Voter Suppression – Part 4

I’m taking a look at states that have been both Democrat strongholds of late as well as states that have had a history of being at the front of voter rights movements. I’m doing this just to be thorough and to see if any states are expanding their voter rolls by large numbers.

As it turns out, there is good news, especially from Massachusetts. But I’ll start in California. That state does have problems, but it’s in the area of bureaucracy and minor areas that affect tens of thousands, as opposed to the millions I’ve chronicled Republican Parties in Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio disenfranchising. And while I will agree with criticisms that polling places need to be opened, not closed and that election dates should not be moved to accommodate interest groups AND that mail-in ballots need to not be rejected because the signature and the ballot are not in English, those are nowhere near the level of deliberately targeting hundreds of thousands of Blacks and depriving them of their votes.

When I look up voter suppression in California, Oregon, Hawaii, and Illinois, those are the stories I see: basically, “we can and SHOULD do better!” I agree wholeheartedly.

Voter suppression searches for Washington State turned up how their system of mail-in ballots has worked extremely well. A search for “voter suppression Vermont” unearths a host of articles written by Vermonters about how awful voter suppression is in other states. Same for Connecticut. Maine, which has a mixed-party situtation, is similar. Rhode Island has a variation on the above states in that Republicans are trying to sue the state for being too permissive with its mail-in voting. Delaware has a story similar to Rhode Island: while the state is very progressive with voting rights, Republicans are trying to challenge those rights in court.

“Voter suppression Colorado” gives articles about their anger over postal system interference from Trump’s cronies and how upset they are over Trump telling people in North Carolina to vote twice.

“Voter suppression Maryland” does bring up a set of articles protesting Republican governor Hogan’s policy to make it more restrictive on mail-in voting this year. While not a concerted voter purge campaign, I do wonder if this is the thin end of the wedge. If so, it should be beaten back, especially in this year of pandemic.

Back to happier news, “voter suppression Minnesota” shows a state that’s vibrant in its efforts to expand the franchise, with particular barbs for backsliding Wisconsin. SPOILER: Wisconsin is called “The Alabama of the North”, as I’ll discuss in a future article in this series.

“Voter suppression New Hampshire” was a bit of a shock – but then I see that that state is more Republican-dominated than the rest of the Northeast. Ah, I thought, that explains all the articles about unreasonable NH voter registration laws being struck down, along with Republican-led efforts to suppress student and youth voters. Here I am, trying to do a survey of states where I think voter suppression isn’t as horrific as elsewhere in the USA, and this one stands out like a sore thumb – and I see the Republican Party dominance in the legislature. This is a national thing for Republicans, no question about it in my mind. I had a strong suspicion as I started this series, but the data give me a deep pit in my stomach about whether or not I think there’s any salvaging that party from its pro-white supremacist impact.

New York shows a state in conflict with itself, as upstate Republicans push measures to limit the voting strength of urban Democrats – and the targets are pretty much the usual group of young voters, Black voters, and Hispanic voters. The laws get passed when the Republicans are in power and are blocked from repeal when the Republicans are in opposition, with strength enough in at least one legislative house.

When I looked at a mixed-to-Republican chart of Pennsylvania state political control, I thought to myself, “I bet there’s some voter suppression going on there!” Sure enough, I see articles about Republicans pushing to purge 800,000 names from the rolls. That disgusts me, because I know which voters they will be. Reading denials makes my disgust stronger, because everywhere else the Republican Party launches a voter purge, since they started doing those nationally in 1964, has targeted Black, Hispanic, and youth voters. There’s zero reason to think Pennsylvania would be any different.

Whereas, in the Democratic-run stronghold of liberty Massachusetts, the news is about how they’ve got 700,000 MORE voters. That’s just awesome, and shows what can be done when we encourage the spirit of voting rights in the nation. I want to savor that moment before I tally up my findings from today…

… OK, ready for the total. Of the 17 states I surveyed, expecting to see fair-to-good news about voter suppression, 13 of them had either suppression issues in the tens of thousands or less – with Massachusetts standing out with its registration efforts. 4 of the states had bad news. In all of those 4 states, it was the Republican Party that was pushing to strip voters of their rights. The voter suppression issue isn’t one of “everyone is doing it”. It’s a story of the Republican Party taking states that used to have strong voting rights and attacking those very rights, particularly for Blacks and Hispanics.

