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ES&S buys Diebold, controls 80% of US electronic voting machines

AT&T donated over $400K to anti-net neutrality senators

Microsoft: White spaces spectrum worth $100 billion over 5 years

Videos: Collected coverage of G20 police response

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Crossroads October 31 LISTEN or DOWNLOAD HERE

Digital Crossroads is a weekly program covering media democracy, press freedom, technology policy, radio and the record business, privacy & surveillance and voting. I’m producer and host Radioactive Gavin. Each week I bring you headlines, clips and original interviews trying to help you understand the connections between your life, powerful media companies, government officials and activists.

On today’s program the 2008 Election. Voting trouble is a nationwide problem. From state governments kicking people off the roles illegally to errors with touch-screen voting systems, Americans are seriously doubting all votes will be counted accurately this year. Leading election integrity experts outline some problems and reporter Greg Palast offers advice for Stealing Back Your Vote. Also today some good news from around the country, and a bunch of clips including the original actors from the Budweiser “Wassssup” campaign, LA electronic musicians and folk singer Ellen Bukstel going political.

All this and more on today’s Digital Crossroads, stay tuned!

We start today with a clip from Video the Vote who investigated ES&S brand touch screen systems in West Virginia. The video makes you even less confident as county clerk Jeff Waybright re-calibrates a machine, then it still gets the vote wrong.

After mocking the idea that anyone clicking on a Democratic ticket vote would get the Republican ticket vote, he shows how to correctly calibrate the machine, showing how easy it is to fix the “problems” of the miscalibrated machine. When he’s done, to prove it works, he touches the box to vote for a straight Republican ticket… and, wouldn’t you know it, Ralph Nader’s name is highlighted as the voter’s choice. His response? “Oh, that’s out of calibration!” as if it was no big deal, apparently missing the fact that he had just calibrated the machine. Commentary from TechDirt.

Next up, Experts outline e-voting problems

Blogger Jim Cirile assembled a panel of 13 leading election integrity (EI) experts for Velvet Revolution.us and asked their advice on myriad aspects of the e-voting problem. Their recommendations are wide-ranging and should hopefully serve as a wake-up call, since candidates’ political futures, not to mention the future of the U.S. and the entire planet, could be decided on error-prone and worse, easily tamperable electronic voting systems.

The question put to each of the experts was, “How can candidates best protect themselves from potential electronic voting problems and manipulation?” Here are some of their conclusions-

At least 55 percent of Americans voting this November will vote on paper ballots that will be counted by optical scanners, according to Virginia-based Election Data Services, Inc. Jim Cirile of VelvetRevolution.US put together panelists who agree that it is critical to election safety that a significant percentage of these paper ballots be randomly audited by hand — at least 5 to 10 percent. Other key recommendations include urging the use of paper in any way, shape or form over touch-screens, increasing awareness of candidates, election officials, and the media as to e-voting vulnerabilities, and most importantly, urging the candidates not to concede until every last ballot has been counted and counted accurately.

But there is one other problem with taking on the machines. “Candidates are incredibly vulnerable to allegations of being a poor loser or conspiracy theorists if they challenge,” says Simon Ardizzone, who made the DVD Hacking Democracy. “Many candidates who want a political career often choose not to challenge, but to keep their credibility for the next election. It’s just unrealistic to ask them to sacrifice their political career for a completely non-vote-winning issue like election reform.” Despite that, he recommends candidates ask as many questions as possible when discrepancies occur, and they should make the answers public.

Ardizzone raises one more intriguing point: “There are certain candidates who don’t stand a chance of being elected and so have nothing to lose by rocking the boat. There is one candidate on the presidential ballot who is incredibly well-versed in the issue and who I am sure would participate in any investigation, because we filmed her extensively during the 2004 election cycle in Georgia (she’s in one of the extra features on the ‘Hacking Democracy’ DVD). That candidate is Cynthia McKinney. Cynthia has rights to a recount almost anywhere in the country. Interesting thought.”

