The Boston Progressive - Under The Fold

Recycled news and (hopefully) original commentary from a New England Progressive perspective -- the full text of items shown on the main page

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ilyka is starting a trend...

.. by being a shameless hussy and immodestly broadcasting her DNA profile 'cross the net....

Now, because I'm following suit, does that make me shameless, a hussy or immodest?

Pick any combination, and I've ben called it. (well, maybe not "hussy," but close..)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

You know, this makes as much sense as anything else we hear from inside the Beltway

From a comment thread at Available Light on G.W.'s recess appointment of Sam Fox as Ambassador to Belgium :

#14 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2007, 10:38 AM:
I figured it out, it's

Satanic Possession!

Yes, the body occupying the Presidency of the United States is possessed by Satan! Karl Rove is another case of demonic-possession, and so is Dick Cheney! Satan is running the US Government!

Melech Ha'Mauvetz is ruling the world, and co-opting people who think they are working in accordance with God's Plans--all those supposedly pious and humble (not...) ministers of Jesus who have open access to the White House from Colorado Springs and elsewhere, who preach intolerance and bigotry and demand conversion of those who are either not of their faith, or have lifestyles and values (including tolerance...) that fail to comply with the preachers' professed credo (Ted Haggerty fell but shall rise again born again and again and again... shades of the hypocritical confessions and soul-cleansings in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). The demonically possessed subvert the populace of the USA, colluded to deliver thousands of souls into death on September 11, 2001 (refusing to accept any briefings about the threat posed by Al-Qaeda until after the start of September 2001, by the time the long-diverted and delayed briefing that finally got scheduled was scheduled for delivery, it was far to late to effective do anything to deter the murderers... complicity and collusion, and thousands of souls sent to death, and millions more sent into financial stress-- //snip//

There was the invasion of Afghanistan--bungled, and the administration of Afghanistan after the invasion bungled even worse. The lot of women in that country has not changed much, the schools that had been closed for years were briefly reopened to girls, and then closed again with atrocities of bombings and arson and massacres effected against those with the temerity to teaching reading and writing to girls, and against the schools the girls were going to, and against the girls who were learning to read and write. US-backed warlords with no different social policies that Taliban--lock the women in purdah and throw away the key, bludgeon all males into wearing full beards and behaving in accordance with rigid codes prohibiting alcohol, graven images, etc., destroy any art or literature considered religiously improper or impious or challenging....

There was the invasion of Iraq--"collateral damage" of more than half a million souls sent into death, more than a tenth of the population fled out of the country as refugees trying to avoid the fate of relatives murdered intentionally or as byproducts of homicidal mania masquerading as sectarianism or of homicidal mania manifesting as zeal for vengeance and revenge exacted for the deaths of friends and relatives....

"Blood and souls for Arioch!" called Elric as he wielded Stormbringer reaping its deadly harvest.. Stormbringer and Elric didn't cause the death and destruction of closing on a MILLION people, did they?

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Friday, February 10, 2006

The Mockingbird Returns

Last week over on One Good Thing, Flea published an essay that recalls both the fictional Atticus Finch, from the 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird, and a real-life "man in grey" with the courage to run a gauntlet of religious and racial bigots to bring his child into an integrated school in New Orleans.

The man in grey was not the father of any black children, but of a white student, and the gauntlet of ignorance reserved special hate and bile for him, as this white man, a Christian minister, was betraying the members of that shameful gauntlet.  They could understand blacks trying to rise above their proper station.  But to have a white man, a minister of their own professed faith, willingly put his own child into that school, with the black child, was a betrayal that could not be allowed to pass unvoiced.

We recently lost a beacon in the area of civil rights, Coretta Scott King, and that, combined with Flea's post, reminded me of the past of my own natal city.  And reminded me as well that discrimination and segregation are still alive and well, but the driving impetus now is economic, rather than ethnic or racial.  Sadly the result is often the same as what was seen 42 years ago.

I'm from Boston, sometimes called the "Athens of the New World" for its diversity and educational access of higher learning, and as well known as "a city of neighborhoods," where common racial, ethnic, religious, economic and national backgrounds worked to sustain that diversity, but also a balkanization of the population and their interests, where different groups tended to their own geography, and there was little drift between areas, a geographical stability that bred insularity in one of the cities that was seen externally as one of the most cosmopolitan and "European" in the United States.

In a city with Boston's stability and insularity, any change to the status of the neighborhoods' “integrity” was viewed, at the least, with suspicion, and at worst, with outright hostility.  In a "City of Neighborhoods"  the segregation of black from white may have been more complete than in the American South, as there were "white neighborhoods" and "black neighborhoods," and that physical separations also meant that there was precious little interaction in day-to-day life, economic growth in one enclave was distinct from all but the adjacent areas and the prevalence of blue-collar professions and attitudes prevailed against even the acquaintance of people from “outside” in the role as domestics.   In the case of Boston, the most prevalent awareness of the black population in the city was from news reports, that sensationalized reports of crime and violence in the black community.

The insularity of the city meant that the elementary and secondary schools were truly neighborhood schools, and the student population was truly parochial, where even the public schools tended to fill based on the same criteria of the elementary schools run by the Roman Catholic religious orders, and clustered by church parish (one of the jokes used to define many in Boston is the question "where are you from" isn't answered by a geographic landmark such as "Ronan Park" or "Meeting House Hill" but by church parish, such as "St. Peter's" or "St. Margaret's").  And because there was no meaningful interaction at a family level, the prevailing attitude was truly “out of sight, out of mind” for most of the population.

Part of that “out of mind” was that infrastructure in the city’s less affluent neighborhoods was crumbling, and the physical plant and teachers were woefully under funded and overstressed.  This occurred in both black and white neighborhoods, but it was more noticeable in the black neighborhoods because the available homes and apartments themselves were more rundown, with much higher percentage of both renters and absentee landlords than elsewhere, and a corresponding lowering of civic pride in evidence by those absent owners.  The dynamics of educational access meant that, as residents became better educated themselves, they wanted better educational opportunities for their families, and would leave the area.  But with the flight of the educated members of the society the financial capital, the educational example and educational experience fled as well.

The perception by black families that the white schools were better and had higher success rates than the schools with primarily black attendees.  For some of the city’s other schools this was true, but for others the rates of per-pupil spending and educational success were on a par with the schools that the black families saw were failing.

