Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Black Box

We begin with a report at the Brad Blog, which at first debunks rumors of voter fraud in New Hampshire's recent primary. Brad later goes on to call attention to fraud. I have quoted only excerpts; the original has links which I did not reproduce:

-- Brad Friedman, The BRAD BLOG

Our Spidey-sense started tingling before going to bed last night and hearing reports, on MSNBC, that there were 17 paper ballots cast in Dixville Notch, NH, in its midnight, first-in-the-country voting. The report said that there were only 16 registered voters in the tiny voting precinct, yet 17 votes had been cast --- suggesting that somehow, paper ballot "voter fraud" skullduggery was afoot.

Following on that, reports throughout the day appeared that NH precincts were out of paper ballots, and voters were unable to vote.

Trouble is, both reports are either completely untrue, or wholly misleading, or both, as The BRAD BLOG was able to confirm with two simple phone calls.

Each of those reports, however, would seem to go a long way towards giving the impression that paper ballots are a bad idea, and that "voter fraud" is easy to commit when using them. Given that one of those reports seems to have begun on The DRUDGE REPORT earlier today, we're not particularly surprised that the MSM kept repeating the easily-debunked stories running all day.

That, even while there are reasons to be concerned about how the paper ballots used in the New Hampshire Primary will actually be counted by the hackable Diebold optical-scan systems used in the state, as controlled and programmed by an outrageously bad private contractor there...

In the first section, reproduced above, the post begins by explaining how some reports were checked, and found to be erroneous. In the last paragraph, however, some cause for concern is given that is depicted as more legitimate.

The next two sections talk about paper ballots and so on in New Hampshire. Then:

What You Should Actually Be Concerned About

However, for those in the media interested in actual concerns about the integrity of today's NH Primary, we'd strongly recommend the following video primer. In it, you'll learn that the Diebold optical-scan system used across most of New Hampshire (some 40% of precincts still count paper ballots by hand, at the precinct), can be easily rigged by insiders, and only if the paper ballots are properly audited by hand, in some fashion, can the results of the op-scanners be trusted in any way, shape, or form.

Reporters would do well to take note, particularly given the tightness of the race at this hour on the Democratic side, between Obama and Clinton --- curious, given the final Zogby polling numbers which were dead-on on the Republican side, but, so far, seem wildly off on the Dem side. Zogby's numbers had predicted an Obama blowout, 42/29 over Clinton.

The machines used in the state are the same ones seen being hacked in HBO's documentary, Hacking Democracy. As well, a single private company with a very bad record, LHS Associates, Diebold's exclusive distributor and technical contractor in New England, runs the elections and controls the vulnerable memory cards for the voting systems across the state. That company has an horrendous record of lax security policies and has admitted to having replaced memory cards, on a whim, on their own, in the middle of past elections.

The issue with machines with any kind of computerized technology is that if their integrity has been compromised, it is difficult to notice that. For example, the programming can be adjusted so that, in a race among candidates A, B and C, of every six votes for B, one is not counted or counted for A instead, and of every five votes for C, one is counted for A instead.

Unlike a hand tally, where other people can visually verify the count, a machine is a black box -- the inside does not see the light of day, and most people do not really know what is happening in there.

If the reprogamming is done foolishly, it will be obvious. For example, polling indicates 30% favor candidate A, 45% favor B, 20% favor C, and the remaining 5% are undecided. If suddenly the election results were that 85% voted for A, we would be suspicious.

But, anyone smart enough and connected enough to reprogram voting machines is not going to make such a foolish mistake. Anyone who is going to do it is going to do it with subtlety, and such subtlety will go a long way to ensuring that it does not get widely recognized -- it can be detected, just not widely recognized.

A slight modification of the algorithms, programming, and electronic mumbo-jumbo is all that is needed to tip a race -- because it is subtle, the public will keep the public off the trail. For every one person who questions the matter, another will appear who will see nothing "obviously" wrong, and who will then begin to disparage the concerns of the one by using pejorative words like "conspiracy" and "truther". Will there be a fair consideration of the matter?

From New Hampshire primary scandal: Kucinich calls for recount (also here), which begins:

Amidst a rising chorus of angry voices protesting the flawed results in the New Hampshire primary, Dennis Kucinich has called for a recount to restore, "public confidence in the election process."

Recalling the traumatic collapse of the presidential election that led to the imposition of an unelected presidency on a nation that prides itself as, "the land of the free," Kucinich explained his motivation for calling for a recount in New Hampshire, "Ever since the 2000 election . . . the American people have been losing faith in their belief that their votes were actually counted."

Immediately after the New Hampshire results began to pour in, astute observers of presidential elections became troubled since the tabulations did not correspond to either the results of nine major polls or the exit polling compiled in statewide surveys on the day of the vote.

Although the count giving Hillary Clinton a slight majority over Barack Obama was described as an "upset" in the mainstream media, many Americans recalled their serious concerns over the deeply flawed presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 that cast a darkening shadow over the entire electoral process in the United States even today.

Pollsters have been at a loss to articulate a palatable explanation for Clinton's apparent victory, and the suspicion that it was more apparent than real is gaining traction with the general populace.

A film revealing a trace of emotion in one of her conversations with voters on the day preceding the election was seized upon as an argument for a last minute surge for Senator Hillary Clinton. However, after viewing the tape many people remain unconvinced that such a trivial epiphany could transform the dynamics of an election that had placed Barack Obama in command of a formidable majority.

Several pundits have argued that racism undermined Obama's campaign at the last minute, but this explanation failed to consider his victory in lilywhite Iowa less than one week earlier.

The article then goes on to offer some thoughts as to who might be behind this, and connects Karl Rove to Dick Morris and the Clinton campaign -- birds of a feather?

Here is additional background.

With the kind of money floating around in US Presidential elections, anything can be bought. With the kind of power up for grabs, nothing is sacred.

Senator Obama's weakness is that he is a relative newcomer to big politics, a relative outsider to Washington, at least when compared to Senator Clinton, who has been a US Senator since her swearing in following her 2000 election, and who was the First Lady (co-President?) for eight years previously.

Obama may seem like a breath of fresh air to his supporters, but he is no match for the Clinton machine.

Conquest or destruction of America at the hands of Islamic militants would be far, far less likely, if we could effectively deal with corruption here at home.

It is the corruption that is a threat. It is apathy that will bring us down. Allah, standing by watching, will only get the credit -- appreciation from a host of militants eager to embrace their ration of virgins, as government of the people, by the people, and for the people perishes from this earth, entombed in a black box inside which no light can be seen.

With this post I begin a new label: US Politics.

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