And if Blacks and Hispanics can’t vote, that leaves the Whites… with supremacy. That is not the nation I want to live in, but that’s the nation the Republican Party is dead-set on delivering.

Voter Suppression – Part 3

For this part of the series, I’m moving north to look at Ohio. Ohio has been a stronghold for Republicans since before the Civil War, with only infrequent periods of Democratic state leadership. So, unlike the states south of the Ohio River, the Jim Crow Laws in Ohio were enacted by Republicans and overturned under a period of Democratic state leadership, followed by further overturns with a Republican state leadership. When Ohio passed laws in 1953 that marked a move towards segregation and racial inequality, it was under a predominantly Republican administration.

To be fair, Civil Rights leaders like B.W. Arnett were members of the Ohio Republican Party and were very vocal in the fight for rights. I don’t want to lose sight of that. But I also don’t want to lose sight of the fight within the party over Civil Rights and how that has shaped over time. Arnett’s day was back when McKinley was president. How have things changed in the 120 intervening years?

If you’re Black in Ohio, generally for the worse. Especially recently, after the Husted v APRI ruling.

Husted came down in 2018. The defendant in the case was one Jon Husted, the Republican Secretary of State for Ohio. He had removed about half a million voters from the rolls in 2016, using methods that went directly against the NVRA of 1993. That is to say, his criteria for removing a voter included failure to vote in an election.

The APRI, plaintiff in the case, is the A. Philip Randolph Institute, named for one of the most effective crusaders for civil rights in the USA. Randolph was the organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who were able to cross the nation and coordinate civil rights efforts. They’re the ones who organized and paid for the 1963 March on Washington.

APRI’s lawsuit was over Husted’s removal of 426,781 voters in 2016, following a larger purge of voters after Obama’s re-election in 2012, totaling over 1,000,000 voters in Ohio. All of these, Husted claimed had moved out of Ohio, in spite of demographic evidence much to the contrary of such a mass exodus. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the APRI because Husted’s move was a clear violation of the NVRA – and that it nakedly targeted Blacks made it all the more egregious.

But, states are allowed to appeal up to the Supreme Court automatically, and the Republican-dominated Court found a way to rule in favor of Husted. This being the same court that gave us Citizens United and the Shelby ruling that dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Republicans returned a verdict that struck to the core of the NVRA.

The dissenting opinions called out that 1 million voters was 13% of Ohio’s voting population and that the way that those voters ere from Black-majority neighborhoods was particularly troubling to them. 10% of Black voters were removed, but only 4% of Whites lost their votes.

Alito’s majority opinion simply argued that the APRI had failed to demonstrate concretely that the removed voters had *not* moved.

With a ruling that defied logic and Civil Rights, the Husted case opened up a legal route for other Republican governors to disenfranchise Black voters. Kemp in Georgia was the first to take advantage, followed by Arizona, Michigan, Florida, and other Republican-dominated states. Millions of Black voters have lost their vote because the Republican Party sees to it that enemies of Civil Rights get put on the federal bench, when they get a chance to make appointments.

Even though methods of address list hygiene used by the mass-mail industry are available and highly accurate, the Republicans continue to use inaccurate methods that disproportionately target Black voters when they are applied.

And when a story ran in The New York Times in 2019 about how 40,000 voters had had their votes restored in Ohio, the article failed to do a demographic summary of those voters whose votes were *not* restored: two of every three of those were Democrats. I’ll add that the story itself was wrong to focus on voters that hadn’t been purged – the story should have been that a purge was going on in the first place!

This is the third of three states I’ve looked at with a Republican-dominated state government that has systematically suppressed African-American voting rights. It may not have as rich and deep a Jim Crow past as the Deep South states, but it has one. Sadly, rather than embrace the ideals of the great B.W. Arnett, the Ohio Republican Party has copied George Wallace, as evidenced in Ohio State Senator Steve Huffman, who tried to put a racist framework around COVID-19 infection rates.

I’ll look to another Northern Republican state for my next article in this series, because Ohio is by no means isolated.

Voter Suppression – Part 2

Today, I want to look at Alabama. That state had full Democrat control up through 1986, and only in 1996 did that state’s Democratic Party remove the racist rooster symbol. It didn’t have full Republican control of all major state offices until 2010… but that doesn’t mean the Alabama Democrats were pushing a progressive agenda up until 2010.