These conditions held true in the two city areas that were to gain the most press and reflect most poorly on the city; South Boston and Charlestown, both solidly blue-collar and ethnic monocultures.

Viewed from some perspectives, South Boston, Charlestown and Roxbury (the region of Boston where black families were predominant) were very similar, insular, economically low-to-middle economic strata, educationally disadvantaged and all woefully ignorant of what the people in the other parts of the city were really like, because there was no interaction except on the most superficial level.

Boston’s neighborhood schools were not subject to specific legislation to force separation of enrollment along racial lines, so the usual definition of de jure segregation was not met.  There was no question that the city’s schools were subject to de facto segregation, but the school committee, which controlled allotments of funds and set policies for enrollment, consistently allocated more funds to the affluent areas of the city, and resisted all attempts to allow for more than token cross-enrollment, even between the city’s “white” areas but most emphatically discouraged cross-enrollment between Roxbury and any of the city’s white, Hispanic or Asian neighborhoods.  Curiously, it was this power of the school committee to set enrollment policies that was the basis for the federal courts, in response to a lawsuit brought by a small number of black families, to determine that the segregation of the Boston school system was not enforced by simple neighborhood pressures, but was actually a planned pattern of segregation and discrimination by elected officials, which raised the issue back to a status of de jure segregation.

When the federal judge involved, W. Arthur Garrity, ruled that the schools would be forcibly desegregated by busing students between the neighborhood schools, it was already June of 1974, and with only three months before school reopened, he relied on interim plans drawn up by an academic at the Boston University School of Education, Charles Glenn, for the Massachusetts State Board of Education.. This was the so-called “Master Plan.”

Glenn’s plan called for the first years targets to include South Boston, a predominantly white section of the city that was regaled by the media as one of the bedrocks of anti-integration hostility in the city, and easily one of the two most volatile areas in the city about this issue.  At the time, the “cooler heads” in the city decried the choice for including “Southie” as one of the first neighborhoods, because of the fear involved between both sites, and the outright racism in some quarters, in both the white and black student populations.  But there was also the reluctance of other city neighborhood to be among the first trial in the experiment.  The mixture was explosive.  It would later be revealed that Garrity had not even read the State Board’s “Master Plan” before he ordered it implemented.

The first year’s busing involved 17,000 students, out of a 94,000 student body.   Most of that first year’s schools integrated successfully, with minimal incidents.  South Boston was not one of those areas.

From the start there was trouble, with attacks between blacks and whites in the middle and high school in South Boston, and some of the buses being stoned as they were returning the students home to Roxbury.

There were school boycotts, an alleged plot to intercept, roll-over and burn the busses, and large-scale withdrawal from the public school system, with more parents transferring their children into the parochial school system, the start of home-schooling for some and a number of new “private academies” being formed, many with teachers who were either moonlighting from their positions with the public schools or who had quit the public schools entirely.  And there was the first of the exodus known as “white flight,” where thopse who were affluent enough to either buy or rent homes in the outlying suburbs simply left the city.  And the consensus now is that the majority of those who left in those first years did not do so out of racism or bigotry, but out of simple fear of the unrest that they saw daily in the schools.

After the first turbulent months the hot-spots cooled somewhat, but never completely, and there were persistent rumors of violence in the Roxbury schools as well, but positive confirmation, or convincing proof otherwise, was never documented.  Which fed rumors of cover-ups by the state and city governments.  Which fed further unrest and distrust.

Judge Garrity had worked, all year long, with court-appointed “masters,” to craft a “Phase II” plan to implement the desegregation order.  The masters’ plan originally had reduced the number of students who would be bussed from the high of 17,000 to less than 15,000, and would rely on a process where students would be exchanged on the borders of Roxbury and the surrounding communities, and only students from the core of Roxbury would be bussed to other communities, and the number of students being exchanged with these schools would gradually be increased, so as to minimize the disruption.  The integration model used was also one that paid particular attention to the makeup of the local neighborhoods, rather than trying to build a population citywide that mimicked the racial representation of the city as a whole, and afforded choice of a more local school, or attending a “magnet school” that would have an enrollment makeup that mimicked the city’s population percentages.

Judge Garrity, with the endorsement of the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit, decided that the student population in all the city’s public schools should reflect the racial makeup of the city as a whole, and altered the plan devised by his own court-appointed “masters” to increase the number of students subject to forced busing to 25,000.  This revision, and others that Garrity engaged in, set a pattern of obsessive oversight and micromanagement, and of ignoring the opinions and pleas of the citizens as a whole, who, by some estimates, were 80% against the scheme.  The original aim, that of bringing the educational opportunities available to the youth of the city up to a higher standard was lost in the structural changes required by the court orders.

Even though students would, again, be bussed into South Boston, the degree of unrest was not expected to be as great, in some measure because the number of white students attending the public schools in South Boston had dropped so much.  However, the 1975/1976 school year would bring another working-class part of the city into the fray – Charlestown.

Charlestown, like South Boston, was an ethnic monoculture, with fierce pride in its institutions, flawed as they might have been.  After the observed violence and unrest from the prior year, the pump for trouble was primed, and neither side, nor Judge Garrity, seemed willing to do anything to defuse the situation.  When black students, created their own “Minority Student Council” they were resistant to allowing representation by latinos, who were also being bussed into Charlestown.   When the school administration tried to accommodate the Minority Student Council, many of the white students saw it as preferential treatment of blacks over concerns of white students.  

Over the course of the school year, some tension wore away, but, as in South Boston, trouble still was waiting under the surface.    In South Boston, during the first week of school a white student was stabbed, and the black students were bussed to a Dorchester mall for their safety.   In Charlestown, a black student at the Bunker Hill Community College was attacked by a gang of local white youths.   Some black politicians called for the closures of the schools entirely if the safety of black students could not be guaranteed.  Which brought countering proclamations from some white politicians asking about the lack of concern for the safety of white students.

During the next school year Garrity implemented a further fine-tuning of his orders, with results such that, because the forced bussing had not achieved the desired degree of desegregation in some of the city’s schools, those schools would be closed and the students distributed among Boston’s other schools.  And now another of Boston’s insular blue-collar neighborhoods, Hyde Park, is brought more fully into the desegregation plan, with outbreaks of unrest that reflect what happened in South Boston and Charlestown in the prior two years.  And the white student population in the city’s public schools continues to drop.

