Stealing Elections 101

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

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With a tip of the hat to cometman, an update on the horror show that is Premier Election Systems, or Diebold. Cometman's other excellent diary, introducing cyber security expert Stephen Spoonamore, can no longer be found on Pff, because Pff is no more. Fortunately Arthur Gilroy reprinted it in full and it can be found here. Both of the Spoonamore interviews to follow. But first, this bit of joy from the Washington Post.

A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point, the manufacturer acknowledges.

The problem was identified after complaints from Ohio elections officials following the March primary there, but the logic error that is the root of the problem has been part of the software for 10 years, said Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier Election Solutions, formerly known as Diebold.

. . .

Officials in Butler County, Ohio -- north of Cincinnati -- were the first to raise the issue when 150 votes from a card dropped in March. Brunner's office originally said that 11 counties had the same problem but has since revised that to nine. Her office was not able to say how many dropped votes were discovered in those jurisdictions.

"I can't provide odds on whether dropped votes were not recognized" during the decade GEMS has been used, Rigall said, "but based on what we know about how our customers run their elections and reconcile counts we believe any results not uploaded on election night would have been caught when elections were being certified."

So, in 34 states, over 10 years this flaw that causes tabulation problems has only occurred 9 times. We know this because it's only been caught by election officials 9 times. Well, I know I feel better.

But now, the bad news. Diebold's voting machines may be riddled with problems such as these and we would have no way of knowing because Diebold won't allow any audit of their programming.

Stephen Spoonamore, a cyber security expert, who has made a career of auditing similar systems, is baffled as to why to Diebold allows its banking systems to be audited, but not its voting machines. Well, not really. This life-long Republican is pretty sure he knows why. Because they're designed to steal elections.

Among the revelations in these two interviews: 1) There is no such thing as unhackable computer security. The only defense is a transparent process that can be audited and Diebold won't allow it. 2) Spoonamore is certain that Max Cleland actually won the election he lost to the odious Saxby Chamblis. 3) A voting tabulator should have no reason to subtract votes, only add them. Yet, the Diebold machines have a subtraction function.

And much, much more.

Failing Ever Upward

Thursday, September 04, 2008

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Well, if you can't get Bernie Ebbers:

Carly Fiorina Live at the RNC
photo: AP/Paul Sancya

Carly Fiorina, who has been headlining with the McCain campaign -- and was even discussed as a possible running mate -- is being touted as a super-successful vagina-person. A reigning authority on big business and the tech world, or so we're told. Last night she spoke to the convention audience about the wonders of John McCain and with reporters about the travesty of sexist attacks on Sarah Palin.

These days, Fiorina is usually described as a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Sounds impressive, but it leaves out a few things. Like the fact she's the former CEO because she was fired, loathed by many board members and shareholders, and handed a golden parachute worth over $21 million that resulted in a lawsuit against the company. On the day Fiorina was given her walking papers, HP's stock jumped 7 percent. That's a whole lotta hate.

The HP board of directors asked Carly Fiorina to resign last week, ending the six-year reign of the highest-profile woman in American business. HP's dismal financial results provide the easiest explanation for the dismissal: while its revenues are climbing slowly, its stock is down 50 percent since her tenure began, and her poorly conceived and contentious takeover of Compaq has done little to strengthen HP's balance sheet. (The poor performance perhaps justified the board's particularly harsh public statement, which didn't contain the usual excuse of a suddenly demanding family.)

But the problem wasn't just the substance of Fiorina's leadership--it was also her style. She had plenty of it. Fiorina brought panache to HP: she combined the showmanship of Steve Jobs with a dash of Donald Trump's ostentatiousness. Instead of working quietly for the first few years to fix the company, she believed that building buzz for herself--including appearances in early TV ads--was key to re-energizing staff and exciting customers. Tech CEOs named Jobs, Ellison and Gates can get away with this; as founders, they seemingly have more leeway in cultivating a cult of personality. But Fiorina's style clanged dissonantly off HP's wonky products and the staid corporate culture that HP founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard initiated 65 years ago in a Palo Alto, Calif., garage. Some employees loved her--but many disliked her and were no doubt glad to see her go. Last week, interim CEO Robert Wayman told NEWSWEEK that senior executives "were very pleased with the reaction of the employees to all the communication. They were way more comfortable than [senior execs] had worried they would be."

But, Fiorina picked herself up, dusted herself off, and reinvented herself as a political mover and shaker. Thus were we treated to her compassionate words last night about the concerns of average Americans.

Today, Americans are concerned about keeping their jobs. They're concerned about keeping their homes; about the rising price of food and fuel. They are concerned about whether they will able to find and afford the right kind of health care. They are concerned about whether they or their children with have the skills and education they need to compete in the 21st Century.

