Initially, I thought this was a brilliant trolling piece by The Onion but no, it’s just Putin being Putin.
As if the American election process isn’t Byzantine enough with local, state, and federal rules and regulations, we have multiple ways of collecting, tallying, and reporting votes in 9,000 jurisdictions throughout the United States including optical scan, direct recording electronic systems (DRE), ballot marking devices, and punch card voting systems, early voting, absentee voting, and provisional ballots.
According to the NYT, the Obama administration is weighing new steps to bolster the security of the voting process against cyberthreat, “including whether to designate the electronic ballot-casting system for November’s elections as “critical infrastructure”, said Jeh Johnson, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.
Concerns about electronic voting aren’t new, of course, but overt cyberattacks are increasing. While the origins of the various attacks, including the DNC and OPM aren’t officially confirmed, there’s no denying the uptick in hacking decidedly unsecure and outdated computers and software.
Remember the 2000 presidential election and our obsession with hanging chads? A national commission was created in 2002 and Congress allocated more than $3 billion USD in grants to help officials upgrade voting processes and equipment. “But there is more to do,” said Johnson and “we should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process is critical infrastructure, like the financial sector, like the power grid.”
Is declaring the U.S. electronic ballot-casting systems as “critical infrastructure” an overreaction by the Feds? Great piece by Politico explaining that to date, there is not a singular national body that regulates the security on Election Day as it’s a process decided state-by-state. Technical standards for voting are created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Election Assistance Commission but the guidelines are not mandatory. That’s right – the security of your vote is based on voluntary standards.
A review of polling machines shows aging voting technologies impacting the majority of America including but not limited to the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Expect election cybersecurity concerns to escalate while the clock ticks down to November 8th.
I’ve leave it for others to dissect the politics of the Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio and focus on the important stuff: fashion. From the kitsch of Trump socks juxtaposed with the show-stopping Roksanda dress worn by Melania Trump to Stephen Colbert’s very sparkly red, white, and blue attire, a look at convention couture over the past few days.
Full disclosure: be assured, the Dems in Philly will get their runway review next week.
Image by EPA
T minus one week to Cleveland, two weeks until Philly, and 120 days to Election Day.
Little known fact: “Cleveland Rocks”, most famously sung by The Presidents of the United States of America and the theme song for “The Drew Carey Show”, was written by British singer-songwriter, Ian Hunter. The song was first released in 1977 under the title “England Rocks” on a single in the United Kingdom, predating the release of the “Cleveland” version by two years.
Why does Cleveland matter? From July 18-21, it’s home to the 2016 GOP Convention where Donald J. Trump is expected to be officially nominated/sanctioned as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidential election on November 8th.
And on that note, I need to find my credentials and riot gear. See you there!
Convo with my dad: “Britain can’t leave the European Union. Look at the cover – the first two words on my passport! What does this all mean?”
Me: “It’ll take about two years before the UK formally leaves the EU. You can use your current passport in the meantime and eventually, we’ll get new ones.”
Indeed but what does it all mean?
A great summary by Alastair Macdonald responds to the top five questions about leaving the EU:
1. Time frame: Approximately two (2) years before the economic and trade divorce is finalized;
2. Economic Council: Remaining members of the EU hustle to find a way to deal with the loss of 1/5 of the EU economy as well as the global and military clout;
3. Article 50: The break-up clause of the Lisbon Treaty. Invoke it or just say “I break with thee three times and throw dog poop on their shoes” ala Steve Martin;
4. EU: Now that the UK has said “adieu” to the EU, the goal is to find new members and fill that 7-billion euro hole in the budget;
5. Right here; right now: For now, nothing changes. Britons remain EU citizens and business continues with the caveat that we’re in unchartered territory including the potential for Scotland to make another attempt for independence and join the EU on their own.
In some ways, this reminds me of the Trump dynamics in the States. Many parts of the UK, especially post WW2, have not experienced or shared in the economic prosperity afforded London as the financial hub of Britain.
Loss of jobs, anger at immigrants, and fear of terrorism are tremendous motivators re: nationalism. “Make [insert country here] Again!”
Plenty of lessons to be learned ahead of the U.S. Presidential general election on November 8, 2016.
Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese general, military strategist, and author of The Art of War: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is noise before defeat.”
Tina Fey, actress, writer, and author of Bossypants: “Politics and prostitution have to be the only jobs where inexperience is considered a virtue. In what other profession would you brag about not knowing stuff? “I’m not one of those fancy Harvard heart surgeons. I’m just an unlicensed plumber with a dream and I’d like to cut your chest open.” The crowd cheers.”