Again, much of the resistance to the forced desegregation was just that – it was forced, not of a voluntary choice, and the media-driven perception, among many white families, that Roxbury was a hotbed of crime and violence.

After the first few years of forced bussing, the tensions dropped off, but at the same time the racial makeup of the city as a whole changed, with more white families leaving, and the tax base of the city was being further eroded by the deterioration of the housing stock, especially in areas with the high percentage of absentee landlords.  When court-ordered busing was first implemented, the city’s public schools reflected an enrollment that was approximately 50% white.  By the late 1990s the percentage of Caucasian students in Boston’s public schools had dropped to less than 10%.

And the quality of public education accessible to the minority students in Boston has lagged far behind advances made in other cities in the Commonwealth, even in cities that are neither suburban nor affluent.

Would a more gradual approach to desegregation been more appropriate, or would it simply have perpetuated the problems, while substituting a sham of “separate but equal” schools?  We will never know.

What we do know is that voluntary and community-directed efforts at school desegregation have been successful in other cities.  But we still do not know if a city the size of Boston would have been able to overcome the institutional and  cultural inertia that caused the misperceptions and hostility in the early years of the effort.

And should we view this grand, and ultimately failed, experiment on a wider scale – will the externally-imposed changes that are being implemented in Afghanistan and Iraq fare any better, over a population that has less in common with those doing the imposition than Boston’s neighborhoods had with the federal judge who imposed his will on the city’s schools?


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Massachusetts Guardsmen seek pay for post-9/11 duty

Tell me again about how well-laid these plans were?

All the time anyone questions the preparedness of the agencies of the government, or the contingencies allowed for in the Armed Forces plans, we are always told "trust us -- we know best, and we've thought of all the problems."

Well, if they *did* think of all the problems, someone forgot to tell the people making plans. Or maybe those at the top didn't care to be bothered with other than "The Big Picture."

Didn't bother to be concerned with things like:
- insufficient troop allocations
- insufficient armor for troops
- insufficient armor for vehicles
- inappropriate vehicle use (Humvees are *not* designed for use as armored vehicles, witness the problems with roll-over and handling when they are equipped with more than minimal armor)
- lack of contingency plans to secure/destroy enemy ammunition and explosives stores
- lack of contingency plans to secure/reduce enemy strongholds that were "leapfrogged" so that those strongholds were in the operation rear lines
- lack of contingency plans to secure/protect sites that would be of cultural importance (like the museums)
- lack of a *clue* in accounting for existing cultural impressions (just whose brilliant idea was it to use, as a military prison and interrogation station the complex that most Iraqis would see as "torture central" from the Saddam Hussein era?
- State Department support of a man who has been *proven* to be thief, and who also consistently fed the U.S. fabricated "intelligence"
- willful ignorance about the probability of letting the invasion turn into a breeding ground for local insurgents and extranational partisans
- and so on, and so on, and so on.

(pretty much all of the above, I think, can be laid on other heads than the military command structure -- it seems that most of these are failures on the part of the civilian authorities whose overriding objective was to try for a "short, victorious war". The planning seemed to be all concentrated towards that end, with military planners apparently being overridden at each step, from troop strength, to supplies, to pushing for headlines of entering the capital rather than securing the ground covered.

Stateside things didn't work very well either, from reduced enlistments to back-to-back deployments of regular troops and unprecedented callups of National Guard and Reserve troops.

Almost forgotten was also the callup of State National Guard personnel to provide security for local sites, such as airports, reservoirs and nuclear power plants.

And, in Massachusetts at least, someone neglected to remember that the National Guard troops have lives and businesses and finances that are not tied to the military. And that these people don't have really deep pockets.

And now they want to get paid.

A group of four members of the Massachusetts National Guard are suing for expenses incurred when they, and hundreds other members of the National Guard,. were activated and assigned to security posts throughout the Commonwealth. In some cases the Guardsmen were assigned to security posts at military bases without available food or sleeping facilities. The four are also seeking to have the suit afforded class-action status that would include reimbursement for all troops in the Commonwealth's Guard units that are in the same situation.

According to an AP report ( "Guardsmen sue for Sept. 11 duty expenses" ):
The soldiers, who are from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, say they traveled hundreds of miles to security postings - such as Quabbin Reservoir, the Boston areaÂ’s primary water supply - and used their own money for gas, food and lodging, expecting to be paid back.

But the soldiers say in their complaint that their requests for compensation were repeatedly denied until they were told by their commanding officers that they could be taken off their missions ifthey didn'tnÂ’t stop asking for reimbursement. The response, they said, had a "chilling effect."

"Plaintiffs concluded they could not seek the ... reimbursement compensation they felt they were owed, without extreme and negative repercussions on their military careers," the complaint reads.

The suit says federal law provides military personnel with meals and travel allowance while away from home on active duty. But Massachusetts guardsmen received orders that read: "Government quarters not available; ... government meals are not available; ... per diem: not authorized."
The Boston globe is also covering what is a very local story ( "Soldiers sue for reimbursement - Guardsmen seek pay for post-9/11 duty" ):
If the soldiers in all approximately 300 positions at issue were fully reimbursed for every day since Sept. 11, 2001, they would be owed an estimated $73 million, the lawyers said.

The four plaintiffs said they were never given reasons why their reimbursements -- a maximum of $158 a day for food and lodging, plus travel expenses -- were denied.

Sergeant Wayne R. Gutierrez of New Bedford, one of the soldiers suing for reimbursements, said his family struggled under the financial burden of paying for travel expenses and meals while he was serving at Camp Edwards in Bourne. His Guard duty cost him about $18,000 over three years, he said.

''I had to not pay one bill to pay for another," said Gutierrez, who is married and has two children.

Major Winfield Danielson, a spokesman for the Massachusetts National Guard, said his office was reviewing the lawsuit and could not discuss it.

But he said the rules for reimbursements for soldiers are complex and depend on several factors, including what type of duty the soldiers are on, how long they are serving, and whether the government provides lodging where soldiers are working.

He said he couldn't discuss how those factors applied to the four soldiers suing because he did not know their status.

But John Shek of Boston, the soldiers' attorney, said he knew of no other state where similar Guard orders denying the reimbursements for post-Sept. 11 security were issued.
Retired Captain Louis P. Tortorella of Brookline, N.H., another of the Massachusetts Guard soldiers who filed the lawsuit, said he spent about $14,600 of his own money on expenses necessary to carry out his 21-month assignment to Camp Edwards between 2001 and 2003.