What can you do? Get active, writes Cirile. Get in your candidates’ faces. Forward this report far and wide — to candidates and their staff, friends, neighbors.

And wake people the hell up. “How do you break through the sleep of the American electorate?” ponders Florida election official Ion Sancho. “In my opinion, they simply don’t want to question elections simply because it’s too difficult, too untidy, and causes problems.” Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog adds, “There is a school of thought which I find bizarre and twisted and totally without merit, that if you talk about these issues, people will give up and not vote at all. I have found absolutely no evidence of that, and in fact, the contrary is true.” He notes that in 2006, Democrat Debra Bowen ran for Secretary of State in a year that Schwarzenegger was very popular. “Her big issue was election integrity and concerns about the voting machines. She shouldn’t have won that election, but she did because she spoke about these issues of electoral integrity that nobody else is speaking about. So the people get it, but the media and the politicians don’t. The politicians need to start talking about it.”

David Jefferson of Livermore National Laboratories says that election officials need to step up. “They have the responsibility to demand better voting systems and, in the meantime, create and enforce strong security procedures. And it is federal officials who need to have their consciousness raised about standards, certification, and the need for meaningful auditability requirements.” And that means we need to force them to do just that.

David Swanson of After Downing Street concludes, “All of us should make clear ahead of time that we will denounce and shame any candidate who either wins or loses a questionable election and does not seek to find answers to those questions.”

Writer Jim Cirile’s conlusion: Be the media. That means every one of us. Jim Cirile is a freelance screenwriter, musician and journalist living in Los Angeles.

Next up let’s listen to a clip from Center for Media and Democracy‘s Weekly Radio Spin from last week- According to Princeton, despite their own study showing elections in New Jersey can be hacked in a matter of 7 minutes, voting is too important to watch…

In Colorado, public interest groups fought purges and won-
The Colorado chapter of national non-partisan non-profit Common Cause has fueled one voting victory before the election takes place. From a press release available on their website an agreement was reached on October 29th before a federal judge in Colorado ensuring that tens of thousands of Colorado voters illegally purged from the registration lists will have their votes counted. Colorado Common Cause, Mi Familia Vota and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed a complaint contending that the Colorado Secretary of State had violated the National Voting Rights Act by removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election. In addition to about 1900 voters removed for permitted reasons such as death and incarceration for a felony, approximately 30,000 voters were scrubbed. The state sent non-forwardable mail that was returned as undeliverable, but a voter doesn’t lose their rights simply by not receiving mail. For more on this go to http://www.JustVoteColorado.com

There is also some encouraging news about citizen journalists protecting the election

The New York Times reported October 27th, “There are at least two wikis intended to let voters collaborate to collect examples of problems with voting, whether exceptionally long lines or more direct actions meant to scare off voters — the Voter Suppression Wiki and SourceWatch’s Election Protection Wiki. Since 2006, the Video the Vote project has sent out volunteers to monitor voting around the country, and this year the group expects to dispatch at least 2,300 volunteers with cameras in all 50 states to videotape potential trouble spots. … The ultimate home for much of this content could be the video-sharing giant YouTube, which has created a channel, Video Your Vote, in collaboration with PBS, to encourage submissions. … While his organization is partnering with YouTube (and received 300 cameras as part of the Video Your Vote project), [project founder Ian] Inaba says he sees their missions as different. ‘YouTube is there to generate content, to generate eyeballs,’ he said. ‘We came at this from more of an election protection framework. We want voters to oversee the election process – it requires citizen oversight.'”

Investigative Reporter Greg Palast sent an email to his mailing list this week with tips on what he calls stealing back your vote.

