Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Do They Control Everything? Known Weasel Resigns & Something Smells At the Electronic Voting Booths (Everywhere?)

(EXTRA: If anyone could make a contribution to my PayPal account (or otherwise - contact me for further info), it would be sincerely appreciated as I've just gone off the cliff financially. I really appreciate everything that my kind readers have done for me in the past financially and otherwise. Now . . . back to your regular viewing.) I've refrained from commenting at length on the Gulf Disaster/Catastrophe/Ecological Mayhem brought to us by the Bush/Cheney deregulation of all things energy-related that filled their pockets (previous to and at that precise time - see Cheney's Halliburton stock manipulations from 2000-2008), but it seems that with the latest news of how this probably will be a continuing screwup forever, driven by the virtues of cost benefit analysis (CBA) so loved by all companies now, it's time to sound the alarm (h/t to Distributor Cap NY!). On top of the financial disaster also brought to us by this Dynamic Deregulation Duo, you'd almost have to think that they were behind Obama's win, wouldn't you? (After all, it's all now HIS problem. Ask anyone.) I really hate to think that he'll be a one-term president (for any reason) as the current alternatives on the other side (calling Scarahy Impaling!) (or Mitt the Hoople) are quite a bit flimsier in decent responses - as they undoubtedly will be instructed to be (not to mention the horrible, horrible, horribleness (h/t to Woody Allen) of this chain of events to anyone of a progressive bent).

It seems to me (and has for quite some time) that if we don't get serious about real change at the top which will be reflected below, that "They Will Do Whatever the Law Allows" (and they make the laws - or unmake them). Not what will benefit anyone except themselves (which is, of course, the secret of the Chicago School of Economics and the Shock Doctrine, right?).

James Howard Kunstler has a few choice epithets (mild, but coming from this Republican gentleman, still dismaying) about this dilemma which I concur with wholeheartedly (and I've always admired his literary grasp of the important moment). Hope we (and Ornery Bastard, who is always out there also with the urgent warnings) are wrong (some editing was done for clarity and emphasis marks were added - Ed.)

Fierce Urgency

The exquisite morbidity of the BP oil spill has concentrated the collective national mind like few other events in this ongoing long emergency. How many times a day does it occur to you - perhaps while sitting in traffic, or oogling some girl in a nearby cubicle, or cruising the freezer stacks in the supermarket - that one mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico that crude is just blasting away into the deep blue sea? Anyway, it troubles my hours. But what if it hadn't happened? What if the nation's attention was not fixed on the "fierce urgency" of this disaster and we were left with all the tiresome familiar problems of politics and economy?

After the financial storms of May, people in the knife-and-fork-using nations may feel that all our troubles with money have been sorted out and settled. Greece had an apoplexy and Europe somehow survived - at least so far. Spain fell to its knees and apparently remains there, in mid-aria, waiting for an orchestra to strike up the next measure. Portugal is trying to hide in plain sight, like a beach-goer who has lost swimsuit in the surf. Hungary choked on something last week and was left sitting at the table with its face in a plate of goulash.

Iceland has been put on, well, on ice after stiffing its British account holders. The Brits have discovered that they have enough money to run their country in the style of Edward the Confessor. France is weeping over all the Spanish, Greek, and Portuguese bad paper in its bank vaults. Italy, having become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Silvio Berlusconi, is eating lunch under the grape arbors. The Baltic states are sinking into a northern peat bog of penury . . . Germany remains upright, wondering how it can wiggle out of this sad-ass collective of fazed cookies.

June so far is a strange ebb tide of events relating to the world's money, but when the water goes out like that, you know it's sure to return before long, and the peaceful mud-flats of June may vanish under a summer tsunami. I know I'm not alone in the creepy feeling that really nothing has been sorted out and the world is waiting to get hammered six days to Sunday by the consequences of living too large for too long. The markets have been stranded, too, gyrating on the peculiar life-support of robot-traders - since all the humans have packed up and left the scene for higher ground.

President Obama may be lucky that he has something he can pretend to be decisive about in the BP oil spill. It's allowed him to completely avoid taking a public stand on crucial parts of the financial reform legislation working its way through congress like a stinking bolus.

For instance, where does Mr. Obama stand on the reform of credit default swap activities? This dark realm of swindling has come close to choking the American money system to death - and might yet do the job - but the president hasn't offered up a word of leadership on it. My guess is that the gestures of reform will leave reform completely unfinished by the time the high water of events starts rushing back in. All the structural fault-lines will remain as even more decay sets in and new cracks appear. Something is gonna give this summer.

It all comes down to one thing: the world is mismanaging contraction. The world will not solve the problems of massive over-complexity with more complexity. But scaling down is apparently not an option. It will happen whether we participate or not. The USA is like Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener.

You may think that as a writer (most of my life) and a student of political science and journalism that I might be interested in the truthiness (h/t to Stephen Colbert's brilliant wordiness) of my chosen professions' adherents, let alone the truth-content of the votes/vote counting undertaken to determine representation of the people so important to our ongoing as a civilization.