Yes. I'm guessing the thousands of workers HP laid off, under her tenure, had many such concerns.

At HP, Fiorina developed the reputation of a manager who knocked heads together—or who chopped them off. And there were massive layoffs during her tenure. In 2003, the company announced it would dismiss almost 18,000 people. (That year, the firm posted a $903 million loss on $56.6 billion in revenue.) When the outsourcing of jobs turned into a national political issue, Fiorina became the poster-girl for an industry campaign aimed at blocking any legislation that would restrict a company's ability to can American employees in favor of workers overseas. She and executives from seven other tech companies issued a report that argued that any such measures would hurt the U.S. economy. The best way to increase American competitiveness, they declared, was to improve schools and, yes, reduce taxes. At a Washington press conference, Fiorina said, "There is no job that is America's God-given right anymore. We have to compete for jobs." The remark did not go over well with critics of outsourcing, who have ever since used it as an indicator of corporate insensitivity.

Such detached perspective is a whole lot easier when your own fuck-ups net you a $21 million severance. Most of us average folk don't get to make soft landings on big piles of money, when we're shit-canned.

Last night she also talked about the importance of corporate transparency and accountability. Hmmm.....

In March 2004, after HP shareholders voted 1.21 billion to 925 million to expense stock options, she opposed the move, essentially opting to stick with accounting practices (that were used by other corporations) that did not reveal a company's true value. That same year, Forbes reported that Hewlett-Packard was "among many other U.S. companies that kept offices in Dubai and were linked to Iranian traders there." The article suggested that HP and other countries were skirting export controls to trade with Iran.

But, no one should be surprised that Fiorina's star is rising within the Republican Party. She could be its poster child. She embodies the ethic that has driven them since the glory days of Ronald Reagan and the era of greedy excess he ushered in.

We have reached escape velocity and launched into the No-Consequences Economy. To pause for a moment of overgeneralization: America used to be about exceptionalism and optimism, a place where anybody could try anything and make it work. Across the business and political spectrum, it's now about entitlement, where everyone deserves a shot but no one gets blamed for screwing it up. Stuff happens, as Donald Rumsfeld said, referring to another affair with no consequences for the architects. (Read more about the consequences of no consequences.)

When Bob Nardelli said in September 2006 that he took "full responsibility" for manhandling Home Depot, how was he to know that he'd be kicked out four months later with an extra $210 million in the bank? Or that he'd end up at the wheel of an American icon, Stan O'Neal, who also mouthed the responsibility platitude, received $160 million when he was dumped after billions of dollars of bets went bad and word leaked out that he had toyed with selling the company without talking to his board.

Other disgraced Wall Street executives are hot commodities in the job market, valued for their perceived ability to walk through fire and survive. Private equity firms are turning away from deals signed mere months before. J.C. Flowers & Co. even managed to leave Sallie Mae at the altar and not pay the contractually negotiated breakup fee. Housing-industry shills who championed a rising market are keeping their jobs. Banks that made disastrous loans are cutting in line to borrow at below-market rates from the Federal Reserve. "It's amazing, the lack of shame," says Lawrence Mitchell, a George Washington University professor and author of The Speculation Economy: How Finance Triumphed Over Industry. "The guys on Wall Street claim they believe in free markets and are entitled to enormous compensation because of their risk taking. But when they lose, do they say to themselves, 'I'm going to take my losses'? No, they go running to Uncle Ben"—Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman—"and he, in a grotesquely irresponsible move, bails them out.

After all, we've endured nearly eight nearly 8 years of an incompetent CEO President Portfolio once compared to Fiorina.

Fiorina didn't know the industry or the company, and she announced the day she arrived that she had her strategy.

No, Fiorina was right at home on that stage and will, no doubt, be right at home in a McCain Administration.

Sorting The Palin Family Laundry -- Updated

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

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I think when all is said in done, the thing I will take away from the bizarre Sarah Palin fiasco is the certainty that the Daily Kos is ridiculous. They win the prize for catapulting an utterly irresponsible piece of "journalism" into the public eye. While it shows the power of the blogosphere to shoehorn issues into the MSM, it also opens the left wing blogosphere to charges of really shoddy, tawdry, bottom-feeder reporting.

The absurdity of all this is not lost on Lee Stranahan, whose own coverage of the John Edwards mess, got him banned from the orange city.

The irony for me, of course, is that despite making over fifty short political videos with a clear progressive point of view, I was banned on DailyKos for saying that it seemed reasonable that John Edwards was seen at the Beverly Hilton late at night.

This is what marks Daily Kos as a thoroughly partisan organ, trafficking in the worst sort of hackery. When legitimate questions are raised about a prominent Democrat, shout down the offending voices for spouting tabloid sleaze. When dubious charges are leveled at a rather suddenly prominent Republican, it's full speed ahead and don't worry about trifles like proof before you publicly try and convict.

