Life in the Hurracane by :Arno X, email@example.com
August 12: Shit is Craaaazy down here. That’s right folks Hurricane Charley is on his way and by 8pm tomorrow we will be right in the thick of it. It’s like the end of the world or some big terror event. It’s Chaos here. For starters: It takes 90 minutes to go 8 miles. That’s not highway traffic either—that’s driving home on city streets from work. The highway is even worse. There are mile long lines at gas stations; grocery stores are closed, closing or totally barren of water, bread and food; banks are closing early. Nothing will be open tomorrow, and people are going totally nuts. I got into a totally uncalled for confrontation at 7-11 today and PoPo got involved; I’m ok, but the other individual will most likely be riding out the storm in a jail cell. People in my neighborhood are fleeing like scared rats, 1st timers. The media, (all forms: radio, TV, etc) are scaring people and making things worse by saying the power company is cutting off power at 7pm as a preemptive effort to save money. I just got off the phone w/ Progress Energy, our local power company, and they said that is an outright lie and they are flooded w/ calls. Fucking media scare mongering. I think this is whole thing is being used as a dry run for a terror event. It’s ridiculous! This will be my third Hurricane in 6 years. The first was George in 1999. He hit New Orleans with a fury and I got stuck there for three days. The big ol’ scary National Guard fucks were driving frantically around in their hummers, brandishing their automatic weapons and telling people to go inside or go home. I was staying at the Hotel La Salle on Canal Street, and their effort to close all the bars in New Orleans was 100% futile. It was totally awesome. George was no joke, though. There was much damage and flooding, and I saw a guy almost get cut in half by a large piece of sheet metal that blew off a building and landed a foot away from him. The 2nd Hurricane I experienced was Floyd, one of the biggest monsters to ever almost hit land; it was as big as the whole state. I lived on the east coast then in a small beach community (New Smyrna), and was about two blocks from the beach. Police were going up and down the street, blaring their bullhorns telling us we should leave and if we didn’t we would be stuck there. There were only two bridges to get into and out of town on, and New Smyrna is basically an island separated from the mainland by the inter-coastal waterway. I was concerned so I went to a friend’s house on the mainland for the night. My family stayed home and were fine, and the power never went out. It was fun watching the piers get destroyed on my friend’s big-screen (thanks Ernie of Schnapps of Schnapps n’ stuff liquors). It was a bad one, but didn’t hit land like George did. Most of the chaos took place in Miami where hundreds of thousands evacuated—f ar from where we were. Hurricane Charley is probably going to be a category 3; that’s getting up there on the scale. Charley will be the first Hurricane to hit the west coast of FL since the 1920’s. Good. Yet again I get to be a part of history. There is talk of a mandatory evacuation in my neighborhood. I’m not worried. The worse thing that could happen is flooding. We are on the third floor of our building and we could lose some windows, hell the roof could blow of, but still not worried; I’ve been in worse. However, if there is flooding it could affect our vehicles. One is a beater which I’m not so worried about, but the other is A new VW Beetle, and insurance won’t cover flood damage, which would ruin the car and engine. So I’ll be up most of the night keeping an eye on things and we will leave if the car is in jeopardy. Funny how we’re more concerned about the car than ourselves. If they want to come knock on my door and tell me I have to leave, I won’t answer. We have a strict “don’t open the door for anyone other than people we know” policy, and we won’t answer if they come. Hell it could be PoPo, firefighters, National Guard boys or the freakin’ Taliban; we wont’ succumb to their scare tactics. If 110 mph winds, broken windows, possible flooding and our roof blowing off doesn’t scare us, their Federal Government-learned scare tactics definitely aren’t going to work. Sorry, no weak mindless pawns of dictatorship live here. Hurricanes are like terrorists though: they wait like sleepers while you wonder where and when they are going to hit. We are prepared though. I have plenty of frozen pizzas (good while the power is on), PB and J, chips, salsa, canned goods and other rations. I have plenty of bottled water. I didn’t want to fight the first round of evacuees at the grocery, so I went to the liquor store and left with a shopping cart full of goodies, a 12-pack of Grolsch, 12 of Newcastle, a 6er of Corona, 12 of Ginger-ale, 12 of Coke, a nice big bottle of “green label” Jack Daniels, just in case, and hooked up with some other party favor necessities that you can’t get at the store. No, I won’t be drinkin’ and drivin’. Jen just got home after a horrible day of flying back from New York just in time for the show, which is a good thing because she