He said the trip from his home to Cape Cod was 250 miles roundtrip and took 3 1/2 hours, a drive he made daily because he was refused reimbursement for lodging.

During part of his service, he was assigned to security at the Quabbin Reservoir, Boston's main drinking water source, overseeing about 45 soldiers.

There was no place to sleep at the reservoir, and so he and other soldiers drove home after their shifts
First Lieutenant Veronica Saffo, a spokeswoman for the Vermont National Guard, said orders calling up National Guard soldiers typically lay out whether lodging and meals are provided by the government, as they are for soldiers who serve one weekend a month, she said.

''If there's not lodging available, you need to find accommodation somewhere and you should be reimbursed for that," said Saffo
These men put their personal and economic lives on hold in order to serve their country.

We have to do right by them, and part of that is to not ruin them financially.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Has your signature been stolen?"

"Has your signature been stolen?"

This is a question that I heard when I picked up the receiver in response to the ring.

This seemed an odd question to open a telephone call with, but very quickly became obviously relevant.

It was about the anti-gay marriage petition people.


Even prior to the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling (in 2003) that the prohibitions against same-sex marriage were contrary to the state Constitution, there were initiative petitions being offered that would restrict access to civil unions, petitions to restrict redress in the event of discrimination in hiring or access to housing, or workplace discrimination or harassment, or ability to adopt children, including an initiative petition in 2001 that sought to ban same-sex marriage.

In Massachusetts the initiative petition is a process that enables citizens to put proposed laws for enactment by the legislature, or amendments to the state Constitution to a vote of the Commonwealth's citizens as a whole. (* see below for a description of the initiative petition process in Massachusetts)

In November of 2003 the Massachusetts State Supreme Court (Goodridge v. Department of Public Health) ruled that the laws in the Commonwealth that banned same-sex marriage were against the Massachusetts State Constitution, and directed the state legislature to compose laws that incorporated civil marriage by members of the same sex. In 2004 the legislature attempted to satisfy that requirement by drafting "civil unions." The state Supreme Court said, in effect, "we *said* marriage, not civil unions, and we *meant* marriage."

Since then, in addition to local, in-state groups, there have been out-of-state groups that have come to Massachusetts, "founding" local chapters and representing themselves to the public as home-grown "grass-roots" organizations (a tactic that Theresa Nielson-Hayden terms "astroturfing" - for fake grass-roots). This is a tactic that we have seen in a number of states in order to push for restrictions of gay rights in those states (I suppose the people in those states don't really know what should be the "proper" priorities).

Because of the ruling that the prior laws were contrary to the state Constitution, the only way to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts will be to change the state Constitution itself. (** see below for background). The Constitutional Convention that Governor Mitt Romney called didn't do the trick, so the opponents decided to go the initiative Petition route.

Which brings us to the phone call.

It appears that the originators of the initiative petition (The Massachusetts Family Institute - MFI) have engaged the services of paid signature gatherers, who appear to have been paid by the signature (at $1/each), and that at least some of these signature gatherers have been pulling a "bait and switch" on some voters. Signatures are being collect for some 14 initiative petitions right now. In addition to the anti-gay marriage petition is one to allow for expanded beer and wine sales in supermarkets. Some of the paid signature gatherers for the anti-gay marriage group have been asking voters to sign the petition about beer and wine sales, and asking voters to also sign a "backup copy" of the petition. However, the "backup copy" was really the petition for the MFI's restrictive amendment. And there are a number of people who were very surprised to find their names listed as signers. Our better half among them, as we found out when we looked at the website that detailed all the signers of the petition.

This is, unfortunately, not a new tactic -- the same thing happened when the anti-gay marriage coalition took the initiative path in 2001, only then the "bait" was petitions for care of race horses sand greyhounds.

According to published news reports, the complaints about fraud range from the "backup copy" claim to a collector claiming the petition was in support of gay rights to one where a woman says it appears that her name was copied from another petition. And these are just from those where the same name appears on both the beer-&-wine and anti-gay marriage amendment.

From the 12/05/06 Bay Windows: 'I don't know how it happened'
[Joseph Kennedy, of Saugus]After speaking with MassEquality, which has been calling through a list of people who signed both the marriage petition and a petition to allow grocery stories to sell wine, Kennedy realized that he had been deceived by a petition signature gatherer he had met about two months ago at Shaws supermarket in Saugus. He said the petition gatherer, a young woman, first asked if he would sign a petition to permit the sale of beer and wine in supermarkets. He agreed, and then she asked if he would sign a second petition.

They said the other one was in favor of giving equal rights to men and women and is for gay marriage, and I said fine," said Kennedy.
When Shaune Barry of Shrewsbury got a call from MassEquality saying her name was on the list of signers she was disappointed but not surprised. Months prior at the Stop & Shop in Westborough Barry was approached by a petition gatherer who, as with Kennedy, said she was collecting signatures for the wine petition. Barry agreed to sign it. "I signed one petition, [and] she said, 'Can you sign another petition for our other store in Westborough?'" said Barry

It sounded like a harmless enough request, and she signed without reading the second petition.

In talking about the petition afterwards with her brother, who is gay and an active member of the Human Rights Campaign, he warned her that she may have been tricked into signing the marriage petition. The call from MassEquality confirmed it.
When Victoria Ellis of Somerville got a call from MassEquality saying she was on the list of signers, she was disgusted.

In October she had had a confrontation with a signature collector outside the Target in Somerville who she said tried to trick her into signing the marriage petition. Like Kennedy and Barry she said she was lured in by the wine petition, and after she signed it the petition gatherer asked her to sign a "back-up copy". When she read the so-called copy, she discovered it was in fact the marriage petition. Enraged, she tore the petition from the clipboard and walked off with it, warning some other signers to read the "back-up copy" before signing as she left.

Since the marriage petition she signed was in her own possession, she was disturbed to find her name on the list of signers. "I don't know how it happened, but I suspect that they just transferred my name from one [petition] to the other... I think my first [reaction to finding out my name was on the petition] was, 'You're kidding,' because after testifying and all of that, how is that even possible?" said Ellis.

