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Archive for March 14th, 2015

The horror of voter fraud: 44 invalid votes in 14 years

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Kira Lerner writes for ThinkProgress:

Forty-four non-citizens may have voted illegally in Ohio at some point since 2000.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has been on a mission to weedout purported voter fraud in the state since he took office in 2011. After launching an investigation into what he called an “expanding loophole” allowing non-citizens to vote in Ohio and potentially decide elections, he announced Thursday that 145 non-citizens were registered to vote illegally in 2014, amounting to just .0002 percent of the 7.7 million registered voters in the state.

Husted’s office would not provide any information about the 27 people it referred to the Attorney General’s office for further review. But in 2013, his office sent 17 potential cases — .0003 percent of total ballots cast in the state — to the AG who eventually referred them to county prosecutors. Most reports of voting irregularities were dropped by the county prosecutors because the “voter fraud” problems were determined to have been caused by simple mistakes and confused senior citizens, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer investigation.

Voter fraud in Ohio is a fifth-degree felony and could carry up to a year in prison. But of the cases referred to prosecutors’ offices in 2013, most irregularities were caused by voter confusion or mistakes made by elections officials and not deliberate attempts to commit fraud, the investigation found. For example, Cuyahoga County looked into 15 cases referred from Husted’s office and chose not to pursue criminal charges against any of the individuals, concluding that the voters were confused about the “Golden Week” during which people can both register to vote and also cast their absentee ballot.

In total, only four people were convicted of voting fraud as a result of the 2013 investigation, Eve Mueller, the deputy director of communications for the Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, told ThinkProgress. Mueller said the office could not comment on the ongoing investigations into the newly announced cases.

“In all of the instances where potential voter fraud has been brought up, even outside of undocumented people who may be voting… the prosecutors have said, ‘this is not a person who was really trying to defraud the system. They made an innocent mistake and this is not what voter fraud really is,’” Ohio ACLU Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner told ThinkProgress. “I suspect that once a lot of these other cases that Secretary Husted has pointed out really come under scrutiny, most of them will not end up in convictions or prosecutions and again the number will be really small.”

According to his announcement Thursday, Husted identified two non-citizens who registered to vote and then cast ballots in Hamilton County. In 2013, he referred 48 potential cases of voter fraud to the county prosecutor’s office and only six cases were pursued, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Julie Wilson said in 2014.

“The non-citizen issue certainly was not the biggest problem with those cases, that’s for sure,” Wilson told ThinkProgress, adding that maybe one, if any, of the six cases concerned non-citizens voting, although she could not confirm that information.

Husted also said in his announcement Thursday that his office would likely turn up more cases of voter fraud if the federal government would provide it with the social security numbers of non-citizens so it could cross-check the voter rolls. But the federal databaseHusted wants access to is often outdated and error-riddled, as GOP officials who used the database to purge the rolls of non-citizens in Florida, Colorado and Iowa discovered. Those efforts ultimately found almost no non-citizens.

Last month, Husted wrote a letter to President Obama in which he claimed the executive action on immigration will lead to non-citizens registering to vote which would have “lasting implications for the integrity of our elections,” although he admitted at the timethat non-citizen voting “is not a huge problem.”

“I am committed to my responsibility to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat, and with the cooperation of the federal government we can do this without any additional burden on the voters,” Husted said in a statement Thursday. “Without access to the information we need, this will continue to be an unresolved problem.”

While Husted may say he intends to make it easier to vote, his actions suggest otherwise. In 2012, he made extensive efforts to cut early voting, going so far as to defy a court order requiring early voting hours to be restored. In 2014, Husted agreed to join anerror-riddled multi-state voter purge database which he claimed would prevent voters from casting ballots in multiple states during an election.

Also during the 2014 election, more than 10,000 absentee ballots were rejected in Ohio, according to State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D) who told the Plain Dealer that Husted’s time should be dedicated to eliminating cases of voter suppression.

