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.