The July 31st edition of Time included a special report on “Inside the Secret Plan to Stop Vladimir Putin’s U.S. Election Plot” by Massimo Calabresi. The article details the federal government’s attempt to secure the 2016 elections after it became apparent that Russian hackers had broken into more than 20 state and local voter election systems. The 15 page previously undisclosed plan is here.
In June of 2016, voter registration databases were successfully changed by hackers in California which led to the need to use provisional ballots in the primary elections. Three weeks afterward in Illinois, along with a similar attack in Arizona, a Russian agent accessed the state’s voter-registration site and uploaded malicious software (SQL) which “opened a back door to all 15 million files on past and current voters”. The hackers were successful in stealing 90,0000 files before an alarm was triggered when they attempted to download all 15 million files. Changes made to voter registrations were caught by the FBI as there was a full backup of the system before the SQL attack. These brazen attacks, among others, signaled that the Russians’ game plan had changed from collecting intelligence, as had been done in previous election cycles, to a “possible intent to meddle with the vote.”
As the administration worked to halt the damage, Trump continuously denied Moscow’s involvement with the hacking and blamed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) of hacking itself. With the stolen email dump prior to the DNC convention, he doubled down on the claims. As if on cue, August 1st, he said, “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged.” Two days later, when the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, said he was considering declaring elections “part of the U.S. critical infrastructure, along with…the banking and electrical systems,” it was met with suspicion of partisanship by many of the states which seriously hampered the administration’s ability to respond to the attacks.
The continuous fueling of anti-government suspicion by Trump seemed to work in his favor as it made the President reticent to issue a stronger statement nationally as it would be portrayed as political meddling in favor of the Democratic candidate. President Obama did warn Putin and put into place a plan to counteract a full-out Russian attack on our election. In the meantime, the attacks continued with infiltration attempts into most states, including the electoral systems of Florida and New Mexico.
The election went off “free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective” according to officials, however, doubts about the security of our election system are spreading. The FBI’s counterintelligence probe about Russia aiding Trump’s campaign only began in earnest after the elections. The FBI’s preoccupation with Clinton’s emails prior to the election resulted in their Russian probe not getting “any intelligence legs until after the election,” a puzzling and disturbing blunder with questionable political overtones.
As the administration cozies up to Putin and the focus on methods of protecting our elections from Russian interference disappears, fears about fair elections are becoming widespread. With Trump’s creation of an “election-integrity commission” demanding the centralization of voters’ personal information from every state, many worry the true goal of the commission is voter suppression of Democratic voters. Republican efforts to defund the $8 million Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which guides states in conducting fair and safe elections, is being met with suspicion as well.
A recent Gallup poll found most Americans (70%) are not confident in the honesty of our electoral system. What a disaster for our democracy, especially since the current power structure seems to be quite happy with the situation and is tightening the noose on fair elections with additional questionable tactics. When finally no one has the confidence to show up to vote, they’ve won and we’ll have a permanent government in place, no voters necessary. A government of the oligarchs, by the oligarchs, for the oligarchs.
The movie shown last week, “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point,” is a wake up call to those who still believe we have the “best health care system in the world.” It showed clearly how little we’re getting for our money with a for-profit health care system run by myriad insurance companies. Our costs are twice as much as countries with universal health care and our health benefits and longevity are poor compared to them. It’s an unsustainable model and should have been scrapped many years ago. We have a chance now and it’s urgent we do so for our health as well as the health of our economy.
Six Florida Democrats have signed onto the bill with a total of 115 sponsors so far. Five Florida Democrats have not supported the bill, H.R. 676, including Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Rep. Val Demings, Rep. Charlie Crist, Rep. Lois Frankel, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Rep. Murphy has indicated concern over our country’s debt by sponsoring a balanced budget amendment. Her reluctance to sign onto H.R. 676 is puzzling as various reports indicate that it would go a long way in helping to reduce the debt.
Illustrative of why some of our legislators refuse to get on board with this overdue and common sense legislation, is a piece about Dick Gephardt, former Democratic minority House leader and super delegate. It shows clearly and revoltingly how Democrats, like Republicans, remain firmly in the pockets of the insurance industry. It’s really quite remarkable to hear him yuck it up with insurance executives about the Democrats’ willingness to side with Republicans to deny average Americans the affordable coverage universal health care would provide them. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We need to make sure our leaders in Washington know which side they should be on in this pivotal time in history.
If you didn’t make it to the event last night, you can view the movie on-line here. http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/fix-healthcare-tipping-point/
As the known attendees to Trump, Jr.’s now infamous June meeting last year expand and are slowly revealed, here’s an educated guess about what may have been the most important agenda item of the meeting. (It has to do with “ownership” and is a sobering reminder of the risks facing our country, especially given the collapse of our protections enshrined in the separation of powers of the three branches of government.)