“I would like to see the Secretary of State focus on the real problems in our elections instead of playing to his base with these distractions,” Clyde said in a statement. “Ohioans deserve answers on why their votes are being thrown out.”

Conservatives have long tried to tie immigration reform to potential voter fraud. Those like Husted who claim undocumented immigrants could influence elections continue to cite a study suggesting that non-citizen voting could have determined the 2014 election. But the research has largely been debunked, and the study’s authors acknowledged thelimitations of their findings.

According to a recently released report by Nonprofit VOTE, voting in Ohio dropped by 22 percent from 2012 to 2014 and the state ranked 34th in overall turnout in 2014, a year which saw the lowest national turnout since World War II.

“We don’t have enough people coming out and voting, and a lot of that is due to the constant barrage of voter restrictions we have in the state,” Brickner said. “For a decade now, we have been constantly having restrictions coming from our General Assembly, from our Secretary of State and from our governor’s office all designed to make it harder for people to vote. That’s really the problem with our election system, not that there are scores of people out there trying to register and defraud the system who aren’t supposed to be voting.”

Conservatives don’t understand facts very well.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2015 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

US-trained forces go in for torture

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Certain the Latin American and South American military/security forces that the US trained for its favorite dictators were specifically trained in torture techniques. The US has a long record of helping repressive regimes oppress their citizens, and training in torture was just one service the US offered.

And apparently the US is still at it. Peter Maass reports for The Intercept:

Investigative reporter James Gordon Meek broke an important story this week: He revealed that U.S.-backed forces in Iraq are committing the same type of horrific war crimes — wanton killings of prisoners, beheadings, torture — as the Islamic State fighters on the other side of the front line.

Meek’s report, broadcast by ABC News and based on photos and cellphone videos that Iraqi fighters had proudly shared on social media, shows the Humvees and M4A1 assault rifles that the U.S. government has supplied in abundance to Iraq’s armed forces. In its effort to push the Islamic State out of Iraq, the U.S. is providing Baghdad with nearly $1 billion a year in weapons, in addition to training by several thousand American advisers.

U.S. and Iraqi officials professed surprise at what is happening, and told ABC that investigations would be launched to get to the bottom of it. If this sounds familiar in a “Casablanca” way — gambling in the casino, stop the presses — it should. Back in 2005, when Facebook was a curiousity used by just a few thousand students and Instagram was years away from being invented, the sorts of abuses that Meek recently found on social media sites were well underway.

Back then, I visited Samarra, a contested town in the heart of what was known as the Sunni Triangle, and wrote about the abuses I saw while accompanying Iraqi and U.S. forces on joint raids. I saw beatings, witnessed a mock execution, and heard, inside an Iraqi detention center, the terrible screams of a man being tortured. I received the same sorts of reactions that greeted Meek’s story: U.S. and Iraqi officials expressed surprise and promised to punish any wrongdoers.

Nothing changed.

That’s because torture, rather than being an aberration, was embedded in a strategy that was described, at the time, as the Salvadorization of Iraq—the use of dirty-war tactics to defeat an insurgency. It is more than a footnote of history that the origins of this policy appear to date to 2004, when the effort to train and equip Iraqi forces got underway in earnest under the leadership of Gen. David Petraeus, who went on to command all U.S. forces in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, then became director of the CIA, then resigned and pleaded guilty to disclosing a trove of highly-classified information to his lover and biographer, Paula Broadwell, and lying to the FBI about it.

I was hardly the first to witness the abuses and hypocrisy that were the hammer and anvil of the American program to build up Iraqi forces. In 2004, Oregon National Guard troops in Baghdad observed officers inside a Ministry of Interior compound beating and torturing prisoners; they entered the compound and found dozens of abused detainees, including one who had just been shot. The Oregon soldiers reported what they had found and received an incredible order from their commanders—leave the compound now.