"It's really audacious for somebody to do this. I'm disgusted

Marc Solomon, campaign director for MassEquality, said those stories are not unique. Since the petition drive began last September, MassEquality and other opponents of the petition accused paid signature gatherers of using the wine petition to fool voters into signing the marriage petition by using "bait and switch" tactics and other schemes. Solomon said volunteers spoke with hundreds of signers of both petitions by phone, assuming those names were the most likely to be fraudulent, and discovered many instances of fraud. Through their calls, Solomon said, they had even discovered an instance of a dead person's signature on the petition, though he declined to provide details to confirm the claim.
And what is the reaction of MFI to these reports?
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and the leader of the coalition, said he was skeptical of the fraud claims brought forward by citizens like Kennedy, Barry and Ellis. He claimed that all the signatures were verified by city and town clerks around the state, even though the only check those clerks perform is to make sure all the names correspond to registered voters. He also said he found it hard to believe so many people would sign their name to a petition that they have not read carefully. More likely, he said, was that MassEquality and marriage advocates somehow coordinated a campaign to have their supporters sign the petition so they could later accuse of signature fraud.

"It's not unlikely that there were people signing the petition initially to claim fraud," said Mineau.
As noted,the clerks in the various town halls do not "certify" that the people whose signatures appeared on the petitions were the actual *signers.* What the clerks "certify" is that the name and address appears on the voters' rolls for that city.

However, considering the sheer number of signatures collected, and that the percentage of voters required to get a petition to the legislature (0.05% of the total votes cast in the most prior regular election for Governor) MassEquality has decided not to attempt to get the petition decertified, but will instead concentrate on publicizing the fraud, in order to highlight the ethics of the groups behind this petition.

By the way, the "Massachusetts Coalition for Marriage and Family" is comprised of the following groups (I really wonder at the vision of some of these groups being in bed with the others) :

  • Alliance Defense Fund

  • Focus on the Family

  • Massachusetts Family Institute

  • Catholic Citizenship

  • Family Research Council

  • Massachusetts Catholic Conference

  • Catholic Action League of Massachusetts

  • COPAHNI Fellowship of Hispanic Pastors of New England

  • Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation

  • Massachusetts State Council - Knights of Columbus

  • Natural Rights and Laws Compact

  • United Family International

  • Center for Reclaiming America

  • Institute for Family Development

  • Massachusetts Citizens for Life

  • Morality in Media Massachusetts

  • Toward Tradition

  • Vision America

  • --------------------------------------------------------
    * For a non-Constitutional initiative, the process is pretty straightforward: an initiative petition is composed; 10 citizens sign the petition; the petition is submitted to the state Attorney General for certification as being in the proper form; complies with the restrictions of the process; and if certified the petition is sent to the Mass. Secretary of State and the petitioners proceed to collect more signatures. If a sufficient number of signatures are collected, the petition is submitted to the state legislature, which can approve or disapprove it as written, propose an alternate version or take no action. If the Legislature enacts the measure it goes the same path as a bill that originates in the legislature itself. If the legislature either takes no action, or disapproves the initiative, the petitioners have the option to collect more signatures, and force the measure to the public ballot.

    For an amendment to the state Constitution, the process is similar, except that the measure, before it can be submitted for ballot by the public at large, must be approved by at least 25% by the legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions
    ** Governor Mitt Romney, in 2004, called for a state Constitutional Convention to ban same-sex marriage. However, none of the more unequivical proposals could pass. Very narrowly, a compromise proposal was adopted, along with an modifying amendment that would tie establishment of comprehensive civil union protections against a prohibition against same-sex marriage.

    The approval of these proposed amendments was actually seen as a sound tactic by the pro-marriage supporters; the vote was very close; the state legislature election cycle was coming up; polls showed that the majority of the general public in the state was in favor of same-sex marriage; and any amendment to the state Constitution would have to be approved by the next session of the legislature, in another Constitutional Convention, (in 2005) with no changes, in order for it to be applied to the state's Constitution.

    The strategy was sound: a good number of anti-same-sex marriage legislators were defeated, and none of the pro-marriage legislators lost their sets, and a second constitutional convention failed to pass the anti-gay marriage amendment.

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    DeLay's Redistricting Master Stroke illegal? **Gasp!!**

    Part of Rep Tom DeLay's (R-TX) "legacy" was the redistricting plan that was forced through in Texas, and that "gave" the GOP extra seats in the House of Representatives.

    At the time, it was controversial on several fronts:
  • - It was designed and implemented between census cycles. By itself this is not illegal, but poor choice, because (in theory) redistricting is meant to provide fairer representation, not just Gerry-mandering, and the demographics may have shifted significantly since the census reporting (which is presumably why the redistricting was done, due to shifts from the *prior* census cycle)

  • - The plan was seen as a strictly partisan effort to maximize the number of seats the GOP could win, not to provide a fairer distribution that could more fully implement the "one-man one-vote" test

  • - In what was seen as a symbolic, and very public, move, the Democratic members of the Texas legislature refused to take their seats for the vote, thereby depriving the legislature of a legal quorum. They even went so far as to absent themselves from the state of Texas entirely, so they could not be arrested and compelled to attend the session

  • - In a move that proved very embarrassing to Delay, when it was fully disclosed, Delay tried to use the services of the Department of Homeland Security to track down where the truant legislators had gone, and to send officers of the Department of Texas Public Safety (the "Texas Rangers") to arrest them, only to have the officers find that they could not so arrest the legislators, because the Rangers were out of their jurisdiction and they could not find a judge sympathetic enough to grant them jurisdiction

  • - The redistricting plan, as devised, was very similar to one that had already been struck down by the courts as being in violation of mandated corrective measures

  • - Many thought that the redistricting plan shouldn't pass muster, as it appeared to violate several points of law, but the Department of Justice declared that it was legal and met all the requirements of federal law

  • Except, that maybe, it really didn't meet those requirements, and maybe it really shouldn't have been approved by DOJ.

    The Washington Post is reporting that the DOJ lawyers tasked with reviewing the redistricting plan unanimously (six lawyers and two other advisers) recommended against the approval, but were overridden by senior officials at DOJ, who approved the plan (Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal)

    This tactic, in a voting rights/representation case, of the career staff being overridden by the political appointees senior staff should sound familiar -- it's the same actions that were taken in Georgia, when the senior DOJ officials "pre-approved," over the objections of the career staff, the change in the voter-identification process. (See my earlier article here) Texas, as in Georgia, must submit any changes in voting procedures or redistricting to DOJ before they can be implemented.

