Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The New Swift Boats (the Little Falsehoods that Tanked John Kerry’s Campaign)

In our current, never-ending mudslinging campaign, there appears to be an endless pile of available mud. As candidates “debate,” fact-checkers delight… but the electorate doesn’t seem to care about veracity. The Washington Post tells us that their Pinocchio (lying) measures give the Trump campaign credit for over 80% of the misstatements and Clinton’s the rest. Smooth Mike Pence easily slid past Tim Caine’s unlikeable performance in the VP debate, an idiotic melee with an unable-to-control robotic Elaine Quijano moderator, but in significant part because Pence kind of threw his presidential partner under the bus.
Yet even in looking at the future, should Hillary Clinton win the election, there is so much uncertainty, that Trump’s perpetual “the election is rigged mantra” will make the post-election period one of incredible anger. The “birther” skepticism that followed Barack Obama’s presidential victory will pale by comparison with how the “it was rigged” stories and the belief that falsified documents are/were real will play after the November results. WikiLeaks promised a big reveal that would destroy HRC as GOP pundits cheered and reveled in the pending doom… but that “October surprise” just didn’t happen. Huh?
In fact, the veracity of a new spate of documents being “leaked” or that may be leaked are showing some rather clear evidence of tampering if not complete fabrication. “New evidence that Putin is waging an active campaign of deception to hurt HRC: A hacker known as “Guccifer 2.0” claimed to have published files hacked from the Clinton Foundation, including spreadsheets appearing to show corporate money being funneled to politicians and a file titled ‘pay for play,’ the Daily Beast’s Shane Harris reports. The files look conspicuously corrupt, and their presentation seems designed to confirm long-standing suspicions about Clinton’s nonprofit organization. But there’s a problem. The Clinton Foundation president said the documents aren’t theirs, and there’s no evidence that the organization’s networks were breached. So, is this the October surprise Clinton’s opponents have been expecting? Or is it the next stage in what U.S. officials suspect is an ongoing campaign to meddle with the election?Security experts say that whomever is behind the online facade is likely an agent working for Russia. Guccifer 2.0 is also suspected of being the source of the hacked DNC emails to WikiLeaks. If this email dump is the real surprise promised by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, he may have to work harder to prove it.” Daily 202, Washington Post, October 5th.
Vladimir Putin – who rose through the ranks of the Soviet Union’s KGB fearsome intelligence agency as a master manipulator – is enjoying his “relationship” with Donald Trump. The Donald, who has unusually thin skin at anyone saying anything bad about him, has an equally weak proclivity to adore those who say anything nice about him. Putin saw that early. Russia clearly wants Donald Trump, with his obviously vulnerable and malleable ego, as our President.
And the Russians seem to have yet another way to undermine Americans’ confidence in the election results… without actually doing anything more to try and infiltrate just a few local voting systems. Only a couple of anomalies will erode confidence in the entire election, particularly among Trump supporters who cannot conceive that HRC could win without “rigging.” Indeed, mistrust of the federal government among his constituents even challenges Homeland Security’s efforts to help local election officials’ secure their voting machines and underlying data bases. There are those who believe that such federal aid is just an excuse for the feds to rig their voting systems.
“After hackers said to be linked to Russia stole data from voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois earlier this year, the federal Department of Homeland Security offered digital security assistance to state and local election officials around the country…
“So far, 21 states have reached to DHS for assistance, Johnson said in a statement released on Saturday [10/1]. But some state officials and activists have expressed fears that even voluntary assistance programs and especially a future critical infrastructure designation could lead to unprecedented level of federal involvement in elections…
“But experts say it’s unlikely that hackers could exploit bugs in voting machines to reliably sway a national election. Since the machines aren’t internet-connected, that would require hackers surreptitiously getting physical access to large numbers of individual machines at precincts scattered across the country.
“‘What is more realistic is a smaller number of confirmed intrusions that maybe again aren’t enough to change the outcome on the national level but are enough to undermine people’s confidence in the results,’ says Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute who studies cybersecurity. ‘I think that’s a more likely scenario.’…
“Attackers looking to undermine confidence could steer clear of voting machines altogether, and focus their attacks on internet-enabled systems. That could mean entering false names into online registration systems or tampering with them to cause check-in delays and long lines at polling places, according to Joe Kiniry, CEO and chief scientist of Free & Fair, a company that develops open-source voting software… ‘You don’t even have to touch the voting machines,’ he says. ‘You just mess up the database.’
“Or, Kiniry says, attackers could interfere with online systems that publicize results after ballots are cast: Even if they can’t actually change the official tallies and the right numbers ultimately make it to the public, they could still sow doubt among voters about the results.” FastCompany.com, October 4th.
Whatever the result and whoever might win in November, it appears exceptionally likely that vast segments of the American electorate will not accept the victor as the legitimate president. And if that scenario plays out, if Congress cannot figure out how to break out of gridlock, we may just be watching the beginning of the unraveling, the breaking apart, of the country itself. Is there any vision any of us sees that can bring America together, walking generally in the same direction with normal levels of disagreement… or do we have to “brace, brace, brace” for a very rough ride going-forward?
I’m Peter Dekom, and unless we find that unifying path and stop gridlock bickering, we will lose the best part of US.

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