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Current Events

Senate Republicans Vote Against Increased Funds for Election Security

States have been asking the federal government to provide more funding in order to increase security in voting systems in the lead up to the 2018 elections, but Republicans in Congress refuse to do it. Today, an amendment to allocate $250 million for election security was rejected by the Senate on partisan lines.

Senator Patrick Leahy who introduced the bill wrote, “It is time that we heed the clear warning of the intelligence community and take action. It is our obligation to take these attacks on our states seriously, and to step in with the necessary resources to defend our elections.”

The amendment was rejected in a 50-to-47 vote, far short of the 60 votes needed to pass. Senator Bob Corker was the only Republican to vote in favor.

Last week, 21 state attorneys general sent a letter to congressional leaders saying additional funding was necessary to prevent the type of hacking that was seen in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. That letter followed a vote in the House on July 19 in which Republicans set aside legislation that would renew $380 million earmarked for election security in 2018.

Following a trillion-dollar tax cut for the rich, and the Trump administration considering an additional $100 billion dollar giveaway to the wealthy, it’s pretty obvious that refusing $250 million dollars for election security has nothing to do with being fiscally responsible.

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Current Events Explainer

Look at the Headlines! Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all Plan Will Cost $32 trillion

$32 trillion.

That is how much federal spending would increase over 10 years under Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all bill, according to a brand-new estimate from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Wait Mercatus? Yes, Koch funded Mercatus came up with this estimate, but wait, that might actually be alright. Stick with me here.

That sure does sound like a lot of money, and conservatives were giddy to start talking about it this morning. But it turns out $32 trillion is a bargain. A really good bargain, actually.

Mercatus is projecting a $32 trillion increase in federal spending, above current projected government expenditures, from 2022 to 2031.

In terms of overall health care spending in the United States over the same time period, however, they are projecting a reduction in spending.

That’s right. Even a Koch sponsored, hack study couldn’t make Medicare-for-All not work. But if you’re still question the source (like Sanders did), you should know the Urban Institute came up with the exact same number back in 2016.

So there it is. The federal government will be spending more money on health care than it currently does, but the country overall will be spending less.

Let’s look at what we’re paying now. In 2016, we spent $3.4 trillion on health care. That spending is projected to rise an average of 5.6 percent per year over the next decade. If you do the math, that means that between 2018 and 2027 we’ll spend $49 trillion on health care in America. That’s the current system.

That $32 trillion number comes from an analysis of the Conyers bill. Republicans have seized on the $32 trillion number to scare people into thinking that Democrats want to raise their taxes some insane amount. But if we’re going to spend $49 trillion under the current system, and single payer would cost $32 trillion, doesn’t that mean we’d be saving $17 trillion? Yes, yes it does.

Also consider. A universal single-payer program would 1) cover every single American, eliminating uninsurance and 2) provide much more robust benefits, covering more services than get covered right now. Sounds pretty damn good.

More people covered. More services covered. Less money spent.

Be forewarned. Conservatives are going to recite that large-sounding cost as often as they can. Get out there, be loud and be informed. Don’t let lies persuade the majority of Americans who currently support Medicare-for-All.

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Current Events

Does Rudy Giuliani Understand What Rudy Giuliani Is Saying In This Fox News Interview?

President Trump’s lawyer called into “Outnumbered” to try to explain why he denied Trump attended a pre-Trump-Tower planning meeting in July 2016, even though no one else had reported that such a meeting took place.

Confused? So were the Trump friendly hosts at Fox News who found themselves utterly baffled as Rudy tried to cleanup the mess he made earlier in the weekend:

Specifically, Giuliani tried to explain his claim that there had been a meeting that had previously not been reported in which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates planned their strategy for the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents.

As host Harris Faulkner pointed out, it’s pretty strange for Giuliani to insist that Trump had never been at a meeting who’s existence had not been made public yet.

“That takes on a question that hasn’t been asked, or even suggested,” she said.