  1. Don’t don’t don’t Mail In Your Ballot-unless… For those of you who mailed in your ballot, please tell me, what happened to it? You don’t know, do you? I can tell you that officially, three-fourths of a million absentee ballots were never counted last time, on the weakest of technical excuses. And you won’t even know it. Furthermore, tens of thousands of ballots are not mailed out to voters in time to return them – in which case you’re out of luck. Most states won’t let you vote in-precinct once you’ve applied to vote absentee. Every time I hear of a voter going “absentee” to avoid computer screens, I want to “go postal” myself. But for gosh sakes-don’t throw out your ballot if you have a mail-in. Either mail it in, making sure to include ID if required (you first-time voters) or, better, WALK it into your county clerk’s office.
  2. Vote Early…very early
    Every state now lets voters cast ballots in designated polling stations and at county offices in the weeks before Election Day. Do it. Don’t wait until Election Day to find out you have the wrong ID, your registration’s “inactive,” or you’re on a challenge list. By Election Day, there’s little to do but hold up the line.
  3. Register and Register and Register
    Think you’re registered to vote? Think again. With all this purg’n going on, you could be x’d out and you won’t know it. Check online with your Secretary of State’s office or call your County Board of Elections. Then register your girlfriend, your wife, your mailman and your mommy. Contact the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the League of Women Voters, and your local party organization, and commit to a couple of days of door-to-door registration, especially in minority neighborhoods or at social service agency offices. And if you’ve served the time, you can sign: in almost every state, ex-cons can vote.
  4. Vote Unconditionally, Not Provisionally
    In 2008, they’ll be handing out provisional ballots like candy, especially to Hispanic voters. If your right to vote is challenged, don’t accept a provisional ballot that will likely not get counted no matter what the sweet little lady at the table tells you. She won’t decide; partisan sharks will. Demand adjudication from poll judges on the spot; demand a call to the supervisor of elections; or return with acceptable ID if possible. And be a champ: defend the rights of others. If you’ve taken Step 1 above and voted early, you have Election Day free to be a poll watcher. Run into trouble­-you’ve been caged or purged or challenged-call Election Protection at 1-(866) OUR-VOTE. Then challenge the challengers, the weird guys with Blackberrys containing lists of “suspect” voters. Be firm, but no biting.
  5. Occupy Ohio, Invade Nevada
    The revolution will not be podcast. Let go of that mouse, get out of your PJs and take the resistance door-to-door-to register the vote, to canvass the voters, to get out the vote. Donate time to your union or to the troublemakers I’ve already listed here and on our site. This may seem a stupendously unoriginal suggestion, but I know of no other method more effective for confronting the armed and dangerous junta that has seized the White House.
  6. Date a Voter
    Voting, like bowling and love, should never be done alone. As our sponsor, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, says, make a date to ‘Arrive with Five.’ And keep this comic book in your holster – with our 800 numbers and your photo ID in your hand.
  7. Make the Democracy Demand: No Vote Left Behind!
    I have this crazy fantasy in my head. In it, an election is stolen and the guy who’s wrongly declared the loser stands up in front of the White House and says three magic words: “Count the votes.” You can have all the paper ballots in the world, but if you don’t demand to look at them, publicly, in a recount, you might as well mark them with invisible ink. Democracy requires vigilance The Day After. That’s when you check in at http://www.stealbackyourvote.org one more time.

It’s time for a break, here’s Ellen Bukstel with “They Lost My Vote

You’re listening to Digital Crossroads, produced in the downtown studio of Boise Community Radio, now airing on affiliate KRFP Radio Free Moscow.

Let’s listen to a couple of interesting clips about the election. First up Change 2008-

The original actors behind the super famous Budweiser “Wassssssssssup!” commercials recently got back together to make a new political ad that’s an update on the original Bud ad. The commercial makers make it clear that the message of the commercial is not in any way endorsed by or associated with Anheuser-Busch. Charles Stone III, who created the whole Wassup concept, directed the first commercial and stars as the first guy who picks up the phone. According to TechDirt he never gave Anheuser-Busch full control over the Wassup concept. Rather, he sold them an exclusive on it for 5 years for a grand total of $37,000. He admits that people laughed at him at the time for selling so “low,” but he’s quite happy with how it worked out: He says- “That I’m able to use an idea distributed by a huge company, who made a lot of money off it, so that now when I put out what I want to say, it’s recognizable, and it sparks — that’s worth $1 million to me.”