There will be a special place in “hell” for those legislators who looked the other way (both Democrats and Republicans) while our country was attacked, and now controlled, by foreign and domestic enemies.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s event yesterday in Winter Park was advertised as an event to learn about her recent bill to “balance the budget” by way of a Constitutional amendment. This long-time Republican dream, which would be a godsend and useful tool to slash/trash earned benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare without leaving any “fingerprints” (“the Constitution made me do it”), is being sponsored by our own freshman Democratic Representative.
It was quickly discovered that the meeting was an astroturf exercise by the Concord Coalition, which was presented as a patriot group seeking to save our country by reining in wasteful government spending. Research discovered it’s really a group of pro-corporate ideologues seeking to redirect government funds to the private sector by slashing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It’s a partner in Wall Street mogul and vulture capitalist Pete Peterson’s Fix the Debt Campaign. The billionaire funding this new round of “town halls” never let an opportunity to enrich himself go to waste. The money we’ve paid into government coffers our entire lives with the promise that it will be there for us in our retirement is a much too tempting, saliva-inducing target for this plutocrat. He’s marshaled various politicians over the years to woo us into believing a balanced budget amendment is a good deal for us and, of course, “our children.”
Rep. Murphy’s staff said the bill was part of an effort to “start a conversation” on this issue and she still wants to protect earned benefit programs. We’re disappointed Rep. Murphy’s conversation and position seems to have started, ended and aligned with a right-wing organization that appears to have motives contrary to those she stated on the campaign trail. For another opinion ignored in this debate, please see the letter signed by four Nobel Laureate economists.
Here’s a copy of the HJ Res107 Balanced Budget Amendment. If you’d like to start your own conversation with Rep. Murphy about this issue, she can be contacted at 202-225-4035.
Happy Independence Day!!
As we celebrate our independence on this special day, it’s useful to remember some of the things that make our country so amazing. Tops among the many achievements we can be proud of is the right to vote in fair, free and transparent elections. The Three Wise Guys is broadcasting an interview today with Susan Pynchon, Executive Director of the Florida Fair Elections Coalition in DeLand. She has concerns, as many others do, that this bedrock of our democracy is endangered. Hope you can check out this most informative interview today @ 6:30 pm on WMFE 90.7 FM. And please view some of the links on their website if you haven’t done so already. They’re quite a revelation.
Shortly before he overrode his agency’s scientific conclusions about the dangers of Dow Chemical’s chlorpyrifos, a pesticide widely used in agriculture, Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, met privately with the CEO of the company. Despite EPA’s recommendation to ban all use of the chemical in our food supply, Pruitt denied scientific reasoning and approved the continued use of the toxin. Chlorpyrifos is part of the organophosphate (OPs) class of pesticides which were originally developed by the German military as neurotoxins in World War II. As a former toxicological pathologist commented, “Pruitt’s refusal to follow through on banning chlorpyrifos amounts to intentional poisoning of the population and the environment.”
Millions of pounds of organophosphates are applied every year across our country and are acutely toxic to birds, bees, mammals, and aquatic organisms. The agency’s scientists determined that ingestion of even minute quantities of chlorpyrifos can interfere with brain development in fetuses and infants. It also affects many species, including bees which experience learning and memory problems after ingesting small doses of the chemical, further threatening their survival as well as ours. The EPA this year released its final Biological Evaluations of Three Chemicals’ Impacts on Endangered Species, which reveals that chlorpyrifos likely has damaging effects on 97 percent of all species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Perhaps that’s the reason Pruitt’s agency pressured the top scientist on the Board of Scientific Counselors to change her Congressional testimony about the abrupt firing of almost 90% of the scientists on the Board. It’s unpleasant to have to face facts when there’s money to be made by the ruling oligarchy–damn the planet and all its inhabitants! Do they have a secret compound somewhere in never-never land where they’ll be able to escape the devastation and misery their rulings have wrought and wallow in their money? It’s all very puzzling and alarming to us lowly humans.
So look beyond the feigned moral outrage of the White House occupant regarding Syrian chemical attacks on it’s citizens, and know that our own country is dousing its citizenry every year with millions of pounds of chemical-warfare-based substances. By hiring someone like Scott Pruitt to head (and decimate) the EPA, our “Commander-in-Chief” shows us all quite clearly he’s an empty (and evil) suit.
For a note of hope, ready Sen. Udall’s letter to Pruitt. Are there any more brave legislators willing to speak out for us and our planet? If not, why not??