The key was George Wallace’s control of the party up until the end of his last governor’s term in 1986. Even when the national party structure pressed Alabama’s state party to become desegregationist, Wallace kept it in that camp. Alabama has had a history of being one of the toughest states to both successfully register to vote and then to actually use that vote. From 1969 to 2013, over 100 proposed changes to Alabama voting law were challenged over violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But in 2013, the Roberts Supreme Court heard Shelby County v Holder and made a ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The VRA required states with a history of voter discrimination to pre-clear any changes in voting law with the federal government. The Shelby County ruling dismantled that preclearance provision. Since 2013, Alabama has introduced measures that absolutely target Black voters, even though it’s possible to make pie-in-the-sky comments about the possible virtues of such measures. The impact of stronger voter ID laws, closure of drivers’s license offices in predominantly Black counties, requiring proof of citizenship to vote, closure of polling places, voter purge measures, and making an unpublicized change to the felony disenfranchisement law all combine to apply massive pressures on Black voters in Alabama. These measures both raise barriers to registration along with nullifying those very registrations through underhanded means.

In short, when the politicians of Alabama could no longer deny the vote to Blacks over poll taxes and literacy tests, they came up with new methods to deny those voters their rights. When the pressure from the national Democratic Party became too strong for the segregationists in the Alabama Democrats to resist, they joined the Republican Party and carried on with their work to further segregationism. Wallace’s famous quote, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” is still their byword. Although Wallace declined to align with any party in his later years, his son switched to the Republican Party in 1992.

Please note that while it was Democrat politicians that put the structure of Jim Crow into place, it is the Alabama Republican Party that is fighting to keep it in place. Because of the challenge in the Shelby County case, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is essentially shelved for the whole of the South. Just as the Republicans made the Corrupt Bargain of 1877 to receive national power at the cost of civil rights for Blacks, the Shelby County ruling was a gift from the Republican-majority Supreme Court to the segregationists not just in the South, but in the nation as a whole. In exchange for gifts like that, white supremacists have a vested interest in preserving Republican power. Because the Republican Party has either failed or struggled to get a majority of the popular vote in the last 3 presidential elections, it *needs* those white supremacists, both their votes and their tactics, in order to hold that power.

The lack of pre-clearance means that restrictive voting measures can be put into place and then inflict their effects on minority voters as the court challenges continue. Having pre-clearance meant that minority voters could continue to cast votes as court challenges over proposed laws proceeded apace. Moreover, states with a history of voter suppression may now continue that history without any regard for legal impact.

So let’s go through that history…

The 1901 Alabama law that included a long list of offences that stripped a voter for life included pretty much all felonies, but also crimes involving “moral turpitude” and then left that term undefined. Basically, an undefined term means just about anything can be made to match that requirement – so people guilty of being in an interracial relationship could be stripped of their votes for life. That law was challenged in 1980 by two potential voters – excluded because they had misdemeanor convictions for bouncing checks – and the Rehnquist Court upheld the challenge, noting that the law was targeting Blacks.

In 1996, Alabama changed its law and re-introduced that vague term. Because of that, and that it has been inconsistently applied to be disproportional in its effects on Black voters, 7% of Alabama’s voting age population can’t vote. That translates to 15% of all the Black voters in the state. Even though Alabama passed a law in 2017 to define “moral turpitude” – because of yet another court challenge – the Alabama Secretary of State so far has not taken steps to notify people affected by that change.

Combined with a history of discriminatory law enforcement, laws that disenfranchise as a result of contact with a racially-biased justice system are in no way race-neutral in their intent or application. Add to it a complicated system that requires a person to petition to be reinstated to vote under the 2017 law, and you have a situation where a normal person living paycheck to paycheck is not going to be able to afford the legal advice necessary to navigate the process. What do you put down as the offense you were convicted of if you have to be specific as to the degree? What if the offense definition/title has changed in its legal definition since you were convicted? What do you do when there’s a clerical error in processing the reinstatement? When other states restore the right to vote automatically, Alabama’s maintenance of a law that keeps Blacks from voting is definitely part of fulfilling Wallace’s declaration.

Alabama also has vague laws on how polling places operate, with further vagueness about training and supervising election officials, which allows for various officials to easily dodge responsibility when things go wrong – so that means things can and will go wrong without punishment, like when a registrar in Russell County in 2019 told people it was OK to register using a business address. Alabama got sued in 2012 for failure to provide ballots to overseas residents – a violation of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. In that case, the state argued that it was a *county* responsibility to get those ballots out… but there are different processes for handling elections in each of Alabama’s 67 counties, so would that argument really be the best one to make?