Giuliani gave a rock solid respone:

“There was another meeting that has been leaked that hasn’t been published yet,” he started. “That was an alleged meeting three days before — or according to the leak, maybe Cohen will withdraw this, I don’t know — they haven’t pursued it. And two publications are not going to publish it. I think they found independent contradiction. He says it was a meeting with Donald Jr., with Jared Kushner, with Paul Manafort, with Gates, with possibly two others, in which they — out of the presence of the president — discussed the meeting with the Russians. We checked with their lawyers, the ones we could check with, that meeting never took place, it didn’t happen. It’s a figment of his imagination or he’s lying.”

Faulkner did her best to clean it up for him:

“What you’re saying now is that there was another meeting that was leaked that has not been made public and — I would assume until now — really described by you in detail that have been three days prior that had done, Donald Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Gates, and possibly two others,” she began. “And that’s the meeting that Michael Cohen says the president knew about ahead of time, but you say the president was not there?”

“No, no,” Giuliani began before immediately contradicting himself.

“I don’t know! All I have is two reporters telling me Cohen told them there was a meeting three days before, with a group of people that I said, and that the president was not there. He didn’t say the president knew about it.”

What a complete and total moron.

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Current Events

The Housing Market in America is Imploding

Big housing markets are showing signs of trouble. From Denver to San Jose to Austin to Portland to Seattle, house prices are slumping, inventories are skyrocketing and economist Robert Shiller (famous for spotting bubbles before they burst) says “This could be the very beginning of a turning point.”

The most reasonable explanation? Housing prices are unsustainably and artificially high and people are declining to participate in the market because of it. Presumably they’re choosing to stay in smaller places, moving away from big cities, or renting in an increasingly monopolized and price-gouging rental market.

Rising interest rates aren’t helping to attract new buyers either.

Add to that the fact that Trump’s massive, super great, never before seen tax cut has resulted in…. wait for it….. wage decreases:

So what happens next? Well, if the bubble bursts, speculators who paid too much for housing will become over-leveraged, in which case they’ll start dumping inventory. That will trigger a cascade of sell-offs which will tank the market altogether. Good thing we have all those financial regulations in place because we learned our lesson during the subprime housing crisis back in 2008.

Oh, the Trump administration and senate republicans have been rolling those back? Cool, cool.

A tanking market is great news for those with loose capital, say the beneficiaries of the recent tax cuts in the US.

 

Existing-home sales dropped in June for a third straight month. Purchases of new homes are at their slowest pace in eight months. Inventory, which plunged for years, has begun to grow again as buyers move to the sidelines, sapping the fuel for surging home values. Prices for existing homes climbed 6.4 percent in May, the smallest year-over-year gain since early 2017, and have gained the least over three months since 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Shares of PulteGroup Inc. fell as much as 4.9 percent Thursday morning after the national homebuilder reported that orders had declined 1 percent from a year earlier, blaming rising mortgage rates.

“Home prices are plateauing,” said Ed Stansfield, chief property economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London. “People are saying: Let’s just bide our time, there’s no great rush. If we wait six or nine months we’re not going to lose out on getting a foot on the ladder.” That means “we’re now looking at a period in which prices move more or less sideways, or increase no more quickly than growth in incomes, over the next few years.”

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Current Events

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Inspires Terror in Conservative Columnist

Colbert does a great job tearing through the ridiculous logic behind a conservative columnists response to attending an Ocasio-Cortez speech.

I love this line:

“Jesus didn’t say – look, I’d heal your leprosy, but you’re out of the network.”

How do we “immunize” the right wing base against some of these ridiculous ideas.

“Healthcare bad! Education bad!”

“War good, more war better!”

Meyers also did a great job addressing the subject:

It boggles my mind that so many low-income people buy into this. It’s one thing to convince someone that they don’t deserve help, but it’s entirely another to have them believe that not receiving help when they need it is a coveted position that they should be proud to have achieved through their own merits, even as they die on a stretcher because all the hospitals within 50 miles have closed because capitalism.

I suppose we also need to remember the Red Scare and McCarthyism. Generations of people were indoctrinated to the idea that socialism is immoral and unworkable. (Of course most of the “unworkable” part came at the hands of the CIA) We jailed people for belonging to a political party. We kept lists of citizens we suspected of being sympathetic to socialist goals and ideals. We did this for decades and we are still suffering from that culture of hate and paranoia created by the military industrial complex wanting to sell more bombs and guns and death.