You would be right. Luckily I don't have to write everything as I can continue to steal from the best (as that old political truism goes). Brad Friedman (and I urge you to start reading his essays regularly) has stayed on top of the media/rightwing coitus melodramas (so to speak) and reports back one such sad occasion (among so many). One of the liars is leaving The New York Times. Boo-hoo (too bad it isn't David F. Brooks)! Guess he's served his purpose and will soon be cranking out position papers as a "noted scholar" for Cato or the American Enterprise Institute (or some other lying rightwing rag).

But not to worry, he'll be instantly replaced. By someone even stealthier probably. Woe betides The New York Times (emphasis marks added - Ed.)!

Good Riddance, Clark Hoyt

New York Times . . . woeful Public Editor/apologist Clark Hoyt ends his three-year term at the "paper of record" today with a column in which he tries to shape his own legacy as their (supposed) "readers' representative." There are, however, some 400,000 low and middle-income families across this nation, struggling to fight off, or emerge from, poverty who . . . might prefer to remember Hoyt by Tom Tomorrow's recent immortalization instead . . . . Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel today notes that Hoyt's farewell column reads as a dubious list of how the NYTimes, during his tenure, continued to show its propensity for serving as a mouthpiece for GOP oppo-research teams and dirty tricksters. She also observes, as we did, that Hoyt succeeded in ignoring altogether - "to his significant discredit - one of the most insidious and weasel-like failings of both the paper and Hoyt himself during his tenure: their dubious role as dupes and/or useful mouthpieces for the phony, yet terribly destructive, rightwing ACORN 'Pimp' Hoax scam". . . . Then, finally, there’s the story that Hoyt doesn’t mention, to his significant discredit – the ACORN Pimp Hoax. As BradBlog has relentlessly documented, the NYT not only reported James O’Keefe’s doctored lies as fact, but Clark Hoyt himself scolded the paper for not being more responsive to such tripe. It took six months for the NYT to actually fact check the work of a transparent political propagandist and acknowledge that that propaganda presented a false picture – and they did so with little remorse at the damage they did in the interim.

We heartily associate ourselves with Wheeler's conclusion: "[I]t is a pity that a once-respectable journalist like Hoyt now clings to NYT’s credulous recycling of political hit jobs as proof of the paper’s balance."

As the New York Times, after months of our detailed coverage, only ever managed to offer a partial and begrudging correction to their months-long misreportage - and even those corrections included blatant inaccuracies - we can only hope that Hoyt's successor, whoever it will be, takes as his or her first order of business an investigation of the investigator by launching a legitimate look at the still-inaccurate historical account of the ACORN 'Pimp' Hoax as still posted for posterity on the web by the once-great "paper of record."

New NYTimes Public Editor: Please start here.

And now, about that incredibly unbelievable (by anybody it seems) SC vote. Do you think they did it just to show us their total control? This is the state of Jim Demented and Strom (on my black maid's daughter, Founder of the whites-only DixieCrats) Thurmond, you remember (and, yes, I've sworn off being born there - would that were possible). Honestly, I'm not a paranoid by birth or body chemistry. Before the Raygun Eighties I was entirely normal. Promise! (But something is rotten in SC.)

UPDATE: More Statisticians Focus on 'Tampering, Malfunction' of E-Vote System in SC Primary

'Something smells here,' finds 538.com, suggesting possibility of 'very devious manipulation' of voting machines or tabulators . . .

This post is an update to our earlier one today, which highlighted early, unexplained disparities seen by academic experts working on behalf of South Carolina Democrats, between paper-ballot absentee voting results and those from the 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen systems used on Election Day last Tuesday in South Carolina for the Democratic U.S. Senate primary race between the unheard of, jobless candidate Alvin Greene (who did absolutely no campaigning), and state legislator Vic Rawl (who did).

As we detailed in the previous post, Greene's "victory," thus far, seems to make absolutely no legitimate sense to state Democrats, or anybody else, in truth. The disparities in the voting patterns were described by experts quoted in Politico earlier today as "curious," "staggering," and "red flags," and by Election Integrity experts who we quoted as "clear signs of election fraud."

Please read that post first for the full background on this story. We've already included one update to our previous post, based on a post by Tom Schaller at FiveThirtyEight.com, a site which focuses on statistical analysis of elections. That post examined the possibility of the race factor in Greene's "win" over Rawl as the former is African American while the latter is white. Schaller's analysis of precinct data in the race, however, as compared to non-white registrants in each, found "no relationship between the race of a county's registrants and Greene's performance in that county," thus largely, but not entirely, ruling out race as an explanation for the bizarre results.

While Schaller had posited four existing possibilities for what "could have happened here" in his original article - including the possibility of "systematic" election fraud - he has now filed a follow-up report describing the matter as "getting weirder by the hour." His new piece includes a number of reports from other statistical experts which "suggest tampering, or at least machine malfunction, perhaps at the highest level" . . . . Schaller's follow-up piece quotes from a number of analyses by statistician and election expert colleagues of his which narrow down the possibilities of what "could have happened here," to just "two scenarios."