Next up, the viral video that has people dancing in the streets for Obama. The video is hilarious, though the song is kinda repetitive. Taz Arnold of Sa-Ra Creative Partners and other LA-based musicians and dancers put together a video featuring celebrity appearances by rapper Kanye West, artist Shepard Fairey, and music producer Alfred “Daedelus” Darlington.

Here’s Taz Arnold with “I’ma Vote Obama Way”

You’re listening to Digital Crossroads…

Well, November 4th is not only Election Day. It is also the day when the Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments in the FCC vs. Fox case, which is the first time the Federal government’s ability to regulate language on the American airwaves has come before the Supremes since FCC vs. Pacifica, also known as the George Carlin case. Its kind of amazing when you realize the issue of so-called “indecency” is back on center stage again the same year when comedian George Carlin passed away.

The issue of “Fleeting Indecencies” or bad words uttered over the air unintentionally on awards shows and so-called reality TV may not even get “AIRTIME” with the Supremes, because they have the option of ruling very narrowly on whether the FCC handled their own procedures correctly and then the First Amendment issues could be left out of the discussion. Tune into Digital Crossroads next week to hear an interview with Free Expression Policy Project director Marjorie Heins, a friend of the program.

Last but not least on this Election special, the Federal Communications Commission is having a controversial day of policy decision-making on November 4th. One of the big issues on the docket is White Spaces. This issue presents a very real opportunity for the Federal Government to address Bridging the Digital Divide, and I have for you a clip featuring Minnie Ingersoll of Google, talking about WiFi on steroids and what this all means. The video is available on Free the Airwaves.

Theme music by Ooah of the Glitch Mob.

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LISTEN RIGHT NOW to the first Digital Crossroads recorded in the downtown Boise studio at Boise Community Radio. The show is now 29 minutes, and available here and on Pacifica’s Audioport every Friday after airing at 11 AM in the mountain time zone.

Digital Crossroads is a radio program all about media literacy and media justice. Learn how technology politics affect free speech, journalism and your everyday life with headlines, clips and original interviews coming to you weekly, focusing on community media, grassroots activists, and government officials. Coverage including the February 2009 digital TV transition, media policies in Congress and at the FCC, privacy & surveillance, net neutrality, elections & voting, radio & recordings and international press freedom.

Today, a dramatic feature with two interviews and clip. In September I was in Austin, Texas and attended the major commercial radio lobby’s trade show, held in the Austin Convention Center, which was also sheltering more than 1200 Hurricane Ike evacuees from Galveston. Listen to audio from the keynote speaker and an evacuee. Then hear analysis from Jim Ellinger, international community radio consultant based in Austin. Remember, change starts with you.

ELECTIONS&VOTING_ McCain’s tax cut benefits corporate media

According to an analysis published October 4th on Think Progress Republican Presidential candidate John McCain’s economic plan includes large tax cuts for corporations. The Center for American Progress Action Fund suggests McCain would create the largest deficit in 25 years by doubling President Bush’s tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Think Progress points out recent criticism by cable channel Fox News of liberal American media companies’ obvious and transparent agenda. However, McCain’s tax cuts could net General Electric/NBC $25 million, News Corp/Fox $80 million, Viacom/CBS $190 million, Time Warner/CNN $500 million, and Walt Disney/ABC $640 million. America’s five largest media corporations made worldwide profits of more than $36 billion in 2007.