I will not be pulling up the Daily Kos story in question. I did so the other evening and it froze up my browser for a good twenty minutes. It wasn't worth it. I was stunned at the crappiness of it. I was stunned at the quite possibly libelous nature of it. I could not believe that a diarist could be so stupid as to state such assertions as fact. And, I could not believe that a blog as censorious as DKos allowed that to stand, when so many perfectly fair diaries have been deleted and so many reasonable people been banned.

I will, however, tip my hat to doberman pinche, who offered up the outrage of Townhall.

"Sarah Palin is NOT the Mother" is the title of this DailyKos blog that accuses Bristol, a completely fit-looking adolescent teen, of having a "baby bump" in a photo they allege was taken March 9th of this year.

"Sarah, I'm calling you a liar" wrote blogger ArcXIX. "And not even a good one. Trig Paxson Van Palin is not your son. He is your grandson. The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better. " Photos of Bristol with detailed commentary about her abdomen are contained in the post.

Not only is the DailyKos disgustingly inspecting Bristol's midriff with all the fervor of LA paparazzi examining J-Lo's or Jennifer Aniston's washboard stomachs for evidence of a "bump," the DailyKos is wrong on when the photo was taken. It was taken, and published, by the Anchorage Daily News in 2006. Baby Trig, a child with Down's Syndrome, was born on April 18, 2008. That's a long time for a teen girl to be carrying a "bump" which looks nothing more than the curve of a tight sweater.

The Daily Kos induced furor has now forced the campaign to announce that 17 year old Bristol is 5 months pregnant and planning to do what all good, Christian, teen mothers do; get married. I wish her well and I'm truly saddened that her private life has been dragged into the spotlight. But it is certainly arguable that Sarah Palin's own richly layered idiocy is largely to blame.

I'm ambivalent about a lot of this. There is certainly plenty of fodder with which to attack Sarah Palin's candidacy, without dragging out anyone's gynecological history. From the bizarre video in which she wonders aloud what a VP does all day, to the fact that her own mother-in-law seems unsure she's qualified, to the statements about Iraq being both a war for oil and God's work, to the fact that she was almost a recalled over corruption charges as mayor, to possible secessionist leanings... Okay. The list gets pretty long. But, I remain unconvinced that the questions surrounding the birth of little Trig aren't relevant and worthy of, all be it, more responsible scrutiny.

Sarah Palin: Not Flat Busted
Photo: Provided by the Palin Family
I Can't Take This Woman Seriously

I found myself somewhat at odds with Maryscott on this issue. I agree strongly about the sanctity of a woman's right to privacy regarding reproductive choice, but I have a hard time defending that right for a woman who would take that very privacy away from women everywhere.

I disagree (8.00 / 1)

and this is why. Because this is a woman, running for the Vice Presidency, who fully intends to have her nose in every other woman's uterus, not only in this country, but in any nation to which we apportion aid. This is a woman who wants to make abstinence only education the law of the land, but who can't get her own, unwed teen daughter to close her legs. And, I can say that now, because I just heard on the car radio that Bristol is pregnant right now, at 17, and they are busily arranging a shotgun wedding.

"What fresh hell is this?" -- Dorothy Parker


So. Because SHE'S a hypocrite, WE have the right to be hypocrites? (0.00 / 0)

Interesting logic.

--7.88, --6.56 If I can't rant, I don't want to be part of your revolution.


Because she's a hypocrite
(6.00 / 1)

she has a right to be exposed as a hypocrite. Period. It reminds me of when both Bush the senior and Quayle were asked if someone in their family had an unplanned pregnancy, if they would want them to have access to abortion. They both said, it would be a private family matter, and they wouldn't discuss it. Fuck that. When you're talking about intruding on the privacy and integrity of every other woman's body in America, fuck you. You don't get a right to privacy.
Right to life extremists are pushing for legislation all over that country that would force women who miscarry -- miscarry -- to prove it. So fuck 'em. You want to crawl up my twat with a flashlight? You don't get dispensation to do things that women could be prosecuted for under some of the legislation you and your wingnut pals want to push through. If she traveled after her water broke, she endangered the life of her unborn child. That will be prosecutable offense if some of these whackjobs get their way.

"What fresh hell is this?" -- Dorothy Parker

Admittedly, I can get a little worked up over this issue... And, I may have lost my objectivity. Mainly because I'm sick to fucking death of these whack jobs who are bound and determined to legislate a standard of morality that even they cannot meet.

But, there is a line. Daily Kos crossed it.

Update: It would seem that the powers that be at Daily Kos have been sufficiently shamed into deleting the diary (or diaries) in question. The user known as ArcXIX now shows no diaries in his listing. As of this writing, he also has no comments listed after 8/29, for whatever it's worth.