5 Minute International Update 02/21/2013

Several thousand people came out yesterday to protest the results of the Feb. 18th election in Armenia. President Serzh Sarkisian won re-election with 58.6 % of the vote. OSCE called this election an “improvement” but was not “genuinely competitive”.

Syria reports 53 dead and more than 200 wounded in a Damascus car bombing this morning. 18 were also killed in a government airstrike over a field hospital in Daraa.

12 killed in twin bomb blasts in southern India, this is the first major bomb attack in India since Sept. 2011.

In Tunisia, former Prime Minister and secretary general have declined to start a new coalition government; Also Interior ministry say large quantities of weapons and explosives were found in a town near the capital, 13 have been arrested, the area has had clashes with Salafis (conservative muslims)

Well-known Tajik activist Bakhito Sattori was stabbed in Moscow but he survived

Indian police are searching for men who raped and killed 3 sisters, between the ages of 5 – 11

A new fee on the Kazakhstan border has held up 100 trucks from Kyrgyzstan; the fee is about 10 cents per kilogram, this is part of the customs union between Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia, part of Russia’s efforts to create a Eurasian Union (by 2015).

Palestinian protestors continue to stage protests along the West Bank and antagonize Israeli soldiers. The protests are to show solidarity with the 4,500 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel

Another suspect has been detained in Russia after the death of city-council deputy Mikhail Pakhomov whose body was found in a barrel full of cement, he supposedly owed $80 million to his killers

Iran’s former intelligence minister, Ali Fallahian, wanted by Interpol is considering a run for President, he is suspected for involvement in the bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish center, though he espouses wanting to stop nuclear development and improving ties with the US

Hezbollah member on trial for attacking Israelis in Cyprus denies any group plans, claims to act “alone”

A new computer game called “My Cotton Picking Life” is about child labor in Uzbekistan

Yemen separatists and police got into a shootout during a celebration of the country’s presidential election – 2 dead

Gunmen killed 8 Indonesian soldiers, believed to be part of a separtists group in the region

In Kenta, armed men opened fire at a mosque, killing 7 people, 2 weeks before the election there

Obama announced anti-cyber theft efforts, it includes better “coordination at home to help companies protect themselves”, applying diplomatic pressure to foreign leaders, promoting “best practices” at home, beginning a public awareness campaign, reviewing American laws for weakness

Russian guy caught cheating dude to a Russian version of Google maps, Yandex

Security of CPAC Straw Poll Not A Huge Concern

CPAC 2012 rolled out an electronic straw poll for the first time during this year’s convention. The technology had a test run at the Florida CPAC event in 2011. CPAC’s official pollster, Tony Fabrizio called the previous system of paper ballots “cumbersome” during the Press Tech Briefing regarding the straw poll.

Data Security by Jon McGovern

The new electronic straw poll works like this: each registrant receives a unique pin which they put into the website. Once the pin has been entered, it cannot be used again, and once a question is answered the registrant cannot go back. The pins are one time only.

The press briefing centered more on a joint initiative with the Washington Times who is conducting a poll among self-identified conservative voters, asking them the same questions as those found in the CPAC Straw Poll. The responses will be released at the same time as the Straw Poll results for an “interesting comparison”.

However, ACU left the question of security mostly untouched. When asked about how secure the electronic polling process was, Tony Fabrizio reiterated the unique pin process. “You can go to it and see the url but you can’t access it without a pin that is verified.” He laughed off the idea of any hacking attempts. Fabrizio said the only way to break into the site would be to sit in front of a computer and just guess random numbes.  He also noted that the site was “encrypted” but gave no further details. He compared the security to the kind used for consumer surveys. Fabrizio promised that if a “Ukrainian hacker” attempted to break into the site the press would be the first to know.

Fabrizio is right, there isn’t much threat from a Ukrainian hacker, but a Ron Paul supporter from Portland is a much more credible possibility. This is nothing new; tech-tuned Paul supporters have been breaking into online polls for years. It’s easy to run a number sequencing program to look for acceptable pins (how do you think early hackers found accessible phone lines? Running a program that just dialed every number until one connected).  Nothing was said about how many possible pins can get into the site and how many were actually given out at CPAC, that discrepancy could leave multiple verified pins available. There was also no mention of any lock-out protocols, such as how erroneous pins could be entered before locking someone out.

Plenty of “encrypted” sites are broken into every day. So, what level of encryption is actually being used at CPAC? While ACU may have waved off the question of security, the issue is very real. CPAC’s straw poll draws huge headlines and would be worth tweaking the vote for. The bigger question, if CPAC or other organizations want to use this electronic polling model in the future, real technical details should be released about how secure the process truly is. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if Ron Paul manages to win the CPAC2012 Straw Poll.

Predictions for 2012/2016

This might be my last comment on the horse race.

Image by Ukanda

Without a Captain Republican, we lose. Therefore the outcome of 2012 looks inevitable.