And if you want to look at public records of voting in Alabama, good luck with that. Its Open Records Act is one of the most tightly written in all the Deep South states – Alabama wants to keep its public matters secret, it seems. And, yes, this all has a Democratic legacy, but remember that those segregationists are now registered as Republicans, by and large, and it’s the current Republican administration that’s holding the line on segregation forever. If a public official fails to hand over a record as required by law, the challenger must then sue and bear the costs of the court in the process. Alabama also has fewer public meetings than other states, so those minutes and records from the board of elections are non-existent as public records go. And because one of those public records is the State Voter File, this is a big deal.

One needs that State Voter File to check against discrimination. In Georgia, it can be had for $250. In North Carolina, it is free. In Alabama, it costs $35,008.94 for a printed copy and a digital copy costs 2.5% more. Alabama charges by the name, hence the cost. Arizona used to do the same thing, but changed after a court challenge. Alabama is not so easily swayed: it will make access to that file as close to impossible as it can, so that it can preserve a segregationist set of policies.

Alabama also violates the 1993 National Voter Registration Act by purging voters that do not respond to postcards, which I detailed in Part 1 when I discussed Georgia. That the purges meant that US Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) was unable to vote for himself pales against the majority of the other nearly 70,000 voters purged – mostly Black.

A note about these postcards that I hadn’t mentioned before – a simple clerical error like leaving a “North” or a “Road” off an address can result in a non-delivery status that leads to a voter being purged. Leaving off an apartment number can have similar drastic effects, and you’ll never guess what racial group *that* hits disproportionately.

Even though a comprehensive study of in-person voting of 1 billion votes cast in the USA from 2000 to 2014 only found 31 credible instances of voter fraud, Alabama joins in with the rest of the Republican Party in clamoring that voter fraud is a major issue to protect ourselves against – and that protection involves measures that effectively disenfranchise Black voters. That voter fraud rate is one case of fraud for every 34 million votes cast, which would mean, at most, 4 cases in the 2016 election. Compared to Republican voter suppression efforts, that is hardly a focus worth having.

Why promote a fear of in-person fraud? It’s to generate support for segregationist voter suppression laws. Plain and simple. This fear of the Black vote is widespread in the Republican Party: when Republican governor of Florida Charlie Crist extended early voting hours in 2008, Republicans flat-out told him that he had handed over the state to Barack Obama. After Crist left office, the following Republican governor rolled back the early voting law. A 2016 North Carolina law was shot down because it would “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Again, it was Republicans behind *that* measure.

Alabama’s laws for reporting voter fraud do not require any proof on the part of the accuser. The accuser doesn’t even have to self-identify. Of the 928 submissions of voter fraud accusations – which, unlike voter registration, can be done online and easily – only 6 resulted in fraud convictions. This led to two elections being overturned – and if we recall how the Alabama Secretary of State doesn’t properly train county elections officials, this should be no surprise that there were problems. And yet, the 6 cases of fraud and two small-town elections are used as justification for laws that target Blacks in Alabama.

The elections in question were the Brighton Mayor election, with the election changing from 376 to 330 to 330 votes each for the candidates, resulting in a runoff. Next was the Gordon Mayor election – the mayor there had illegally notarized two of the absentee ballots. That was two of the fraud convictions and the mayor was removed from office after being convicted. This Gordon election was originally cited as a third election overturned due to voter fraud, but the overturning was due to the fraud conviction itself, not because the outcome was changed. The second overturning that still counted was the Wetumpka city council election: the 168-165 result became 165-160 after 8 absentee ballots were thrown out.

A note on absentee ballots – they are very easy to throw out for governments that want to suppress voters, so more on that in a later essay, no doubt.

But, yes, Alabama has a deep-rooted history of suppressing Black votes, and it is the state’s Republican Party doing the most to preserve George Wallace’s “segregation forever” vision.