filled up the VW with gas on the way home from the airport and got some candles and some other shit—and I don’t have to ride it out alone, which I could do if I had to. I have a Baygen Freeplay radio that is self powered by a crank, so I’m good on that front. Have flashlights too. So I think we are all good, and now it’s time to party! Stats: We live in Pinellas County in Saint Petersburg, on the west side of the bay from Tampa. We are close to the water, but not right on it. There could be 7-10 ft storm surges, and that’s where the flooding comes in. If you watch the Weather Channel, look for us on the map; we’re right there in the northeast part of St. Pete. Wish you all could be here for the show; I hope it’s a good one. Through all of the Earthquakes (including Loma Prieta—remember 89′ anyone?), landslides, tornadoes, floods, electrical storms, blizzards, ice storms, heat and hurricanes I’ve experienced, I’ve learned that MO-nature can be a bitch, but if you respect her she can be your best friend. I just hope that when Jen and I move to the Northwest we’ll get to see some volcano action; then, we’ll have come full circle . . . for a while. Hope you all enjoy the TV coverage, but honestly I don’t think it’s going to be that bad. We’ll see.—Brandon aka. Arno X
P.S. Tomorrow is Friday the 13th
Does Your Vote Count?
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and Senators and Congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt
This past Saturday (the 24th of July), I awoke to the phone ringing. The caller ID said: “Republican Party.” Usually, when I am home, I turn off the answering machine and let the fax machine pick up all calls. That way I keep the telemarketers from calling and people I don’t want to talk to from calling. When I look at the caller ID and it’s someone I want to talk to, I answer the phone, like most of us do with our cellphones, except I don’t give out my cell number. (On that note, make sure you register to keep your cell number on the “do not call” lists.) I laughed at the call and went back to sleep. Later that morning, after I had awoke and had my first caffeine and other non nutrients of the day (i.e. alcohol) and had spoken with mary-jane, I received another call. So I decided if these assholes are going to call me to solicit votes, at least I should let them know how I feel, right? So I answered. The identifiably elderly blue haired woman on the phone said “Hello I am calling for President Bush on behalf of the Republican Party. We are calling on behalf of the President to make sure we can count on your vote and that you will be at the polls in November to support the President and his War on Terrorism.” I was very, very nice in order to get my point across, and I said “Well, I’m sorry but that man stole the Presidency, his ‘War on Terrorism’ is a joke, and the fundamentalist fascist attitude he has toward the security of this country violates most everything I believe in.” I recieved no reply but a very noticable hanging up of the phone, letting me know she was sitting in a phone bank somewhere dialing manually at random order every number she had in front of her, probably working for minimum-wage (under 30 hours a week so she doesn’t lose her Social Security payments). We can see where her false hopes rely. At the same time, if someone my age called representing the Democratic Party, I can’t say I’d give them the best review, either. I recently learned that 15 out of 67 counties in Florida have electronic voting machines. I live in one of those counties; do I know I know what am I doing here? Sometimes we end up where we end up. I’m also 26 years old and still have lots of places to go; this is by no means my final destination, but living here has made me much more skeptical about the election process than if I still lived in California. I should note that I have always for years now been skeptical anyhow of the electoral process. I get shit all the time from people when I voice my liberal beliefs and bitch about the current Administration, Republicans, the war, our ever growing lack of freedoms/privacy and everything else under the sun political. They say “Hey man, if you really want to change things then you should vote,” or “Are you voting? Do you even vote?” etc. California and Ohio are two different colored states (CA, blue OH red, meaning CA voted for Gore in 2000 and OH voted for Bush), but both have banned electronic voting machines. Studies show that “e-voting” machines fail 8 times more than paper ballots. e-voting machines keep no paper record, they are susceptible to hacking and the voting machine industry is largely unregulated. If you do the research, you will find all sorts of nasty facts and figures about these machines, from design, programming and software flaws that have gone unfixed, to some of the info you might find scary about who owns some of the companies making these machines and their political ties. The hope is that more states will follow the lead of California and Ohio. That won’t happen in Florida, though, where Jeb Bush is governor. (It probably wouldn’t matter if they did. Look what happened in 2000: George W. Bush, his