November 24, 2016

Election wasn't rigged and I won't pay Jill Stein #AuditTheVote for #Recount2016 (updated)

I see we're at silly season of conspiracy theorizing again. Next, since it's the same week as that anniversary, we'll have somebody suggest Vladimir Putin assassinated JFK. It's as sensical as anything else about either Putin in particular or the 2016 election in general that's being broached right now.

First, Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman, who first noted interesting anomalies in Wisconsin, explicitly says that he thinks the issue is because polls were wrong:
I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other. 

Now, he does suggest that a thorough audit should be done of votes.

But ONLY in the four Rust Belt states Trump flipped. Well, actually, he omits Ohio. More on that below.

Folks, this is logical fallacy 101 — the file drawer fallacy, or sharpshooter fallacy, or streetlight fallacy, to be specific, by various names, with slight differences in nuance.

He has no reason to suspect the vote anomalies between those

Next under main point 1, per my earlier blogging on vote hacking, since voter machines are NOT connected to the Internet, it couldn't be Putin, which is what Halderman repeatedly insinuates, though he refuses to spell it out.

Well, theoretically, it could be, if Putin's FSB wanted to hack the secretary of state's offices, or other appropriate state officials, or, per Halderman, county offices, in three different states, YET be dumb enough at the same time to leave these bread crumb trails of anomalies.

Or let's let Halderman explain:
It doesn’t matter whether the voting machines are connected to the Internet. Shortly before each election, poll workers copy the ballot design from a regular desktop computer in a government office, and use removable media (like the memory card from a digital camera) to load the ballot onto each machine. That initial computer is almost certainly not well secured, and if an attacker infects it, vote-stealing malware can hitch a ride to every voting machine in the area. 
Some unproven, and apparently untested, assumptions hitchhiking there.

First, is Putin going to target each one of those computers, rather than going my route?

Second, is he going to be that skilled, again, yet leave the bread crumbs cybertrail I mentioned above?

Third, how do you know how well those computers are secured or not?

As the third main subpoint under point 1, Halderman seems to be assuming that Putin knew even better than Clinton how close the election was. Well, given the idiocy of her staff, that's possible. The unspoken greater assumption would be that Putin knew Comey would pick up on Anthony Weiner's emails and yadda, yadda, yadda.

That leads to ... 

The fourth subpoint under main point 1?

White state university prof in computer science? Guy's got Clintonista neoliberal written all over his forehead, even if he protests. Demographic profile fits. The psychology of his triple Lutz spin away from Occam's Razor fits too.

Fifth subpoint? Plenty of election security experts, or general national security experts, a month ago, most in the tank for Clinton, kept saying "Putin this" and "Putin that." Then, a week ago, Director of National Intelligence James "Clap" Clapper said, we got no proof Putin was behind any actual hacks we've looked at.

Sixth subpoint, back to the first subpoint and logical fallacies, plus Clintonista allegiances?

Halderman appears to be cherry-picking his states. Both Ohio and Florida, though also Election Day surprises to Camp Clinton, were won by Trump too handily for people to make recount claims there, although conspiracy theorist Bill Palmer is now making noise about Florida. Nice try, Alex.

Also, and seventh subpoint, as Five Thirty Eight points out, ALL of Michigan uses paper ballots. Halderman's just been officially busted for cherry-picking. This is made worse yet by the fact that the university where he works, Michigan State University, happens to be in Michigan.

The Five Thirty Eight piece otherwise generally takes Halderman, and others, to the woodshed for methodological flaws in their claims. It takes them to the woodshed's annex for doing so at a time when ever-more people doubt the accuracy of voting and they (theoretically) know better on their methodological claims.

On the other hand, per point two?

I agree 119 percent that we should use paper ballots. Most democracies continue to do so, other than we, the cheap "cradle/arsenal/exceptionalism of democracy." Most actually go beyond his suggestion for either paper ballots or paper printouts from machines to use paper ballots, period.

After all, Mr. Halderman, if Vlad the Impaler is smart enough to hack a voter machine, couldn't his hack still keep the paper trail matching a voter's intent?

Third main point?

Why would Putin have reasons to favor Trump over Clinton, per Halderman's insinuation?

Google "Frank Giustra" plus "uranium" plus "Clinton Foundation" to see that Hillary Clinton was more than cozy enough herself with Vlad the Impaler. So, despite agreeing with him on point 2, to some degree, I'm back to suspecting him of being a Clintonista.

Fourth main point?

