From: Filia den Hollander <email@example.com>
Date: 14 November 2006 10:41:22 GMT+01:00
To: Democracy Europe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FW to d-europe: E-democracy and other forms of corporatism
------ Forwarded Message
From: Arjen Kamphuis
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 02:31:40 +0100
Subject: [WDDM] E-democracy and other forms of corporatism
Altough I normally don't read (let alone respond to) the WDDM list I noticed a CC to me and since I can't sleep I'd like to make two points on the subject of E-voting and democracy (direct or otherwise).
There exist no electronic system today that allow truly democratic elections (transparent process combined with secret ballot for the voter). The Irish (the people not their government) were wise to drop the Dutch voting-computers since their internal workings are a trade- secret of the company who makes them. Having an election on these kind of systems (which is what the Netherlands will do on 22nd of nov.) means handing over the control of your election to a handful of engineers and managers at a commercial company. This negates the very point of having a democracy; de-concentration of power. As the Dutch hacker-group showed it is trivially easy to replace the software in these machines by other software that can create any election outcome desired by said small group of engineers and managers. If we allow ten people such power we may as well let them choose a cabinet and save everyone a lot of time.
It is principally impossible to detect fraud on the current generation of voting-computers (both the Dutch types and the American machines). This means that even of foul play is suspected (say a sudden win for Bush in Ohio in '04) there is no stack of paper ballots or any other evidence that may be examined by concerned citizens. This means that whatever the computer says is true is true by definition. And the computer of course will say whatever it is programmed to say by the humans programming it.
In almost any other use of a computer there is some way of detecting structural failure. If a system designing a plane is faulty the planes will crash an we'll notice. If your bank's computer is faulty you will notice the money that goes missing eventually. Not so with voting. There is no 'reality-check' since reality is defined by the output-data of the computer itself (instead of calculated or predicted rightly or wrongly). The possibilities for fraud using voting computers with undocumented inner workings are so great (and easy) that they make such systems principally unsuitable for truly democratic elections. Meaning an election where the process is as much under control of the people as the outcome is. The Netherlands will have UN election monitors on the ground this month to observe the process, a treat usually reserved for places like Iraq or Kazakhstan were democracy is still in its infancy.
E-democracy (voting over the Internet or by other electronic means such as text-message) is even more troublesome because now we're not talking about one voting computer but a series of computers that have to work together. Some of these computers will be owned by the government (who may or may not actually understand the inner working) others will be owned by telecom corporations and the end-user computer (PC or phone) may be owned by the citizen but will at best be only partially under their control. For the average human a computer is a near magical device and even beginning to understand them requires years of intense study and a near-autistic ability to focus on some obscure technical detail (I speak from experience ;-).
Paper ballot and a pencil on the other hand are reliable, cheap (cost is half of e-voting in the Netherlands) and understandable by any citizen old enough to vote without requiring an academic degree in electronics and software engineering. The only disadvantage of paper ballots are that they take a little more time and effort to count so we'll have the election results 24-48 hours later. A price well worth paying to guarantee the integrity of the process. The point is not that they cannot be tampered with. They can and they have been. The point is that large-scale tampering is impossible to hide (we saw this in Florida in 2000 and more recently in Mexico). Electronic polling is fine for Idols or other reality TV shows but no way to run a serious democracy.
Smarter people than me have written much more about this: www.blackboxvoting.org, if you read Dutch: www.wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet.nl
On democracy (I speak about the Netherlands and US, your milage may vary):
Point is; we don't have any. We have a mediacracy. Through selective informing of the general public by TV, print media and the educational system a 'political reality' has been created that has no relation with observable facts. The voting computers are a case in point. When our group hacked them the interior minister responded by removing 10% of them, instantly creating a monopoly for the remaining company producing the majority of the machines. He further announced that the elections would be secure because the AIVD (Dutch secret service - our FBI) would be monitoring the process.
Let me repeat that; The integrity of the Dutch parliamentary election will be guaranteed by having the secret service monitor the process. The service reports to a confidential committee of selected MP's whose members may not publicly discuss what goes on in their meetings. There I was naively thinking we had actually won the cold war. Boy was I wrong!
But here comes the really scary part: not a single member of our parliament or our media felt it was necessary to ask the minister a question about this.