ELECTIONS&VOTING_ Counting every vote in Florida in 2008

Kim Zetter wrote October 7th for Wired that the pivotal election battleground of Palm Beach County, Florida has twice flipped the winner in a local judicial race, revealing serious problems with the county’s infrastructure one month before the presidential election. Some vote tabulation machines were literally unable to produce the same results twice. The story has more twists than all the lousy movies by the director of The Sixth Sense combined. An August 26th primary election was close enough to force a recount. Then more than 3,400 ballots mysteriously disappeared and a different winner was declared. After a prolonged hunt, the county found them, also turning up more than 200 different ballots that officials never knew were missing. The original winner was victorious. However, optical-scan tabulation machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems rejected about 12,000 ballots and officials found legitimate votes that were marked clearly and correctly and should have been read by the machines. Other ballots were not marked correctly, but still indicated a clear choice by the voter. The winner was the same, but his margin of victory had gone down from 115 to 58 votes. Incredibly, officials then discovered 159 ballots from 54 precincts that had not been tabulated. The story goes on and on. Palm Beach County was using new optical-scan machines that it recently purchased from Sequoia for $5.5 million to replace paperless touchscreen machines the county purchased in 2002, which were bought to replace punch card machines involved in the 2000 election debacle. Pamela Smith of VerifiedVoting.Org told Wired it’s not enough to have paper ballots. Counties with optical scanners need robust testing and manual audits. Palm Beach Post reports the county has asked Sequoia to test all eight of its high-speed optical scanners before November 4th.

PRIVACY&SURVEILLANCE_ Skype: We didn’t know, and there are no security problems

Veteran reporter Marguerite Reardon wrote October 3rd on CNET that Skype’s president claims he was not aware Skype’s Chinese partner TOM-Skype was logging and storing users’ instant messages, when they were deemed offensive by the Chinese government. All ISPs in China are required to monitor communications, as Skype disclosed to users in 2006. A text filter blocks certain words in chat messages, including keywords related to Taiwanese independence, banned religious group Falon Gong and political opposition to the Chinese Communist Party. Researchers at University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab published a report saying TOM-Skype is logging and capturing millions of records including personal information and contact details for any text chat and voice calls to TOM-Skype users, including from Skype users. Still, Skype president Josh Silverman insists “Skype-to-Skype communications are, and always have been, completely secure and private.”

PRIVACY&SURVEILLANCE_ NSA has repeatedly abused wiretaps, listening to Americans calling Americans

Mike Masnick reported October 9th on TechDirt that leaks are coming out highlighting NSA spying on Americans in the wake of Congress granting retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies for agreeing with the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping. Under General Michael Hayden’s leadership the NSA created a domestic telephone call database, but Hayden stated conversations between Americans were not being intercepted. “We are narrowly focused and drilled on protecting the nation against al Qaeda and those organizations who are affiliated with it. It’s not for the heck of it.” In fact, according to ABC News, two separate “intercept operators” have come forward separately, saying they listened in on innocent calls between two Americans. Not only were calls between Americans listened to and recorded on a regular basis, highlights were sent around to other operators. One operator said that on a regular basis messages were forwarded because of “good phone sex” or “pillow talk”.


JOURNALISM&FREE SPEECH_ California passed anti-censorship journalism adviser bill

Alberto Morales of Student Press Law Center wrote September 29th about a new bill signed into law by Governator Ahhnold Schwarzenegger in California that protects high school and college teachers, in addition to all other school employees, from being retaliated against because of student speech. State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) introduced Senate Bill 1370, building on other protective student journalism measures in California’s Education Code. Yee said in a statement, “Allowing a school administration to censor in any way is contrary to the democratic process and the ability of a student newspaper to serve as the watchdog and bring sunshine to the actions of school administrators.” Senator Lee continued, “It is quite disheartening to hear, that after we specifically prohibited prior restraint by administrators, that some are engaging in this type of nefarious activity and even firing quality teachers because of content in the student newspaper.” Adam Keigwin, Yee’s communications director, said “I would hope there are some legislators out there in other states who are listening and cutting and pasting our law into a bill of their own.” California’s Governator signed 163 bills, while vetoing 226 others all in the last weekend of September, once the state budget was finally passed.

