Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sly as serpents and gentle as doves

The federal government is investigating the takeover last year of a leading American manufacturer of electronic voting systems by a small software company that has been linked to the leftist Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez, according to the New York Times.

The inquiry on the eve of the midterm elections is being conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or Cfius, the same panel of 12 government agencies that reviewed the abortive attempt by a company in Dubai to take over operations at six American ports earlier this year. ...

Officials of both Smartmatic and the Venezuelan government strongly denied yesterday that President Chávez’s administration, which has been bitterly at odds with Washington, has any role in Smartmatic.

“The government of Venezuela doesn’t have anything to do with the company aside from contracting it for our electoral process,” the Venezuelan ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, said last night.

Glenn Reynolds says it shows the advantage of paper ballots over electronic systems: "with paper ballots you don't care who owns the paper company." That's probably true but it also illustrates the tremendous potential for foreign powers to "participate" in the internal politics of the United States. Washington DC, for better or worse, is the political capital of the world. Over time it has developed ways to channel or manage domestic political lobbying efforts. However, it is probably pertinent to ask whether, in an age of Globalization, its defenses can hold out against the immense corruption rampant in the Third World.

Corruption in the Third World operates on a mind-boggling scale. Leaders in even small countries think nothing of multi-million dollar payoffs; major drug lords and countries flush with petro-dollars would consider bribes to individuals in the hundreds of millions or even billions. Unleashed on an American political scene whose scale of corruption is relatively penny-ante (the Randy Cunningham investigation illustrated how little money it takes to get something passed. The scandal involved $2.4 million.)  Even if that was the tip of the iceberg, it is by comparison, a small ice floe. John Walker asked for $500 to $1000 a week to sell the Russians Navy secrets. By contrast, Suha Arafat, the heroic widow of the Supreme Leader of the suffering Palestinian people, received $100,000 a month in allowances to live in Paris. She could have paid out John Walker's bribe money for the amount she spent on hairdressers.

American agencies are probably at a considerable disadvantage in offering bribes. The gubmint-minded auditors, the OMB, Congress and the New York Times will together conspire to ensure that about the best anyone can offer a foreigner of influence will be an all-expense paid trip to a Motel 6 with a complimentary bar fridge full of Genesee Beer and valet service by a CIA officer of Eastern European origin. That plus discount coupons at Taco Bell's. How well that holds up against Hugo Chavez remains to be seen.

In the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance the audience is continually challenged to answer whether it was Law or the Gun that ultimately cleaned up the West. The Legend says that it was the Law. But everyone who watched the movie knows who really shot Liberty Valance. It took both Law and the Gun to down Liberty Valance. The newspaperman in the film remarked that when the Legend sounds better, we should believe the Legend. Fine, but the Legend should be complete. Not just the lawyers but the man in the dark who was prepared to "live with it" together made the "wilderness into a garden". The Wild West was never really tamed. It just moved offshore.


Blogger talnik said...

Why now?

10/29/2006 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

Why now?

Because if Republican voters think the fix is in, they'll just stay home on November 7. They (we) are inclined to do that already this time.

10/29/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger johnCV said...

There was a news article about this 6 months ago. I wondered at the time why there wasn't more of an outcry.
Waiting for the election to get closer I suppose...

Regardless, rest assured that Chavez the Pig is up to no good.

10/29/2006 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

We do not have to out-source political machinations or machine machinations. No effin way, I'll bet any amount of hanging chads on good ol' US election steelin and wheelin deelin electineeling any day of the week. Yeseree.

10/29/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Not that I have any desire to defend Suha Arafat, but I believe the amount was $100,000 a month, according to the ABC link.

When the Intifada erupted four years ago, as I said, she did move to Paris with her daughter, and soon after it was revealed that she was receiving a monthly allowance from the Palestinian authority of US$100,000… that's quite a monthly allowance.

Where it gets more interesting is the $11 million she had stashed away in foreign accounts. I wonder if she ever returns to Palestine. If she does she either has brass balls or still commands major protection.

10/29/2006 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Raoul Ortega said...

Here in King County, in '004 the Dems showed how you steal a governor's election with paper (absentee) ballots and with everyone watching. Like most technologists, Reynolds and co. are ignoring the real problem, which is what happens to systems run by the corrupt and corruptible.

10/29/2006 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


Thanks for noticing the error. Have corrected.

10/29/2006 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

The US seems very vulnerable to well funded special interests.

Who shot Kennedy? Who had the nerve to do that? Someday it will all come out.

What's all that talk about some of the boys had to fly in to fix some of the software that transmitts totals to a centralized computer in Chicago while the election was in progress? C'mon! The only question is who is doing the fix? Maybe I've just become too cynical.

In Hitler's Germany they say when it came it came on like a tidal wave and took all before it.

Did you see Greenspan announced the Euro is now on a par with the dollar?

Every election lately seems like all is at stake.

Elections used to have a "let's have a party" flavor to them. Lots of fun. This one seems grim.

Somebody cheer me up.

10/29/2006 11:19:00 PM  

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