December 03, 2003,
When someone says "this isn't about money," you can be sure it's all about money. And when Paul Krugman says "there's nothing paranoid about suggesting" something, you can be sure that what he's suggesting is a crackpot conspiracy theory built on lies and innuendo that only a true paranoid could believe.
In his New York Times column Tuesday, Krugman says "there's nothing paranoid about suggesting" that touch-screen voting machines are part of a Republican plot to hijack elections. He sanctimoniously warns, "let's be clear: the credibility of U.S. democracy may be at stake."
The proof? Krugman assembles a crazy-quilt of anecdotal, inaccurate, and highly selective evidence of technical difficulties and security concerns regarding voting machines manufactured by Diebold, Inc. whose CEO, Walden O'Dell, is a major supporter of President Bush.
The purpose? To set the media echo-chamber abuzz with a catchy urban myth to show that the Republican party seeks an America in which, as Krugman says in the introduction to his book, The Great Unraveling, "possibly elections are only a formality."
Krugman starts his latest column by making it seem as though O'Dell has confessed to using Diebold machines to rig elections. He quotes the following from a letter written by O'Dell concerning a Bush fundraiser: "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." Yes, a horrible choice of words for a manufacturer of voting machines and one that O'Dell deeply regrets. The Ohio-based executive told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer,
I'm a pretty experienced business leader, but a real novice on the political side of this ... I can see it now, but I never imagined that people could say that just because you've got a political favorite that you might commit this treasonous felony atrocity to try to change the outcome of an election ... I wouldn't and couldn't.
In the classic ploy of smear journalism in which the victim's statements of self-defense are deliberately minimized, Krugman paraphrases O'Dell's heartfelt regrets as: "he says that he wasn't talking about his business operations."
Next comes the circumstantial evidence: "Georgia where Republicans scored spectacular upset victories in the 2002 midterm elections relies exclusively on Diebold machines." In a Times column less than a month ago, Krugman claimed that Republican "coded racial signals" were responsible for the Georgia upset. Now, it would seem, a better story has come along. As Krugman Truth Squad member James DiBenedetto notes on his Eleven Day Empire blog, Krugman is now arguing that only ballot fraud could explain "how people could actually... gasp! ... vote Republican, even though he KNOWS how evil and terrible and bad they are and he's been telling us so for years."
Is there any actual evidence of ballot fraud? No. But in another classic smear ploy, the very fact that there is no evidence is itself cited as evidence. Krugman writes that "there is no evidence that the machines miscounted. But there is also no evidence that the machines counted correctly."
Krugman then goes on to raise various concerns about Diebold's technology and corporate behavior. "The details are technical," he begins, which is the smear journalist's way of saying, "I don't really understand all the facts, but here's a bunch of stuff that seems to support my prejudices." Krugman continues,
Early this year Bev Harris, who is writing a book on voting machines, found Diebold software which the company refuses to make available for public inspection, on the grounds that it's proprietary on an unprotected server, where anyone could download it. (The software was in a folder titled "rob-Georgia.zip.")
My investigations confirm that a Diebold server was indeed unprotected for a period a mistake that has been addressed, according to documents provided by David Bear, a Diebold Election Systems, Inc., spokesperson with whom I spoke yesterday. But there is still much in these two sentences that deserves scrutiny.
First, according to Bear's documents, while Diebold software may not be available for public inspection, it is tested both by an independent lab and by outside experts appointed by client states such as Georgia.
Second, Krugman parenthetically mentions the folder name "rob-Georgia.zip." Why mention the name at all except, obviously, to imply by innuendo that the software's purpose was to "rob Georgia" that is, to steal the Georgia election? Yet ex officio Krugman Truth Squad member Doug Augustin points out that, according to Bev Harris herself, "rob" actually refers to Rob Behler, a contract technician working for Diebold, for whom the file was intended.