    This information is just now coming to the fore because a previously undisclosed memo, where the career staff detailed their analysis, has been obtained by the Washington Post (the .PDF file of the 73-page 12/12/03 memo is here)

    A perusal of the memo can be something that can put you to sleep, until you run into some real nuggets. For example, after 7 pages of detail on how the State's proposed redistricting would "allow for more choice" in electing candidates one comes across this: (page 11 of the PDF)

    Of the 55 African American and Hispanic legislators in the legislature, 53 voted against the redistricting plan..... Of the minority legislators to whome we talked, all but two opposed the redistriting plan. Of the local minority elected officials to whom we spoke, all but one opposed the redistricting plan.
    We have also received comment letters from six other state legislators, who did not attend any meetings or speak on the telephone with any staff. of these legislators, four are Hispanic and two are Anglo. Thirty-six (36) locally-elected officials from around the state sent comment letters. In total, the Section received 335 comments against the proposed plan, none in favor of it.

    Also noted in the memo is an egregious "bait and switch" process -- when minorities objected to earlier versions of the new voting maps on the grounds that the new districts diluted representation for minorities, the redistricting committee agreed to make changes that would mitigate that criticism.

    However, when the final redistricting plan was voted out of conference before the final vote, most of the objectionable reapportionments had been reinstated. (P 13)

    Minority legislators also complained aboiut being "shut out" from the committee and conference decison-making process.

    The State of Texas created an analytical model that purported to show how the new "districts" would likely vote, by block, with imputed "elections" of current representatives. This analysis was meant to show that there should be no dilution of the voting power of minority groups.

    The effects of this analysis takes up a large portion of the document, with the authors maintaining that the "retrogressive" effect of minorities losing representation in some districts was not offset by probable "wins" in other districts.

    The memo also notes that (page 62)
    "Four of the five minority-preferred candidates who would love their seats under the proposed plan have substantial seniority experience in the House and serve on influential House Committees."

    Both opponents and supporters of the proposed change agree that the *purpose* of the proposed redistricting was not to, a priori, reduce minority representation, but to maximize GOP seats in the U.S. House (page 70):
    "...both proponents and and opponents of the plan agree that the main objective in redistricting was to increase substantially the number of Texas congressional seats held by Republicans. Even Minority leaders opposed to the redistricting plan recognize that partisan gain drove the redistrictying process and it's result, at times consciously overriding other considerations."

    The Voting Rights law, however, does not rely only upon "intent" when reviewing whether or not a proposed change should be "precleared" or the subject of an "objection," but that *effect* on minority representation needs to be carried into effect.

    If the Texas Legislature had been able to craft a redistricting plan that allowed for even the same amount of representation of minority voters, while still increasing the number of GOP seats in the U.S. House there would have been no grounds for objection, under Section 5.

    Supporters of the redistricting plan point out that an appeals court upheld the plan. However, the court very likely gave much weight to the fact that the DOJ had issued a "preclearance" to the plan, and those bringing suit against the plan were denied access to this memo, so they were unable to show the courts just what the DOJ detailed analysis said.

    From the Washington Post article:
    Mark Posner, a longtime Justice Department lawyer who now teaches law at American University, said it was "highly unusual" for political appointees to overrule a unanimous finding such as the one in the Texas case.

    "In this kind of situation, where everybody agrees at least on the staff level . . . that is a very, very strong case," Posner said. "The fact that everybody agreed that there were reductions in minority voting strength, and that they were significant, raises a lot of questions as to why it was" approved, he said.

    J. Gerald "Gerry" Hebert, one of the lawyers representing Texas Democrats who are challenging the redistricting in court, said of the Justice Department's action: "We always felt that the process . . . wouldn't be corrupt, but it was. . . . The staff didn't see this as a close call or a mixed bag or anything like that. This should have been a very clear-cut case."

    Hebert said the Justice Department's approval of the redistricting plan, signed by Sheldon T. Bradshaw, principal deputy assistant attorney general, was valuable to Texas officials when they defended it in court. He called the internal Justice Department memo, which did not come out during the court case, "yet another indictment of Tom DeLay, because this memo shows conclusively that the map he produced violated the law."

    (Just remember, here, that Herbert is representing the opponents of the DeLay-crafted redistricting plan)

    And what does DOJ have to say about this memo?

    About what we have come to expect, unfortunatly.

    Some exerpts from an AP article:(Gonzales defends call on Texas plan)
    WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the Justice Department's decision to ignore staff lawyers' concerns that a Texas redistricting plan orchestrated by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay would dilute minority voting rights.
    Senior agency officials, appointed by President Bush, brushed aside concerns about the possible impact on minority voting and approved the new districts for the 2004 elections.

    Gonzales, who was not attorney general when the agency reviewed the redistricting plan, said it was approved by people "confirmed by the Senate to exercise their own independent judgment" and their disagreement with other agency employees doesn't mean the final decision was wrong.

    The decision appears to have been correct, Gonzales said, because a three-judge federal panel upheld the plan and Texas has since elected one additional black congressman.

    But again, there is that question, would the appelate court have ruled that way if it had been allowed to see the document?
    The memo released Friday had been sought by lawsuit plaintiffs before going to court, but the Justice Department declined to surrender it then.

    "All decisions made by the Justice Department involve thoughtful rigorous analysis of the law," said spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos. "There is no place for politics in this process and to suggest otherwise is unfortunate and just plain wrong."

    Eight department staffers, including the heads of the Voting Rights Division, objected to the redistricting map, according to the memo which was first reported in Friday editions of The Washington Post.

    The Justice Department said Sheldon Bradshaw, then principal deputy assistant attorney general in the civil rights division, made the final decision in the Texas case.

    Hebert said when a case is a close call staff lawyers usually include counterpoints to their conclusions in their memo. But he said there is nothing in the 73-page memo suggesting a plausible reason for approving the map. "So that raises a lot of suspicions about the motives" of the senior officials who are political appointees, he said.

    Sunday, November 27, 2005

    North Carolina and Voting Machines. Again -- UPDATED

    (Note -- see update near the bottom of this article)

    Having worked in MIS/IT for most of my life, I'm usually aware, when someone claims that "he computer made a mistake" that someone is actually referring to a defect in design, or are attempting to cover up a manual error or deliberate action.

    Oh, there certainly are times when there are equipment malfunctions, or sometimes very subtle errors in underlying OS(operating system) or driver design ("Drivers" are the subprograms that actually make hardware pieces like the network card, or modem, printer or keyboard work, and allow the hardware and OS to "talk" to each other).