The analyses by Schaller's colleagues find, among other things, statistical tests in which "Rawl's Election Day vote totals depart from the expected distribution at 90% confidence. In other words, the observed vote pattern for Rawl could be expected to occur only about 10% of the time by chance."

The results of those tests lead Schaller to believe "something smells here."

Another analysis debunks the theory that the results were due to GOP dirty-tricksters, crossing over in SC's open primary to vote for the candidate presumed to be the easiest one for Republican incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint to defeat in November.

"In conclusion," writes the author of the analysis examining that theory, "while the voting patterns in the D-Senate primary are strange and may not be totally legitimate, they don't bear the expected hallmarks that would arise in the case of a Republican plant."

Schaller then summarizes what he sees as the dwindling possibilities for what may have happened as such:

[W]e can almost certainly eliminate the idea that there was a coordinated GOP effort to get Republican and/or conservative voters to pick up Democratic ballots with the intent of selecting Greene as DeMint's general election opponent.

That leaves what I think are now two scenarios: A. The first is a combination of the first and second possibilities of my initial post: Greene was a nobody, but Rawl was darn near close to a nobody, and thus Greene's alphabetical ballot position, coupled with whatever signal the spelling of his surname sent to some African Americans that he might be (and in fact is) an African American, with a dash of Rawl's high disapproval among the 18 percent of survey respondents who had heard of him, combined to take what in theory might otherwise have been a 50/50 split among two broadly unknown candidates and turned it instead into a 59/41 race.

B. Somebody with access to software and machines engineered a very devious manipulation of the vote returns - but not so devious that he/she/they were unable to cover the tracks of the digit patterns in those results.

While we're certainly not a statistical analyst, and nowhere near as smart as Schaller, the first of his two scenarios above does not seem to take into account the disparities noted previously between the paper-based absentee votes and those cast on the unverifiable touch-screen systems on Election Day. While Scenario A would seem to make potential sense, it seems that the same voting patterns would apply to both Election Day votes cast at the polls as well as absentee votes cast in the same race. But that wasn't the case, as we detailed in our previous article, which quotes academic experts who found, among other similar anomalies, "a staggering 84 percent to 16 percent margin" in favor of Rawl in Lancaster County, where "Greene easily led among Election Day voters by 17 percentage points."

Overall, a study by an academic expert has found, according to the Rawl campaign, that "the result in the Senate election is statistically highly significant: Rawl performs 11 percentage points better among absentee voters than he does among Election Day voters." If Scenario A doesn't similarly apply to both the absentee and Election Day vote counts, that would seem to point to his Scenario B, "a very devious manipulation of the vote returns," or what we'll call "Scenario B.1," the somewhat less nefarious possibility of out-and-out e-voting system malfunction.

Malfunction and/or programming error with ES&S systems is neither unheard of, nor particularly rare. We experienced our own similar machine failure while attempting to vote (unsuccessfully) on an ES&S e-voting system this week in Los Angeles, on the same day as the South Carolina primary, and previously, two years before when the very same system mis-recorded four out of twelve of our votes.

South Carolina itself is no stranger to failure and known breakdowns of the e-voting system. In the 2008 Republican Party primary in Horry County, as we reported at the time, the ES&S machines failed to work at all for much of the day, leaving voters scrambling to find bits of paper, and even paper towels, on which to cast emergency paper ballots. For the Democratic primary the following week, the party advised voters to print out sample ballots from off of the Internet before coming to vote, just in case the same train wreck occurred.

And, of course, we could offer countless links to BRAD BLOG reports detailing ES&S touch-screen systems flipping the intended votes of voters right on the screen. While one would presume a massive case of on-screen vote flipping would be noticed and reported, the fact is, as we've tried to warn, a vote can appear to register accurately on the screen, but be recorded for anybody or nobody internally, in the only tally that actually counts. It remains, as we've often pointed out, impossible to know that any vote has ever been recorded accurately - ever - on one of these types of voting machines during an actual election.

Given the well-documented history of malfunction by ES&S iVotronics and its central tabulating system, along with similarly well-documented scientific reports of how easily those specifics systems can be manipulated - most easily and directly by election insiders - it's sounding more and more like there is a serious problem, of some type, in South Carolina's electronic voting system.

For the record, this is not the only questionable race in South Carolina's Democratic primary. We may have more soon on a different race with very odd results. And there are also strange numbers emerging in South Carolina's Republican primary as well, where Schaller's piece quotes a study finding "three counties with more votes cast in [the] Republican governor's race than reported turnout in the Republican primary," resulting in the nearly impossible case of zero overvotes or undervotes in that race, across all three counties.

This isn't Arkansas after all, where they also use the same unverifiable ES&S voting systems, which also reported impossible numbers in the May 18th general primary as we reported last week. Or is it?

Or Florida, where the still-unexplained failure by the ES&S iVotronic system resulted in some 18,000 votes disappearing all together in Sarasota in the FL-13 Special Election for the U.S. House in 2006, resulting in a 329 vote "victory" for the Republican candidate Vern Buchanan over Democrat Christine Jennings. Or is it?

"Something smells here," indeed.


Suzan _____________

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