JOURNALISM&FREE SPEECH_ New Delhi journalist murdered

Qatar’s top-selling English daily newspaper Gulf Times reported October 4th that television journalist Soumya Vishwanathan was murdered. Described as honest and fearless by her former Kamla Nehru College journalism teacher Radhika Khanna, the young woman was found dead in her car around 3:30 in the morning after having returned home from work. The killing of the 25-year old woman, called by her former teacher a “sad reminder of the insecurity in our lives” has led to a ‘Justice for Soumya’ campaign organized by her colleagues at the Headlines Today news channel. A petition demanding justice was to be presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders, in addition to online social networking campaigns. At least 33 other journalists have been murdered in 2008, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Tune in next week to Digital Crossroads for Two Years Without Anna, Remembering the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Feature on National Association of Broadcasters Radio Show keynote lobbying against FCC localism mandates, a glimpse inside the Hurricane Ike evacuation common area inside the Convention Center with my Ronald Taylor interview, and response from Jim Ellinger on the phone from Austin looking back.

[September 17th I rode a bicycle up to the Austin Convention Center ready to report on the National Association of Broadcasters convention. Inside I discovered more than 1000 people provided temporary shelter by the City of Austin. FEMA was not at the Convention Center, though City of Austin staff were doing an excellent job coordinating.

Listen in for: audio from the NAB keynote address of David Rehr, interview clip of evacuee Ronald Taylor, and my October 3rd phone interview with Jim Ellinger, a community radio veteran who works with AMARC and runs Austin Airwaves.

Full audio of my conversation with Michael Jackson & Ronald Taylor and the phone interview with Jim Ellinger is coming soon right here. (Update soon! -Gavin)


FCC&CONGRESS_ Digital Transition means white spaces could bridge digital divide

Media activist Joshua Breitbart is the Policy Director for People’s Production House in New York City. In a story he wrote called “Digital Gold up for Grabs” published Friday October 3rd in The Indypendent he says FCC certification of white space devices is the most significant step we could take toward closing the digital divide. The FCC auctioned most of the broadcast spectrum made available by the transition to digital television to Verizon and AT&T, but small white spaces in between active channels can be opened up for portable, low-power devices that could connect millions of new people to the Internet for less than what we now pay. The New York City Council Committee on Technology in Government held a hearing September 29th to consider a resolution urging the FCC to hold back from opening white space devices. Current license holders like TV broadcasters don’t want to share the airwaves, claiming potential interference problems outweigh public interest concerns. Still, public interest groups including Free Press, Common Cause, Wireless Harlem and Ethos Group advocated for expanded access to the Internet, criticizing the resolution. For more explanation of white spaces, visit: Speak and Listen

FCC&CONGRESS_ Defense Department’s propaganda program finally investigated by FCC

Editor and Publisher reported October 7th the Federal Communications Commission will investigate the Department of Defense propaganda program revealed in the New York Times in April of this year, to determine whether news networks or military analysts violated the Communications Act of 1934 and FCC rules. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein issued a statement confirming the agency’s enforcement bureau sent letters to five TV networks and 19 former military officers. The DoD paid individuals referred to as “message force multipliers” instructed to deliver “administration themes and messages” to the public “in the form of their own opinions.” Analysts even conveyed specific talking points to the public when they suspected the information was exaggerated or false. Network officials argued it was the analysts’ responsibility to disclose any conflicts of interest. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Commerce Committee Chairman Congressman John Dingell wrote to the FCC to investigate whether the plan violated sponsorhip identification requirements. National Public Radio is the only news organization I know of to even address their internal vetting process. You can read my Op-Ed about the pentagon propaganda plan on Reclaim the Media HERE.


[Digital Crossroads is produced in the studios at Boise Community Radio. Music by Ooah, Gabriel Teodros, Ernest Gonzales and The Tasteful Nudes. Next week, Two Years Without Anna- Remembering slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. —Radioactive Gavin.]

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