brother Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a partisan Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Republican-owned media did everything in their power to prevent a fair and legal count of the votes. In other words, these Republicans used their enormous power to steal the Presidency of the United States. Indeed, the untold story is as chilling as Watergate. This is a crime against American democracy. Many Americans demanded then, and still do, a thorough investigation and prosecution of all criminal actions. And because he is ultimately responsible for the Theft of the Presidency, many still call upon George W. Bush to resign.) As the federally-mandated deadline nears for state election officials to replace lever and punch-card voting machines with electronic systems, disturbing systemic problems are emerging. E-voting has obvious downsides: no ability to check recorded votes, no ability to perform meaningful recounts and susceptibility to electronic voting fraud. Nonetheless, the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) mandates that by January 1 states submit plans to make the switch in time for the 2006 elections. More troubling, the backers of the act and the manufactures of e-voting machines are a rat’s nest of conflicts that includes Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Accenture. Why are major defense contractors like Northrop-Grumman and Lockheed-Martin mucking about in the American electoral system? And who are Accenture and EDS? Until January 1, 2001, Accenture was known as Andersen Consulting, a part of Arthur Andersen. Despite having offshore headquarters, Accenture is a member of the U.S. Coalition of Service Industries (USCSI), an industry association that promotes vastly extending the privatization and free trade in services via the WTO and GATT. It’s also a member of U.S. Trade, the coalition that pushed for fast-track trade authority. In 2001, Accenture and Election.com, the leading global election software and services company, formed “an alliance to jointly deliver comprehensive election solutions to governments worldwide. . . . The companies will combine their strengths and experience in the development of election software and the use of technology to offer governments new efficiencies that aid election administration.” Election.com also has a contract with the Federal Voter Assistance program to provide online absentee balloting for the armed services. It is expected to be completely electronic—that is, to have no paper trail against which to check results. This is worrisome because Accenture has already been involved in scandals in the U.S. and Canada. In the late ‘90s, the company was hired to overhaul Ontario’s welfare service for $50-$70 million. The project was capped at $180 million in 2002, although the total reached $246 million. To meet its contractual agreement with Accenture, the Ontario government was forced to cut welfare payments to $355.71 per child in poverty and fire large numbers of its social service workers. Election.com also had problems in Canada. The company contracted to provide online Internet voting for the National Democratic Party in 2003, but hackers paralyzed the central computer and disrupted voting. The security and accuracy of Election.com’s voting software has since come under attack by Canadian voters who also challenged the ballotless software. EDS, another internationally oriented information technology corporation, recently got a $51 million subcontract from Sytel Inc, a software and service provider to the Army, Air Force and Dow Chemical, among others, to “support personnel systems including personnel management, hiring and job postings, employee training, job exchange programs and EEOC complaint tracking for the Department of Homeland Security.” Partisan Ties Why Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, EDS and Accenture have been hired to alter the election process in America becomes clear when personnel is considered. The three largest voting machine companies in America are Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Sequoia and Diebold. Like Accenture, they, too, have tarnished pasts. ES&S, formerly American Information Systems, is owned by the McCarthy Group, which was founded in the ‘90s by Michael McCarthy, campaign director to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) during the 1996 and 2002 elections. In a January interview with Bev Harris on Talion.com, McCarthy said that “Hagel still owns up to $5 million in the ES&S parent company, the McCarthy Group,” and that “Hagel also had owned shares in AIS Investors Inc., a group of investors in ES&S itself.” According to Harris, “Hagel did not disclose owning or selling shares in AIS Investors Inc.” to the Senate Ethics Committee, “nor did he disclose that ES&S is an underlying asset of McCarthy Group.” In an October article in the London Independent, Andrew Gumbel writes that Hagel “became the first Republican in 24 years to be elected to the Senate from Nebraska, cheered on by the Omaha World-Herald newspaper which also happens to be a big investor in ES&S.” In what can only be called a glaring conflict of interest, “80 