We did all this while ignoring the simple truth that this nation is and has always been a socialist representative democracy. It’s ignorance and indoctrination that brought us to this point where we can’t do what’s right for the people because we are scared of the word socialism.

It’s also part of believing in the just-world fallacy, often supercharged by religion. It’s a major part of the American conservative’s mindset, affecting their views on a wide range of issues.

On last point. Anyone else notice that the right wing’s biggest boogeyman is Antifa? Think about that for a moment. Their biggest fear is a group of anti fascist people. Isn’t that all we really need to know?

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Current Events Explainer

It’s Obvious, Hackers Changed Votes in the 2016 Election

Evidence Shows Hackers Changed Votes in the 2016 Election But No One Will Admit It, If you haven’t already read Michael Harriot’s story over at The Root, do so now. I’ll wait.

Some stand out bits there:

Around the time of the 21-state breach, a technician at the Center for Election Systems, the Georgia firm that handles the state’s election data, computers and training, found a hole in the election system’s server that would have allowed anyone to download or alter the database that included every voter in the state. He also found PDF files with the instructions, all the passwords and software files for the system that allowed poll workers to verify registered voters.

Isn’t it comforting that state election officials are treating democracy the same way my grandmother treats her Comcast provided email?

The only logical explanation that could possibly explain why Russians did not change votes in Georgia is to somehow believe an international cabal of hackers got into the system, found instructions, voter registrations and passwords to voting machines and yet somehow decided not to do it, just because.

Marks says Georgia’s systems would have been an “ideal” target for Russian hackers because the state doesn’t use a system with a paper trail so there is no way to audit the system. Of course, a diligent eye could have inspected Georgia’s system or compared the saved backups with the hacked server.

But when Marks’ organization sued for data to see whether or not the state’s elections systems had been penetrated, Kennesaw State University, the college that houses the Center for Election Systems, wiped the servers clean.

Then they wiped the servers’ backups clean.

Oh my god. But wait, it gets worse.

At the 2017 Def Con computer security conference, perhaps the biggest gathering of hackers in the world, organizers challenged attendees to hack into a variety of 30 different voting machines used by election officials around the country.

Within 24 hours they hacked every one.

A 16-year-old hacker broke into as ExpressPoll voting machine used by Georgia in 45 minutes. Another cyberhacker showed how he could change votes in the WINvote machine used in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Mississippi, with only a computer, a mouse and a Microsoft Word document, as long as he had the password. But the hacker soon discovered that WINvote machines all had the same password.

The password, which could not be changed, was (you might want to take a deep breath) “abcde.”

Ok, I’ll stop simply block quoting this whole article, because you just need to read the whole damn thing. Simply put, the vulnerability of electronic voting is the quietest scandal going. I don’t have a doubt in my mind that these vulnerabilities were purposely “back doored” into those machines at the behest of the republican party in order to preserve their tyranny of the minority. Making that back door means those machines are vulnerable to any determined attacker, including the Russians. The real pessimist in me believes they’re also there so that if they lose the election they can roll out all these vulnerabilities that “cost them the election” and demand a do-over.

In the early days of the investigation in March 2017, this is how Devin Nunes – yet to be revealed as a Trump stooge – began a line of questioning.

NUNES: Admiral Rogers, first I wanna go to you. On January 6th, 2017, the intelligence community assessment assessing Russian activities and intentions in recent U.S. elections, stated that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.

NUNES: So my question as of today, Admiral Rogers, do you have any evidence that Russia cyber actors changed vote tallies in the state of Michigan?

ROGERS: No I do not, but I would highlight we are a foreign intelligence organization, not a domestic intelligence organization. So it would be fair to say, we are probably not the best organization to provide a more complete answer.

NUNES: How about the state of Pennsylvania?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: The state of Wisconsin?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: State of Florida?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: The state of North Carolina?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: The state of Ohio?

ROGERS: No, sir.