The US, UK and Dutch governments are currently run by the same people who started a military invasion of a sovereign country without UN mandate and without this country being a threat to them. These people knowingly and blatantly lied about the reasons and justifications of this attack (see: www.downingstreetmemo.org). The unprovoked invasion of Iraq is a war-crime according to the Nuremberg standards. The 400.000-800.000 civilians who have died since march 2003 are victims of this war-crime. The documents proving all of this have been publicly available for over 18 month now and yet these war-criminals are still in power and no serious effort has been made to hold them responsible in any way. In fact, one of the first things Nancy Pelosi promised Bush that she would not give any support to impeach him for starting the Iraq war, lying about WMD's, torturing in secret prisons or illegally using the security services against US citizens. The US currently has effectively no civil liberties. The president has the right to arrest anyone, anywhere, without proof, without formally accusing this person and imprisoning them indefinitely without access to legal representation or even the protections of the Geneva convention. Anywhere in this context means anywhere on the planet, so yes, that means you. And all of this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. In Denmark a courageous journalist who published on this may face time in prison (http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/11/13/europe/EU_GEN_Denmark_Iraq_Intelligence.php).
Most of the citizens of the Netherlands have never heard of the Downingstreet memo's because their media has not told them (clearly) and because many of them are just no longer 'interested in politics'. So this month in the Netherlands we will probably re-elect a war-criminal who actively (militarily) supported a war that has already killed more people than WW-II did in the Netherlands. And there is no public debate about this because the media refuse to give it serious attention and political parties talk only about things that get them on prime-time (which means they mostly talk about each other).
Forget DD for now. Fight for a government that upholds the basic rule-of-law. Fight for fact-based policy-making instead of illegal occupation of other countries. Fight for basic civil liberties such as the right to demonstrate (you can't in the Netherlands without a permission that may be refused for any reason). Fight for the right to study the inner workings of a voting-computer and publish those studies (already illegal in the US, EU law on the way). Fight for the right to not be extradited to the US (a country that admits to torturing in secret prisons) without proof of wrongdoing.
Because without these rights democracy (Direct or otherwise) is meaningless.
Personally I'm seriously doubting if it's even realistic to expect some chance of winning this. Most people in the Netherlands (or UK/US) simply don't know, don't want to know or don't care that their government consists of war-criminals. Maybe we need some tanks running over students, that tends to wake people up. But only if it is shown on TV of course.
Switzerland has a brand-new constitution that looks very nice. I'm considering moving. Permanently. This pains me because it is, in a way, giving up and giving in. But sometimes this is the smart thing to do. In 1933 you could still get out. In 1939 it was too late. What year is it?
With kind regards,
former IBM Global IT-architect,
Certified Information Systems Auditor & Info Sec Manager
ps: I don't read the list so send reply's off-list: email@example.com
ps-II: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ is a good source if you want a fact-based perspective on reality.
On Nov 12, 2006, at 9:43 AM, Filia den Hollander wrote:
Hi Pras and Mirek,
I'd like to add something to the e-democracy discussion.
Electronic voting is a technical device, not a political system.
Here in The Netherlands it recently came to the surface that our voting computers are open to fraud, and they have been removed (in the big cities) or replaced (in the small cities).
It is also worthwhile to note that Ireland had refused a couple of years ago to buy the electronic voting system manufactured by the Dutch. It wasn't transparent enough how the hardware was composed and the Dutch refused to give that transparency.
This last information I have from Arjen Kamphuis (cc), who is up-to-date in IT matters. The first was recently in the news broadcasts.
Filia den Hollander
op 11-11-2006 23:53 schreef M. Kolar:
Pras Anand wrote:marketplace operations which are aimed at creating a DD. The industry buzzword is e-democracy and if (for example) you search google for e-government and european commission I'm sure you'd find many well placed ideas. These ideas have now flourished into examples all over the I am afraid that a very large majority of efforts (initiated by industry and governments) that you will find on the internet under the keyword of e-government (and even e-democracy) are actually top-down measures to make the functioning of the current representative governments better, it's about how to get the central decision made faster available to the citizens, and citizens can comply with them online (various online filing systems). But I agree, you can find also find some truly DD efforts there, and many of the technical solutions from the above top-down approach can pave way for true DD.
In the sense that people don't even know what to think often and just say what they read, heard or saw on the television. Why would replacing existing governments with people from the general public actually be a good thing?
Experience with Citizen Juries, Wisdom Councils, etc. shows that even such initially ignorant general public can make very good decisions if you provide them with good information sources.
They will educate themselves fast if they know that they can change something, that their voice will be heard.
Applied physicists are from Venus, | Arjen Kamphuis
theoretical pysicists wonder why | firstname.lastname@example.org
it rotates the wrong way.
------ End of Forwarded Message