A loss in 2012 will have one of two results:

  1. The candidate choices will improve in 2016. No one will need to run against Obama and his machine. The new tea-party favorites will have a few years of experience. Obama’s policies will be in full-swing and easier to counter. This should lead us to a candidate who truly embodies our conservative values. Once we find that candidate, we will win.


  1. We repeat 2012. We look for a perfect candidate and come up short. Our high standards get the best of us, and the search for the flawless Republican becomes hopeless. We lose to the invisible Democrat. We are forced to seriously re-evaluate our party and our principles or face certain oblivion.

Captain Republican: The Perfect Candidate

No one could predict how the Republican Primaries would go. It’s as if each state has decided to completely ignore early year projections from the professionals and derail the process, just to be difficult.

I think I have finally figured out why conservatives keep playing “gotcha” with the primaries instead of settling down and selecting one candidate. Not one of them reflects how Republicans see themselves. In fact, each candidate seems to reflect just one aspect of the perfect Republican nominee. It’s like each candidate represents one of the 4 elements. Or better yet, one power in a Saturday morning cartoon series. But with our powers combine, we make CAPTAIN REPUBLICAN.

Chart by Katrina Rice

When early polls showed “generic Republican” beating Obama, that’s exactly what we wanted: the generic Republican. Instead we have just one extreme element battling against another. Family values don’t outweigh business experience; most conservatives reflect both in their personal life. So why can’t our candidate? Is it too much to ask for a Superman? Isn’t that the point of a President: someone who embodies all the greatness of America as we envision it? Or is it impossible to find a Captain Republican?

I think that this primary proves that Republicans won’t be satisfied until that hero appears. We’ll continue to struggle with finding a substitute. We’re left electing a Robin when we really need a Batman. Republicans don’t have an identity crisis; they have a crisis of standards. We’ve set the bar (impossibly?) high. This internal conflict will probably cost us the election in 2012.

Romney Wins Florida, Loses America

Photo by Aaron Webb

My experiences during the Florida Primary left me doubting a Republican win for the Presidency. This morning, Romney reassumed his role as the inevitable nominee. Newspapers called it his “Big Win” in Florida. Taking 41% of the vote in the Sunshine state, with a close Iowa and New Hampshire in the bag, his victory in the primaries does look more likely than any of the competing candidates. But a win in the White House might not be in the cards.

Romney took off hi nice-guy face in Florida, throwing himself and all his money into an unabashedly negative campaign. And like my mother says, “You can’t drag someone through the mud unless you’re already down there yourself.” The ads in Florida were brutal and constant, bombarding voters with twists, speculation and outright lies, from all sides.

Palin told Fox News that this kind of campaigning hurts the image of the Republican Party. “A lot of that negativity didn’t paint the party and cause in very attractive colors. I think that hurts the electorate, diminishes the energy to head into a general. Hopefully everybody will start to focus on what is important as we go forward.” It turns off Independents and Republicans alike and gives fuel to the opposition. (Don’t think the Democrats aren’t taking notes.) And it might have been this behavior that will hand Obama the presidency.

Despite Romney’s flaws, before yesterday, I would have said Romney was still electable. In the end, conservatives would vote for whoever had an R behind his name just to get rid of Obama. But this morning, my confidence is badly shaken. As I stood outside my polling location yesterday, I got the first wave of doubt. A group of Gingrich supporters had gathered to wave signs. They confided to me, “I just can’t vote for Mitt.” The reasons varied from his behavior in Florida (a strong contributing factor), to Romneycare, to his inconsistencies as a conservative, to overall electability. They told me they would consider protest voting for an independent or maybe not voting at all. Only a handful responded that they would absolutely vote Republican no matter who won the nomination.

These answers surprised me. But then, after Romeny’s numbers started coming in, I saw the response from my conservative connections online. Paul, Gingrich, Santorum and none-of-the-above supporters slammed my Twitter/Facebook/Blog feeds with anger and resentment. Many of these people came right out and said they would do the same as my sign-waving friends: not vote for Mitt, one way or another. Instead of the Big-Tent Republican feeling, they swore revenge on the Party by refusing to vote for a candidate they couldn’t believe in.

There aren’t numbers on this reaction. The numbers we do have, look like this: Romney won Florida, but over half of voters wouldn’t put him on the ballot. Romney topped at just over 40%. And a little over 50,000 Republicans (about 3%) didn’t even vote for a candidate still officially running. The overall turn out in Florida was depressingly low, with only 40% voting, the majority of Republicans didn’t even bother.

This leads me to believe that Romney’s victory for America looks farfetched and many Republicans will choose to sit at home rather than vote for him. I don’t have a poll to back up this claim, I’m basing it off of what I heard from connections in my town, my state, my organizations and my political party, and what I heard came through loud and clear: “We won’t vote Romney.”

Welcome to another 4 years of Obama; reset 2016.