As I said in my last blogging about election fraud, if it's that easy, why didn't, say, Diebold have Mitt Romney win in 2012? Or make sure that George W. Bush won Florida by more than 137 votes in 2000? As for claims of fraud in Ohio, 2004, Democratic Congressman John Conyers looked into that, and rejected it. Mark Hertsgaard has a good analysis of Ohio 2004, noting there were shenanigans with how many voting machines went to different places, voter disenfranchisement, etc. — but all perfectly legal shenanigans.

The vote fraud conspiracy theorists have their version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears here. They want fraud hard enough to do that any pimply teenaged hacker can't do it, but easy enough that it just happened to be able to flip an election.

Fifth main point?

As a result, I won't pay Jill Stein the money to do a recount in those states. If she wanted to use this as a drive to raise $2 million for the Green Party, that's a different issue. But, if Hillary Clinton "respects the process" or whatever (remember, John Kerry refused to ask for a recount in Ohio 2004) fine. So be it. As for Stein herself?

Update for the sixth main point, from a new blog post of mine. Stein originally planned this all on her own without talking to the GP executive committee, which officially voted against it, and is also asking why isn't she recounting two very close blue states — Minnesota and New Hampshire.

That's despite telling Gail Collins of the the New York Times op-ed staff that she doesn't consider one candidate preferable to the other.

Sorry, Jill: Your 15 minutes of fame are up.

And, per my 15 minutes of fame comment about Stein, she's shifting the goalposts now on both the amount of money needed and its ultimate purpose. Homey definitely ain't playing now.

==

Update: Friend Brains heartily applauds Stein while also calling me out as too cynical for my post a month ago about her investments. The only thing I see to applaud from Stein's recount request is possible Green Party name recognition, which will most likely be as ephemeral as it was in 2004, when Green prez candidate David Cobb, along with the Libertarians' standard-bearer, launched an Ohio recount after Kerry said no. And per Hertsgaard's piece, that turned up nothing of a systemic nature — the only actions were two Cleveland-area elections people charged with fraud not because they'd done anything wrong originally but because they were too lazy to want to to a thorough recount and cheated.

Contra the Brad Blogs of the world (no link from me) who have puffed this up, all the audit then proved was laziness is a human trait, as the election workers didn't cheat on behalf of one candidate versus another. That said, laziness runs through the American voting system in general.

(Heh, heh: BradBlog itself is actually listed as one of my top 10 reefer sites for the week of Dec. 3-9. No, I''m not going there to figure out why.)

As for the issue of Stein's investments, I respect Brains' opinion as a financial planner, and note again what I said at the time of blogging that I knew it was in part a Daily Beast hit. I still think that, if you have that much money, and if you're in a profession like medicine where you could easily go back to the salt mines if you wanted, it's bad optics.

As for the recount's alleged need, I agree with folks at the Verge that Halderman and his ilk have themselves ultimately done a disservice by unnecessarily undermining trust in democracy. In a second piece about the recount, Verge notes that if Stein can get something like routine audits built into all states' voting systems, she will have done a mitzvah right there.

And, speaking of... Wisconsin IS recounting. I still think nothing will be found, and also still think this is mountains out of molehills, but maybe this will lead to more.
This all said, Stein said Clinton was "lesser evilism" a month ago. Is she not still that? On Twitter, Stein claims this isn't for the benefit of one candidate.

Well, ... in a phrase ... "in a pig's eye." Unless she really believes every word of the claims of the likes of Halderman and has not read the likes of Silver refute them, then she knows this is to benefit Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is now bird-dogging Stein on the recount issue. To what end, other than legacy-fluffing and/or CYA, I'm not sure. This is probably her attempt to say, "see, the process works," then mouth words about "healing America," and "the next four years" and blah, blah, blah.

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Sidebar:

 If Halderman really cared about voting in America, besides presumably protesting voter ID laws in places like North Carolina and Texas, he would:
1. Support Maine's Ranked Choice Voting start in 2018 and call on all 49 other states to follow suit
2. Call for a uniform national standard of voting for the one-Constitution specified national office, the presidency
3. Call on Republicans and Democrats alike to stop with the ridiculous hurdles for third-party ballot access.

I am confident he will do none of those. We'll see if he actually calls for the routine public audits.

Update, Dec. 12: While the FBI and CIA disagree on their motivation on alleged Russian hacks into the Democratic National Committee computer system (along with possible alleged Republican National Committee hacks as well), the two agencies agree that the decentralized nature of US voting, among other things, make a hack of voting systems highly unlikely.

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