Krugman continues by asserting that "An analysis of Diebold software by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice Universities found it both unreliable and subject to abuse." Krugman fails to mention that Avi Rubin, the computer scientist who led the Johns Hopkins analysis team, has confessed that he held stock options in VoteHere Inc., a Diebold competitor, and was a member of VoteHere's advisory board. Hmmm ... funny how Krugman always seems to forget to mention those advisory-board relationships.
Krugman adds, "A later report commissioned by the state of Maryland apparently reached similar conclusions." In the smear-journalist's lexicon, "apparently" means "has not." In reality, the report prepared by SAIC for the Maryland Department of Budget and Management reached completely opposite conclusions, resulting in the state's decision to purchase $55.6 million of Diebold's equipment. Indeed, an appendix to the report features 29 pages of differences with Avi Rubin's report. The appendix begins,
... SAIC reached many different conclusions. Indeed, Professor Rubin states repeatedly in his paper that he does not know how the system operates in an election and he further identifies the assumptions that he used to reach his conclusions. In those cases where these assumptions concerning operational or management controls were incorrect, the resultant conclusions were, unsurprisingly, also incorrect.
Krugman adds this weasely hedge in his Tueday column: "It's hard to be sure because the state released only a heavily redacted version." Well, we can only imagine how many more differences the report would have found if its appendix had not been redacted to a mere 29 pages.
Krugman doesn't stop with Diebold. Of course, he brings up the infamous 2000 Florida presidential election that wellspring of so many beloved liberal myths citing the "'felon purge' that inappropriately prevented many citizens from voting in the 2000 presidential election." But according to Peter Kirsanow, a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights who wrote a piece on the subject for National Review Online in October,
In fact, an exhaustive study by the Miami Herald concluded that "the biggest problem with the felon list was not that it prevented eligible voters from casting ballots, but that it ended up allowing ineligible voters to cast a ballot." According to the Palm Beach Post, more than 6,500 ineligible felons voted.
And while we're on the subject of Republican conspiracies, Krugman just can't resist reminding us that Republican "Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently announced that one of his aides had improperly accessed sensitive Democratic computer files that were leaked to the press."
Krugman fails to mention, however, exactly what those leaked "sensitive Democratic computer files" contained. It turns out they were horrifically embarrassing staff memoranda revealing the hand-in-glove strategic partnership between Democratic senators and various lobbying organizations dedicated to blocking President Bush's judicial nominees (according to one memo, "most of Bush's nominees are nazis"). And according to yesterday's Wall Street Journal, there wasn't even anything "improper" about the aide's access to the files. They were all just sitting on a shared server set up by Democratic senator Pat Leahy's IT staff a server, it seems, just like the one Diebold used.
Why is economist Paul Krugman spinning such palpably paranoid conspiracy theories about voting technology on the op-ed page of America's "newspaper of record"? For one thing, the Truth Squad has him on the run. In three of his last seven columns he's been forced to deal with errors, lies, and other issues raised by the Squad. In fact, his self-defenses have become so frequent and so obvious that his colleague Alex Beam, in a column last week for the Times-owned Boston Globe, wondered "Does Paul Krugman Have a Personality Disorder?" and advised him to "Take the chill pill and put the energy to better use."
And heaven only knows Krugman can't write about the economy anymore not with the Bush boom putting the lie to his partisan pessimism with the almost daily release of each new and fabulous economic statistic. Last week on CNBC, Krugman was so mortified by the upward revision of third quarter gross domestic product to a sizzling 8.2 percent, that it was all he could do to stammer out an English-language sentence on the economy:
Um, it's definitely an upturn, I mean, uh you can't, uh, you know I, what do you say? It looks good. Um, it doesn't look great yet. ... But, uh, it's a lot better than I expected. I think it's better really than anyone expected. ... look, um this, it really wasn't about the short-term business cycle. It's it's the long-term budget deficit. ... But look, it's it's it's better, and I've got relatives looking for jobs, and and, you know, this is good. Better.
When that was all done, host Brian Williams said,
We've been identifying you as we've been talking as "'The Great Unraveling' Author" and the punctuation should have been "Author comma 'The Great Unraveling.'"
No, it was right the first time.