NUNES: So — so you have no intelligence that suggests, or evidence that suggests, any votes were changed?

ROGERS: I have nothing generated by the national security industry, sir.

Weird, huh?

The guy flat out says WE ARE NOT THE ORGANIZATION THAT WOULD KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS and Nunes continues the line of questioning anyway so he can get a soundbyte.

A History of Corruption

And this ain’t new folks. No. Lets take a road-trip back to 2003.

In a fall 2003 fundraising letter sent to Republicans, from e-voting machine maker Diebold CEO Walden O’Dell:

“I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.”

The Diebold name became so toxic they had to change the name of the company. It was run by a Republican to elect Republicans. Surely, things have changed since 2003. Nope, here is a map of the manufacture date of voting machines used by each state:

Back to Georgia for a second. Georgia did all of that after its special election where democratic favorite Ossoff lost in a somewhat surprise upset. What was polled to be a relatively close race turned out to be a 4 point win for Handel. The result didn’t match any exit polls either, more on that in a minute. Not outside of the range of possibility but more than a little suspicious and even if it wasn’t, what happened after definitely was.

A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned.

The server’s data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system.

And Brian Kemp, the guy responsible for the voting machines declined federal money to fix them, and is now running for governor. Just take a listen to this fuckwad:

In Maryland it was found that software running on voting machines was funded by Russian oligarchs. And also backdoor software was installed on voting machines.

Exit Polls

Exit polls have not matched election results in this country since the 2004 election. There’s something about that time-frame. Oh I remember, 2 years before that, a longtime manufacturer of voting equipment called Premier Elections Solutions was acquired by a company called Diebold.

Then, for the first time in history exit polls magically didn’t match the official vote count, especially in the key battleground state of Ohio. Strange. And rather than try to get to the bottom of it, everyone just threw up their hands and said, “golly, I guess exit polls just aren’t reliable anymore.” That conclusion, of course, flying in the face of a hundred plus years of data proving them to be incredibly accurate. Ever since then, media outlets have adjusted their exit polls to match the official vote tally once it is announced. There’s a strong trend in that adjustment, it’s called “red shift,” where the exit polls are to the left of the vote counts. Not fishy at all.

We learned nothing from Bush vs. Gore. And now history repeats itself, because following the 2017 election there have been countless stories trying to explain the inaccuracy of the exit polls. Some going so far as to exclaim 2016 the end of the exit poll. The supposition, flying in the face of all available evidence, being that the inaccuracy lies in the exit poll and not in the election results.

What did the exit polls look like in comparison to the 2016 presidential election results? Take a look for yourself:

And look at that, we just swung an election. You’ll notice that you don’t even have to shove all that hard, with a simple 5 point push in Trump’s favor, easily chalked up to statistical error, the electoral college is secured for the win.

All told, Trump flipped three states with a discrepancy between actual and exit polls greater than the margin of error. And if those ‘miracle’ flips with 5-6 point differences between the exit polls did not occur then Trump would not be President. Those three states are: North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Oh shit, I remember those states. That’s right, their the states Nunes went out of his way getting soundbytes ‘proving’ they weren’t compromised. Interesting… Very, very interesting.

The Law of Large Numbers

Quick math lesson, the law of large numbers is a theorem that describes the result of performing the same experiment a large number of times. According to the law, the average of the results obtained from a large number of trials should be close to the expected value, and will tend to become closer as more trials are performed.

i.e., you flip a coin 5 times and it wouldn’t be weird to get four heads and one tails, but if you flip a coin 50,000 times it would be very strange to get 40,000 heads. 

Vote Sleuth shows on a chart, what the tallies would look like if you hacked an election according to the Law of Large Numbers.

In an unhacked election, the lines of the chart will stay parallel, in a hacked election they’ll cross.

Then check out Florida, and Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Be patient, some of the charts load very slowly! But, they are very worth the wait.

There is considerable evidence that these states were hacked and votes flipped. Probably just another weird coincidence…

Conclusion

PAPER BALLOTS! PAPER BACKUPS!

The republicans (possible with the help of Russians) changed votes in the 2016 election. They’ve done it in every election since 2004.