    Those defects are the grand exception, however.

    And something that really is absurd is the proclamation that something that is really quite simple, and straightforward, is that "too difficult" or "too expensive" to do in an automated system.**

    An infamous example was the claim, during the recent election cycle, that providing a physical audit trail of votes cast would be "too expensive" in terms of equipment and development effort. ANd the further claim that "it wasn't needed." A claim that was put to the test, and failed, when a special election in Florida was close enough to trigger the mandatory recount required by law.

    January 2004: Florida. In a special election for the State House District 91 seat, with only one item on the ballot, ES&S electronic voting machines showed a total of 134 undervotes – that is, 134 ballots in which voters did not select a candidate even though it was a single-race election.

    The winner received 12 more votes than the runner-up. Florida law requires a manual recount of invalid votes when the winning margin is less than one-quarter of one percent. However, election officials determined that no recount was required because the 134 invalid votes were cast on electronic voting machines, and there is no record of the original votes.

    (EFF - Electronic Voting Machine Information Sheet Election Systems & Software — iVotronic)>

    Because there was no verifiable audit trail, they could *not* do the recount.

    In 2003, in an election in North Carolina, where there was only one issue on the ballot (a bond inititive), 354 undervotes were recorded. In both these cases, the undervotes point to problems with the voting machines, as it is extremely unlikely that hundreds of voters would show up for a single-issue election, and then purposely cast blank ballots.

    In allied news, in 2003, Maryland election officials requested that Diebold, one of the most prominent vendors of e-vote machines, provide printers to each voting kiosk in order to provide voter-verifiable audit trails. In a leaked memo, one of the Diebold staffers stated that they hoped that the company would "..charge them out the wazoo" to add printers.

    The general reliability and security of the automated process, sometimes called "Black Box Voting" (BBV) has been shown time and again to be sadly deficient, with failures of physical security, the discovery of "back door access" to software, the proof, again and again, that these machines are not "ready for prime time."

    On the matter of simple security of the code, most of these BBV systems are built around the WIndows CE (Compact Edition) OS, which was not designed to be either a crypographically robust or exceptionally secure system. (Windows CE is the OS designed for use in so-called "palmtop" computer systems -- these systems are almost always being used for personal purposes, primarially as "personal Information Managers' (PIMs) and not as secure end-point terminals or systems).

    Additionally, the various vendors have refused to allow for independent audit of the code used, claiming that the code represents "trade secrets" and that nobody, even bonded memebers of the various state agencies that will be charged with using or interfacing with the machines, can see the code. The companies often claim that this will enhance the security of their systems, because of the theory of "protection by obscurity," where the code is "protected" from hacking because the code is hidden from view. This view of "security" is basically flawed, because of the quite well-advanced techniques for "Black box analysis" that can reveal the paramters of input used to the system that will create a particular result, often allowing for analysis of the underlying logic involved in the system processes, even without access to the source code. Indeed, these companies have managed to make, as part of their contracts, silence on the part of officials involved with the decision-making process as to just what factors were involoved in the decisions to purchase, or the details of any process used to "certify" the machines as complying with any "industry standard" or legislative requirement.

    A 2005 report from the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report with the unweildy, but telling title General Accountability Office Report GAO-05-956:ELECTIONS
    Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, but Key Activities Need to Be Completed

    The GAO report had over 40 recommendations in the areas of product development, acquisition by electoral commissions and agencies, operations of the equipment and systems, standards, testing and overall management/oversight. The report noted, however, that most of the recommendations would not be able to be put in place in time for the 2006 election cycle, even if the efforts to put impliment the recommendations were to commence right away.

    IN 2003, however, some of the source code for one of the Diebold systems was retrieved from a public FTP site that Diebold had, and the code was subsequenjtly examined by a number of computer scientists whose disciplines require them to view the suceptability to hacking, "insider" manipulation and general robustness of computing systems and their interfaces, both to other computing systems and to humans. One of these studies was published in the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy 2004, which accepted only referreed submissions. The paper here cited ( Analysis of an Electronic Voting System) examined the source code for vunerabilities, and with an eye to malicious manipulation of the systems.

    This paper found that the language used for the system code was used in a manner that made it very vunerable to outside attacks (such as the "buffer overflow" hack that can allow "foreign" code to install and run "new" code in the targeted system), that there were insuffcient safeguards against the "insider" attacks that could cause alterations of the vote counts, and that the internal audit safeguards against repeated voting were non-existent. The researchers also found grave problems with the "security" of the smart-card technology used that was supposed to stop an individual voter from casting more than one ballot. From a code auditability/verification standpoint, there apperared to be no evidence that there was any sort of formal change control process to track changes to the source code, and to enforce restriction of just who could commit changes to any modules in the source code repository.

    As I noted above, there have been numerous problems with these BBV systems, and, slowly, some of the various states that have these machines in place, or are anticipating purchase, have begun to require more vigorous oversight and requirements for performance. One of the requirements is to have the final version of the source code to be used in the machines be placed in "escrow" locations. This will allow for recertification that the code, in the escrow repository, matches the code actually executed in the voting terminals. Another purpose of "code escrow" is to protect the investment of the machine purchasors in the event that the vendor either goes out of business or exits the vote tabulation industry.

    One of the states that made such a legislative requirement is North Carolina, which anticipates that the one-time costs for upgrading and standardizing the voting equipment currently used will be between $43M and $93M. Part of the legislative requirement was (added emphasis is mine) Senate Bill 223:Public Confidence in Elections
    State Board of Elections' Role in Purchasing. -- Effective with any upgrade or new voting system purchased beginning August 1, 2005 and effective for any voting system used in the 2006 elections, the State Board of Elections is directed to develop a Request for Proposal (RFP). The RFP would have to include the following requirements:

    • Posting a bond or letter of credit to cover damages from defects in its voting system, including the cost of a new election.
    • Compliance with federal law.
    • The capacity to include in precinct returns the votes cast by voters outside the voter's precinct as required by law.
    • For electronic voting systems, the system must generate a paper record of each individual vote cast, which paper record shall be maintained in a secure fashion and serve as a backup record for purposes of hand-to-eye counts, hand-to-eye recounts, and other audits.
    • For DREs [Direct Recording Equipment], the paper record must be viewable by the voter before the vote is cast electronically, and the system must permit the voter to
    correct any discrepancy between the electronic summary of the vote and the paper
    record before the vote is cast.
    • Review of source code by the county, the State Board of Elections, the NC Office of Information Technology, and the Chair of any legally recognized political party in NC.
    • A statewide price for each unit of the equipment.
    • An agreement by the vendor that if it breaches
    the upkeep part of the contract or goes into bankruptcy, it will permit the software to be turned over to the county for continuing use during the term of the contract and for review by the people who have a right to review the source code.