In 2010, the deluge of military and diplomatic files that were released by Wikileaks included a document that explained why the Oregon soldiers had been told to forget about what they had seen—FRAGO 242, as the order was called, required U.S. troops to not investigate any abuses committed by Iraqi forces unless U.S. troops were involved. In other words, so long as Iraqis were doing the torturing rather than Americans, it was none of our business. Move along, nothing to see here. [Truly Orwellian—and totally lacking in morality, but a good look at what “honor” means in the military. – LG]

Then, as now, the reason these abuses were tolerated was . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2015 at 11:41 am

Government surveillance moves quickly from terrorists to “troublemakers”

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We have a long history of how government security services work—from the NYPD to the FBI to the secret police of various repressive regimes—and we see how they quickly move from focusing on criminals to watching people the government deems “troublemakers”—i.e., people doing things the government does not like, such as peacefully protesting against government actions or policies. (E.g., the NYPD, the FBI, and counter-terrorism task forces have secretly watched various protest groups.)

So New Zealand spies on a man who runs an anti-corruption campaign—and not even in New Zealand!

The intense government surveillance of people who have done nothing wrong is getting WAY out of hand.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2015 at 11:21 am

Posted in Government, NSA

Feds order defective valves replaced on leaking cars

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Why government regulation is required to keep businesses in line—and even then it’s difficult.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2015 at 11:11 am

NYPD on the job—revising Wikipedia to erase NYPD police brutality

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And the revisions are being done from police headquarters. Apparently the NYPD thinks whatever they do is okay, but you damn sure better not record it or describe it.

NY tax dollars at work.

In a way, this is not unlike using “enhanced interrogation techniques” in place of “torture” (something the NY Times was only too happy to do) or “bulk data collection” in place of “mass surveillance.” But a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and a skunk cabbage as foul.

Still, the Orwellian tendencies of the police state are on full display. You’ll recall in the prescient novel 1984 how history—in the sense of the written record of what happened—was being continually revised, and how the photographs in Stalin’s Soviet Union were continually retouched to remove from the photo those persons who had fallen from favor.

And now the NYPD is doing its bit. It’s apparently much easier from them to revise Wikipedia than to clean up their act.

UPDATE: Another story on the NYPD’s effort to alter history and to erase events.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2015 at 10:44 am

Pi day: 3.14.15 (at 9:26:53, you had the first 10 places of pi)

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Pi is a real number—a transcendental number, in fact—defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter in Euclidean geometry, something the writer of this NY Times article apparently does not know. (He defines pi as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which varies according to the geometry used, but in fact pi specifically defines a particular real number and the value of pi does not vary.)

Here are some colorful and interesting graphical representations of the digits of pi. One example:

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 10.33.16 AM

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2015 at 10:34 am

Posted in Math

Otoko Organics, Mühle Silverfiber, and the Double Open-Comb

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SOTD 14 Mar 2015

A BBS shave today. In discussions of Mühle’s synthetics (including the HJM), I ended up talking about the silverfiber brush shown, so I thought I’d use it. Once again I learn that synthetic knots hold too much water for good lather, so they do require two good shakes before starting to load: I had to pour some excess water from the tub. The brush feels very nice indeed and efficiently creates a good lather.

Otoko Organics is a wonderful soap in my opinion. It’s vegan and it’s unusual. As you see, I once again got the lid upside down—but perhaps that was intentional: the soap comes from Australia. Unfortunately, I know of no vendors who are importing it (though Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements, where I got the razor shown, does import Shaver Heaven shaving soap, of which I’ve heard good things and have ordered some).

Otoko makes a terrific lather—and a somewhat unusual lather, somewhat stiffish—and provides a great shave. I’m just finishing this tub, but (ordering from Australia) I ordered four tubs, one of which went to The Son, one I sold.

The double-open-comb razor is a very nice razor indeed: it’s comfortable, and it’s very efficient, and the cap feels frictionless against the skin. It was easy to get a BBS result.

A good splash of Hâttric (from Germany: shaving spans the globe), and the weekend begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2015 at 9:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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