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Steven Rosenfeld

Inside the Iowa Democratic Party’s ‘Boiler Room’ Meltdown

The app and software that failed to report and count the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential caucus results were not the only miscalculation by the Iowa Democratic Party and its vendor. Its “boiler room” or secret operations center was unprepared to handle the chaos that ensued. Fewer than 100 computers and phones were set up for IDP volunteers to receive the results and complaints. The IDP’s instructions were complex, but they were also lacking some basics, according to experts in voting technology systems. As the night unfolded, the party announced that irregularities in the counting, software glitches and jammed phones all collided and pushed the IDP to abandon using its results-reporting app and switch to compiling results from paper summary sheets from nearly 1,700 precincts. “This, of course, is a human interface disaster,” said David Jefferson, a voting systems software expert who has studied and critiqued electronic election infrastructure since the 1990s. Jefferson also said that the IDP's FAQ omitted basics, such as including different answers for people using Apple and Android operating systems. But the larger point was the IDP was understaffed to handle the breakdown that ensued when it had to shift from an app-based reporting system that it knew was problematic. Jefferson, doing rough calculations, said that at best, each call should have taken 5 minutes. Of course, once the apps started failing and the calls cascaded (apart from any interference intentionally clogging lines from Trump supporters), the volume went up quickly and a backlog developed that lasted as long as 90 minutes. In response to the Iowa meltdown, Nevada State Democratic Party officials have said that they were abandoning the use of two different apps from the same vendor that failed in Iowa, and were looking at reverting to a paper-based voting and counting process.

Sanders Asks For Iowa Vote Recanvass

Sanders to seek partial recanvass of Iowa caucus results. The Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will ask the Iowa Democratic Party to recanvass some precincts in the Iowa caucuses after reporters and others on Twitter pointed out irregularities in the final delegate calculations. A Sanders campaign official confirmed that the campaign will seek a partial' recanvass, but it wasn't immediately clear how many precincts would be contested. Totals released by the party on Sunday indicated that former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) would receive two more pledged delegates from the contest than did Sanders -- 16 and 14, respectively. No other candidate won 10 or more delegates in the caucuses. Some journalists, including The Appeal's Daniel Nichanian, noted that even after Sunday's update some of the delegate calculations remained incorrect, including one case where a precinct allocated more state delegates than it had to allocate."

Trump Budget Includes Massive Cuts To Aid

Trump budget to propose 'savage' cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Common Dreams: "Just two days after vowing the White House "will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare" in its budget proposal for fiscal year 2021, President Donald Trump on Monday is expected to unveil a $4.8 trillion blueprint that includes hundreds of billions in combined cuts to those programs over the next decade, deep reductions in safety-net spending, and a major increase in Pentagon funding. The president's plan, according to the Wall Street Journal, calls for hiking America's already outlandish military spending to $740.5 billion in FY2021 and pouring $2 billion more into the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Meanwhile, Trump's budget would enact punishing cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, and other crucial safety net programs. 'The White House proposes to cut spending by $4.4 trillion over a decade,' the Journal reported Sunday. 'Of that, it targets $2 trillion in savings from mandatory spending programs, including $130 billion from changes to Medicare prescription-drug pricing, $292 billion from safety-net cuts—such as work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps—and $70 billion from tightening eligibility access to federal disability benefits.'"

Schumer Asks IGs To Investigate Whistleblower Retaliation

Schumer asks inspectors general to investigate whistleblower retaliation after Vindman firing. Politico: "Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is asking that every agency inspector general investigate retaliation against whistleblowers who report presidential misconduct, after the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council. Schumer’s letters to 74 inspectors general, which will be sent Monday, comes after Vindman, a star witness in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, was removed from his position at the White House on Friday, along with his twin, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an ethics lawyer at the NSC. Both brothers are active-duty Army officers and were reassigned to the Pentagon. Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union and another key witness, was also recalled from his post. In a letter to Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine at the Defense Department, Schumer described the NSC firings as 'part of a dangerous, growing pattern of retaliation against those who report wrongdoing only to find themselves targeted by the President and subject to his wrath and vindictiveness.' In addition to asking Fine to investigate all acts of retaliation against those who reported presidential misconduct, Schumer also requested that the acting inspector general report the last time that personnel at the Defense Department were informed of their rights as whistleblowers. He also asked that Fine assure Congress in writing that the Pentagon’s general counsel would not allow retaliation against 'anyone who has, or in the future makes, protected disclosures of presidential misconduct to Congress or Inspectors General.'"

Trump Homelessness Czar Criminalizes The Homeless

Trump’s homelessness czar seeks to further criminalize the homeless. Truthout: "When Robert Marbut Jr. — a self-described 'homelessness consultant' — was named by President Trump to head the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) in mid-December, homeless activists and their supporters shuddered, and for good reason. Marbut believes that providing people with shelter without first tackling mental or physical health challenges amounts to coddling. He has a similar opinion about providing food to people experiencing homelessness and has urged localities to stop 'enabling' the homeless by providing free meals on city streets. Furthermore, he supports making it illegal to sleep in public spaces, from parks to streets. Instead, Marbut has urged a focus on policing to address homelessness. Marbut is wasting no time in promoting this punitive agenda. As head of the Interagency Council, a 33-year-old federal body created to coordinate the spending and policy decisions of 19 government departments including Commerce, Education, Labor and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Marbut will oversee all federal efforts to address homelessness. He is further poised to do Trump’s bidding. The goal? Breaking up urban homeless encampments and providing additional funding to law enforcement agencies. Homeless activists and their allies fear that this will criminalize those who live on the streets and make their lives immeasurably harder."

King Donald's Bid To Seize Power

After acquittal, Trump moves to seize power — and alter reality. Salon: "Donald Trump's show-trial impeachment and 'acquittal' was much better in the original Russian or German. Last Wednesday of last week all 53 Republicans in the United States Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump on the charge of obstruction of Congress. Despite overwhelming evidence — including Trump and his own minions' public admissions — Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to partly respect the Constitution and rule of law by voting to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power. Beyond the immediate question of Trump's obvious guilt and crimes, his impeachment and the spectacle surrounding it, marked the horrific moment when he was crowned an American king. Trump the American fascist and authoritarian is no longer a hypothetical — it is the here and now. During Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate, Alan Dershowitz, one of his attorneys, argued that Donald Trump is a de facto king and thereby above the law: 'If a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.' As always, history does not repeat but it does rhyme. Dershowitz proclaimed Donald Trump to be a king or an emperor on Jan. 29. On Jan. 30 in 1933, Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party, was made chancellor of Germany, ending that country's democracy. Dershowitz's claim that Trump's personal interests and the country's national interest are one and the same thing must now be viewed as legal precedent. The authoritarian presidency is now a practical matter of American politics."

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