    Requirements for Voting Systems Vendors. -- Effective with any upgrade or new voting system purchased beginning August 1, 2005, vendors of voting systems in
    NC must escrow their relevant source code, keep the escrowed source code up to date and swear that it is the code used in operating voting systems, maintain an active office in NC, and notify the State Board of any known defect in a voting system used in NC. This section also provides that a willful violation of any of the requirements is a Class G felony and that substitution of software into a voting system without notifying the State Board is a Class I felony.

    Other violations are punishable by civil penalties of up to $100,000.

    Even though the state has mandated these steps in the RPF (Request for Proposal) process, Diebold has decided to contest them, and has received, via a temporary restraining order (TRO), extra time to prepare arguments and extend the time past the previous deadline to submit the RFP. Central to the Diebold objects are the requirements to post the non-performance bond, the code escrow, and the identification of all persons who are authors of the code. (see Diebold in Non-compliance with NC Election Laws). They also received a bonus in the TRO, that was extended to all vendors submitting proposals in response to the RFP, that these vendors would be held exempt from all civil and criminal penalties as outlin3ed in the applicable North Carolina law.

    The Electronic Freedom Foundation filed a motionon Nov 16 seeking to have the temporary restraining order vacated, on the grounds that the restraining order is too broad, and that it directly contravenes the letter, intent and effect of the applicable North Carolina law. As noted above, one of the central tenets of the N.C. law was the requirement for code escrow. Because of the effects of the temporary restraining order, that effectivly voids all penalties of the NC legislation, at least one other vendor, who waqs not going to file a bid, because of the escrow requirement, may file a bid after all, if the courts hold that the penalties for not filing code escrow cannot be enforced. The TRO, as it now stands, would leave the state of North Carolina with no redress if the eventual bid winner were to default on any portion of the contract, such as supplying the voter-verifiable printed record or changing the code used in the voting terminals with new, uncertified versions.

    This just points up the validity of the saying that what matters in an election may not be who *casts* the votes, but who *counts* the votes.

    UPDATE -- On Monday (11/28/05) Diebold's request to be shielded from the legal penalties of the North Carolina law was rejected by Wake County Superior Court Judge Narley Cashwell.

    From an AP story:

    ..But because no one has yet to accuse Diebold of breaking the law, Wake County Superior Court Judge Narley Cashwell declined to issue an injunction that would have protected the company from prosecution. Cashwell also declined to offer an interpretation of the law that would have allayed Diebold's concerns.

    "We need to comply with the literal language and the statute," Cashwell said. "I don't think we have an issue here yet." ..

    ...The dispute centers on the state's requirement that suppliers place in escrow "all software that is relevant to functionality, setup, configuration, and operation of the voting system," as well as a list of programmers responsible for creating the software.

    That's not possible for Diebold's machines, which use Microsoft Windows, Hanna [Doug Hanna, a Raleigh-based lawyer representing Diebold] said. The company does not have the right to provide Microsoft's code, he said, adding it would be impossible to provide the names of every programmer who worked on Windows....

    Hanna is being both misleading and untruthful, here.

    According to SB223,

    Effective with any upgrade or new voting system purchased beginning August 1, 2005, vendors of voting systems in NC must escrow their relevant source code, keep the escrowed source code up to date and swear that it is the code used in operating voting systems

    The langauage of the bill is quite clear, even toa non-lawyer. The code escrow/identification does not refer to Windows. It refers to the code that is used to run the "voting" and "counting" portion of the "voting system," not the underlying OS that the "voting system" is placed on top of.

    - EFF - Electronic Voting Machine Information Sheet Election Systems & Software — iVotronic
    - General Accountability Office Report GAO-05-956: ELECTIONS
    Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way, but Key Activities Need to Be Completed

    - Analysis of an Electronic Voting System - IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy 2004. IEEE Computer Society Press, May 2004
    - Senate Bill 223: Public Confidence in Elections
    - North Carolina Electronic Voting in the News -Miscounts and Crashes
    - Diebold in Non-compliance with NC Election Laws
    - 11/16/2005 EFF "Motion to Modify or Vacate Temporary Restraining Order"

    - 11/28/2005 N.C. Judge Declines Protection for Diebold


    **The first time I was really struck by this absurdity in the public arena was almost a decade ago, when the Congress was taking testimony from members of the U.S. banking industry about the (then new) fees being charged to customers who used an ATM machine from a "comptetitor's" network.

    What raised my eyebrows were not the fees themselves. Although I still view the front-and-back fees as "double-dipping" for the ATM network owners [they get paid once with the "not our customer" fee and again by the bank that issued the debit/credit card]. And the fees by both the network owner and the issuing bank represent a respectable source of profit.

    No, What caught my attention was the claim, by the banking industry, that they shouldn't have to give even a notification, on the ATM display screen, or on a
    placard physically attached to the ATM itself, that a "foreign user" fee would be charged, and that the issuing bank might also charge an extra fee.

    It is certainly absurd to try to claim that it would be "too expensive" to affix a sign to the front of an ATM itself. If the transaction volume traffic for a location is too low to make the placement of an ATM uneconomical the network won't put them there. ANd, as I recall, the members of the congressional committee also found it an absurd statement.

    Equally absurd, but allowed to pass without comment by that committee, was the claim that it would be too expensive in programming time and terms of regular updates (if the fee amount were to change) to even put a disclaimer on the screen about the fees. On the face, it sounds reasonable, except when you reflect upon the fcat that the ATM owners continually update the screen displays every time their banking "products" such as mortgages, home equity loans and checking accounts are touoted, with constantly changing interest rates -- all of whch require much more frequent updates than the imputed fee disclaimer would require. (I don't know if such disclaimers are now required by banking regulations, or the banks thermselves have figured out that the bad customer relations outweighs the profit from the surprise or hidden fee - but every ATM in the US that I've seen in recent years has either the physical sign, an on-screen display or both)