percent of Mr. Hagel’s winning votes—both in 1996 and in 2002—were counted, under the usual terms of confidentiality, by his own company.” Sequoia is the second-largest company, with roughly one-third of the voting machine market. In 1999, the Justice Department filed federal charges against Sequoia, alleging that employees paid out more than $8 million in bribes. In 2001, election officials in Pinellas County, Florida, cancelled a $15.5 million contract for voting equipment after discovering that Phil Foster, a Sequoia executive, faced indictment in Louisiana for money laundering and corruption. Diebold is the best known of the three because of its recent unsuccessful attempt to quash the release of thousands of inter-office memos over the Internet. The memos show that Diebold executives were aware of bugs in the company’s software and warn that the network is poorly protected against hackers. The company also came under scrutiny because of voting irregularities caused by its machines in the 2000 election in Florida. Diebold’s CEO, Walden O’Dell is an avid supporter of George W. Bush and has come under attack for penning a fund-raising letter in which he promised to help deliver Ohio’s votes to Bush in 2004. Diebold has been retained by the state of Maryland to provide voting software for the 2004 election, but because of ongoing negative publicity, Diebold hired Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of San Diego, to assess the security of the company’s voting software. But wait, there’s more Many SAIC officers are current or former government and military officials. Retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing, who until last summer served as chief counter-terrorism expert on the National Security Council, is a member of SAIC’s board. Also on the board is former CIA Director Bobby Ray Inman, who had served as director of the National Security Agency, deputy director of the CIA and vice director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. During the first Bush administration and while on the board of SAIC, Inman was a member of the National Foreign Intelligence Board, an advisory group that reports to the President and to the Director of Central Intelligence. Retired Adm. William Owens, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who sits on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board, served as SAIC’s president and CEO and was until recently its vice chairman. He is now chairman of the board of VoteHere, which seeks to provide cryptography and computer software security for the electronic election industry. Robert Gates, ex-CIA director, former SAIC board member and a veteran of the Iran- Contra scandal, also is on the board of VoteHere. SAIC has a history of problems. In a 1995 article in Web Review, investigative journalist Stephen Pizzo notes that in 1990 the Justice Department indicted SAIC on 10 felony counts for fraud, claiming that SAIC mismanaged a Superfund toxic cleanup site. SAIC pleaded guilty. In 1993 the Justice Department again brought charges against SAIC for “civil fraud on an F-15 fighter contract.” In May 1995, the company was charged with lying “about security system tests it conducted for a Treasury Department currency plant in Fort Worth, Texas.” It is not clear how SAIC became the company of choice to evaluate security standards of the voting machine industry. Many computer experts agree that electronic voting represents the most feasible means of conducting large-scale elections, but not until security of the software can be established. But the voting machine companies want to retain secrecy over their codes as well as maintain control over the entire voting process, including the counting of ballots. Most voting machines do not provide a paper trail. In the case of a recount, all one can do is push a button and watch as the computer spits out the same set of numbers. Americans are being rushed into this electronic voting frontier with little public awareness of the consequences. Diebold already has between 35,000 and 50,000 machines in place around the country. With the government investing nearly $4 billion in voting machines, those who insist on ensuring that the system is secure have been shunted aside. Perhaps this is how the Administration intends to bring Democracy to the world: Hold elections using machinery supplied by Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia and elect friendly governments. Then, hope those people who have never experienced the democratic process won’t know the difference. More troubling is that Americans may not know the difference, either. So you don’t believe it; do the research. If you really think you care, do the research. If you vote, do the research. Don’t just blindly go and be a part of the process. Know the process. Get educated. Learn fact from fiction. Do you want an elected President or a selected President. Even if you don’t have e-voting machines in your county, you should still question the process and who is counting you vote. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed”—Declaration of Independence
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