The Hightower Report

The Pentagon scraps Internet voting; and Bush's mining allies make molehills out of mountains

FIGHTING FOR VOTER SECURITY

The Pentagon has retreated! Not from some foreign enemy, but from a domestic enemy: Electronic voting machines.

In the latest blow to corporate purveyors of these dangerously flawed cyberspace voting machines, the Pentagon has announced that it will abandon its plan to use an Internet system for voting by our troops and other Americans abroad in this year's elections. Pentagon officials had cut a $22 million deal with Accenture to develop this virtual-voting system.

Actually, this contract did pit American voters against a foreign force, since Accenture, which was spun off from the corrupt Arthur Andersen accounting firm, makes a big point of it being a Bermuda corporation, rather than a U.S. firm. Accenture's problem, however, was not its home base, but its technology, which it calls SERVE – Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment.

An independent panel of scientists studied Accenture's system and found it so insecure that it called for the immediate cancellation of its use, saying that SERVE had "fundamental security problems that leave it vulnerable to a variety of well-known cyber attacks, any one of which could be catastrophic. The best course to take," they concluded, "is not to field the SERVE system at all."

At first, Pentagon officials defended Accenture and assailed the scientists, but then reality set in, and the agency announced that it was withdrawing due to "the inability to ensure the legitimacy of votes, thereby bringing into doubt the integrity of the election results."

So, what about us here at home, most of whom are still faced with voting on electronic machines? While the virtual voting technology we'll use is different from Accenture's, it also has been shown by computer scientists to be wide open to hackers and malfunctions, compromising the integrity of our votes.

To fight this electronic sabotage of our elections, call the Committee on House Administration and tell them to support HR 2239: 202/225-8281.


MOUNTAIN MASSACRE

If you've ever driven through the heart of West Virginia, you know how breathtakingly beautiful its mountains are.

Even more breathtaking, however, is the push by George W.'s environmental wranglers to rig both the Clean Water Act and our nation's mining laws. Why? So giant coal companies – please take a deep breath before I tell you this – literally can dynamite off the tops of these mountains. The coal giants delicately call this "mountaintop removal," and it's so dastardly, so grotesque, so exasperatingly stupid as to leave anyone who sees it whopper-jawed.

The story gets uglier. Having blasted off the top third or so of a mountain – along with its forests and animals – the coal companies then bulldoze the rubble (which used to be the mountaintop) down into the valleys and streams below, literally burying them hundreds of feet deep with what the companies call "spoil."

Why this barbarous assault? Because "mountaintop massacre," as locals call it, is a dirt-cheap way for greed-headed coal barons to get at the coal down in the mountains. Luckily, we had regulations that restricted such avaricious sledgehammering, but that was B.B. – Before Bush. The industry has pumped a coal train full of cash into Bush, and it even got its top lobbyist installed as George W.'s overseer of mining rules.

So, the Bushites rewrote the Clean Water Act to legalize the burying of streams, and now they're proposing a change that effectively will eliminate the only rule that limits mountaintop removal. With a straight face, they assert that they're merely trying to "clarify" existing regulations and "reduce regulatory uncertainty."

Yeah, if they get their way, it'll be a certainty that 2,200 square miles of West Virginia's venerable mountains and forests will be destroyed, and it'll be clear that another 1,000 miles of mountain streams will be buried. To fight their brutishness, call the Appalachian Center for the Economy and Environment: 304/645-9006.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

electronic voting, Pentagon, electronic voting machines, Accenture, Arthur Andersen, SERVE, Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, HR 2239, West Virginia, George W. Bush, Clean Water Act, mountaintop removal, coal mining, spoil, Appalachian Center for the Economy and Environment

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