American politics continue to bubble and boil in the summer heat while counting down to the general election in November. Across the Atlantic and just weeks away, Britain will vote whether or not to stay in the 28-nation European Union, also referred to as the “Brexit” referendum a/k/a British exit on June 23, 2016.
Issues on the table include the economy, jobs, trade, immigration, national security, and its status within Europe. For the Brits, this vote is a game-changer for the nation and the world as greater Europe fails to find a solution regarding the refugee crisis, increased terrorism across the Continent, and a protracted economic recovery.
In a quirky twist of fate, I have the opportunity to vote in this election and like most life events, it comes with a soundtrack and in this case, The Clash’s ode to indecision, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” does the trick.
For my American friends, a quick tutorial to explain the complicated pros and cons of this relationship or to quote Joe Strummer, “If I go, there will be trouble and if I stay, it will be double.”
Photo by AFP | September 2014 | UK
Cybersecurity has been in the news lately ranging from Iranian hackers gaining access to a dam in upstate New York, ransomware against the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, data breaches involving federal agencies including OPM and the IRS, as well as private companies such as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Home Depot, and Target to name a few.
While humans are accountable for most of the hacks, the U.S. government continues to do battle with elusive creatures which repeatedly attack the nation’s infrastructure and power supply: Sciurus carolinensis a/k/a the common grey squirrel.
“I don’t think paralysis [of the electrical grid] is more likely by cyberattack than by natural disaster. And frankly the number-one threat experienced to date by the US electrical grid is squirrels,” said John C. Inglis, former Deputy Director, National Security Agency.
To date, more than 700 power outages can be directly attributed to the horribly adorable furry rodent followed by a smattering of attacks by birds, raccoons, and snakes.
Mind you, they’re also causing the near extinction of the UK red squirrel but that’s for a different post.
Not to be outdone, an errant weasel or marten brought down the world’s largest particle accelerator known as CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, located near Geneva, Switzerland. The decidedly singed creature apparently chewed through the wiring and took out CERN for at least a week.
Admittedly, this is not the first time an animal has brought CERN to a halt. In 2009, a bird “accidentally” dropped a baguette on the electrical system resulting in a slight disruption of service. Unlike the weasel, the bird survived.
Who needs cyberbombs when a squirrel will do?
And the countdown continues…
The U.S. presidential campaign and March Madness remind me of two things: it’s seemingly taking forever and a bracket buster for a lot of folks.
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich remain in the GOP primary race vs. Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. No impending debates for the Republicans and according to the DNC, a ninth (9th) debate is scheduled in April
but no word re: date or venue.. Update: Get ready to rumble as Hillary and Bernie debate in Brooklyn, New York on April 14, 2016.
What is confirmed is the lucrative star power for Hillary Clinton’s campaign as George and Amal Clooney attend a series of fundraising events on April 15th and 16th. For two seats at the head table with Clinton and the Clooneys, a couple must contribute or raise $353,400 followed by another dinner, this time at Clooney’s mansion in Los Angeles where a ticket costs $33,400 per person to dine at the same table as the hosts.
Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders billed the events as “obscene” and quick to point out he was not against George Clooney but rather a “corrupt campaign finance system… undue influence on the political process.” The fundraisers take place less than two months before the crucial Democratic primary on June 7 in California, where 475 delegates are at stake.
A quick primer: in order to win the respective party’s nomination, hopefuls need to solidify the support of the delegates based on primaries and caucuses governed by rules that varies from state to state.
Democrats need 2383 delegates
Republicans need 1237 delegates
For the latest tally, take a look at an interactive delegate tracker by Politico and as you can tell, it’s a long slog to the finishing line.
Typically, the national party conventions (DNC/RNC) are de facto and don’t offer a lot of surprises. Political historians will note skirmishes here and there but over all, it’s been pretty low-key.
That was then, this is now.
Cleveland, Ohio is ramping up for the Republican National Convention in July followed by the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both cities have been awarded $50 million USD in federal grants for security measures which includes 2,000 sets of riot gear and bringing in law enforcement from around the country.
A few dates of note:
April 03: North Dakota Republican convention
April 05: Wisconsin primary
April 09: Wyoming Democratic caucus
April 19: New York primary
April 26: Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island primaries
Side note: while candidates vie for the top office, the current occupant, U.S. President Barack Obama, is wheels up for another round of good-will visits in late April. According to Reuters, he’s attending a summit with leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations, which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
In Britain, Obama will meet with Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron before moving on to Germany, where he will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
On the global agenda: terrorism, brexit, and technology.
And the countdown continues…