrial collapse.

"This election year, the total collapse of industrial civilization has gained a popularity not seen since the heyday of The Planet of the Apes franchise.  All over the blogosphere, people who worry about climate change, peak oil, financial meltdown, debt slavery, species extinction, overpopulation and rampant commercialism along with the spread of military drones, techno-warfare and the surveillance state have given up on the electoral process. They say that voting for either one of two big government, pro-corporate candidates won’t make any difference. It’s too late to try to fix industrial capitalism before it snuffs out our few remaining freedoms and destroys the Earth.

Instead, some argue that nothing less than quick collapse of the global political and economic system can prevent either the advent of a totally Orwellian dystopia or the destruction of the Earth’s ability to sustain life. Unless you follow Ayn Rand and believe that the free market will create new air, water, soil and living beings based on market demand, you have to agree that the industrial civilization is on the highway to hell, with human extinction in the current century a real possibility.

Meanwhile, after Citizens United and the rise of Super PACs, the power of rich people to run government as a cover for destructive extraction and pollution industries has only increased. Last year, Occupy Wall Street offered the best chance in two decades to break the death grip of plutocrats on the neck of government. But now Zuccotti Park is cleared (or underwater). The drum circles are silent. And the hope is gone.

And so, facing near total despair, there seem to be only two paths for a moral person. You can join James Carville in the Cocktail Party and drink yourself into an ongoing stupor. Or, you can do whatever possible to try to hasten the collapse of the whole made-in-China and bought-at-Walmart monster of globalized plastic culture before it extinguishes birds, bees, flowers and everything else we love and then finally kills us all as a punchline.  That’s why, if you want a sustainable world, you need to vote Romney-Ryan this coming Tuesday, November 6.    Or just stay home and don’t vote for Obama, which will have much the same effect..."

I spent most of the pre-election weekend at a Long Island City for Obama phonebank in a union hall just a few blocks from my office.  After the election, pundits were abuzz about the Obama campaign's unusually strong data-management system in support of its get out the vote efforts.  I can attest to the power and user friendliness of their voter contact software, which amplified the effort of countless GOTV volunteers like myself. 

On the evening of Election Day, we finished a few hours of GOTV calls and headed over to the Shannon Pot on Jackson Avenue to watch the results.  I tried imagining what it would be like if Romney won, but couldn't.  The closest I could get was the image of an asteroid hitting the earth.

Why was I so pessimistic, with Nate Silver predicting a 90%+ chance of an Obama victory?

Because I had been reading about the possibility that the Republicans would steal the election.  Anyone paying the least bit of attention was reading about the massive disenfranchisement of minority voters.  But there were warnings about manipulation of the electronic vote count from Ohio voting machines

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman's research into the 2004 election was recognized by Project Censored as one of the top 25 censored stories of 2006. The issue broke into more public discussion in 2012.  Their claims were echoed by Greg Palast, who praised their new book, "Will the GOP Steal America's 2012 Election?" There were other articles.

"How to Rig an Election," Harper's Magazine

"Retired NSA Analyst Proves GOP is Stealing Elections."

"Angst in Ohio about Bain, Romney Donor Links to Voting Machine Company," Washington Post

On Nov. 4, The Free Press reported that "experimental" software patches were installed on voting machines in 39 Ohio counties.  It obtained internal memos from the senior staff of the Ohio Secretary of State's office confirming the installation of untested and uncertified election tabulation software. 

So on Election Day I was braced for impact and expecting the worst.  I was deeply grateful to be wrong. Or was I?

The story got a lot of press, and was even covered by the Fox News station in Cinncinati and  Bob Fitrakis claimed that "under the glare of intense light activated from law enforcement, media and election protection activists, no one seemed willing to tamper this time with Ohio's vote totals – despite the unrelenting magical numerology of Rove. This time, reality and fact-based numbers prevailed."

Or, perhaps Rove's plans were blocked by something more than public attention.   In this video, allegedly from by the hacker collective Anonymous, the group takes credit for tracking Rove's plans and threatening to out him if the election was stolen. 

Investigative reporter Thom Hartmann wrote that Anonymous' claims of election rigging can't be ignored, given the documented use of dirty tricks by Nixon and Reagan - both of whom cut illicit deals with foreign governments to make themselves look good just before an election.  And of course, Bush's tainted victories over Gore in Florida in 2001, and in 2004 over Kerry in Ohio.

Hartmann thinks it's totally possible that Karl Rove was planning to hack the Ohio vote this year, but was thwarted when Anonymous got to them and threatened to reveal their the data. 
Hartmann urged Anonymous to make public any evidence it has.   If this is true, I hope they listen. 

"Anonymous (used as a mass noun) is a loosely associated hacktivist group. It (is estimated it) originated in 2003 on the imageboard 4chan, representing the concept of many online and offline community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global brain. It is also generally considered to be a blanket term for members of certain Internet subcultures, a way to refer to the actions of people in an environment where their actual identities are not known. It strongly opposes Internet censorship and surveillance, and has hacked various government websites. It has also targeted major security corporations. Its members can be distinguished in public by the wearing of stylised Guy Fawkes masks..."

The other common Anonymous logo is an empty suit with no head, to symbolize the leaderless nature of the group.

Visit the Wikipedia page for more links to their sites. 

Hopefully we'll learn more about about what happened.  In any case, I'm grateful for the outcome.  It makes me think of some movie metaphors.

We escaped the final scene in Melancholia, in which the asteroid hit the earth.

Instead, like Neo in the Matrix, we dodged the bullet.  At least today.