Voter Suppression – Part 1

I’m starting a series in which I focus on voter suppression in the USA. I want to focus on actual registration for elective offices and not primary elections. I will preface my comments by saying that both parties have a need to clean up their primary and caucus rules to open up those processes to additional voters. Closed primaries and selective invites are on the wrong side of history – it’s time to open things up. It’s also time to consolidate elections. Voting outside the federal election cycle – that big day in November – depresses voter turnout and typically benefits an interest group’s interests at the cost of hearing a fuller response to the measure on the ballot. As much as I may sympathize with an interest group that benefits from low voter turnout, I would rather see high turnout and that interest group find a way to inspire more people to vote for it than just its core consittuency.

That being said, I want to talk about voter suppression as part of a national or state party move to retain power by preventing opposition voters from being able to vote.

I start at the Democratic Party. Searching for Democratic Party voter suppression turned up the above criticisms of closed primaries in some states and off-cycle elections and how some Democratic Party-allied interest groups support them. I did not find any recent articles on statewide or national efforts to suppress or turn away voters. I did find an article on a recent case in Georgia about the removal of over 500,000 voters from the rolls in that state and how it was based on a law passed by Democrats.

Now, to read about that case at the webpage of the Georgia Secretary of State, there is zero context on *when* the Democrats passed that law. Neither is there any context on how long Republicans have been in power and themselves made no effort to remove the law. The National Review article criticizing the Democrats’ challenge to the voter suppression in Georgia pointed out that the daughter of then-Georgia Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp was herself not able to vote because of the Georgia election laws. The argument is that Georgia has a tight process, there is no racial bias in it, and that such a process works for the state of Georgia.

So let’s look at the history of that law as well as how it violates the 1993 National Voting Rights Act and how a Republican-dominated Supreme Court is able to back up the state law over the national one.

We’ll start with party history in Georgia. When looking at party control of the legislature and governor’s office, Republicans have been in control of the legislature since 2003 and the governor’s office since 2005. Democratic Party control extends back all the way to before the Civil War, with an exception for Reconstruction. But the state’s party allegiance on a national level shifted in 1964 as they backed the Goldwater campaign over LBJ. Although Goldwater himself was a member of the NAACP, he had voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and that’s the key in this puzzle. The same political cliques that had controlled the state of Georgia since before the Civil War with the exception of Reconstruction did not want to see Reconstruction happen again. Their power derived from controlling access to the ballot and they were prepared to fight in court to keep their Jim Crow laws on the books.

In 1968, Georgia went even further down the segregationist path to support George Wallace for president. In 1972, the state went for Nixon. In 1976 and 1980, it was the home state for Jimmy Carter, but from 1984 on with the exception of Clinton’s run in 1992, Georgia has gone Republican in national voting, even while supporting Democrats in most state offices. Starting in the 1990s, however, Republicans start to arrive more and more in state offices until 2005, when they ran things across the board.

So what kind of Democrats were in power until 2002/2005 and why did they vanish from state offices? You can see evidence in the state flag of Georgia. In 1956, in the wake of the Brown school desegregation ruling, Georgia State Senator Jefferson Lee Davis co-sponsored a bill to change the state flag from one that featured blue, white, and red bars to one that had the state seal of Georgia on a blue bar on the left and the Confederate Battle Flag of the Army of Virginia where the red and white bars used to be. I bring up the name of the legislator because the name itself is documentation of the mindset of the time. The change in the flag was symbolic and part and parcel of a campaign to preserve segregation in the state. The segregationists were digging in for a protracted fight against federal requirements to end discrimination on racial lines.

After 1956, as segregation became a dirtier and dirtier word in national discussions, people tried to paper over the reasoning behind the flag, saying it was to honor Confederate soldiers. Even that reasoning is weak in light of how the Confederacy was militarily opposed to the United States and fought to preserve the institution of slavery. Honor that movement? Respect for soldiers and their memories can be done in museums and cemeteries – and if you think that this ties into Confederate statues, you are correct. These things came up to rally opposition to desegregation and racial equality.

Those Democrats that passed voter purging laws, referenced by the Secretary of State of Georgia? Those were segregationists. All through the 1970s, the segregationists kept a hold on the state party organs in and through the Democratic Party while supporting Republicans in national party politics. This was part of the Republican “Southern Strategy”, to court pro-segregationist voters in Southern states in order to capture the highest national office, that of the Presidency, with an eye towards how that office influences the makeup of the Supreme Court. To be sure, that’s the goal of the Democratic Party, as well, but the Democratic Party is trying to capture that office without appealing to pro-segregationist voters.

Keep in mind that ending segregation was never a matter of segregationists shrugging their shoulders and going home after LBJ saw through the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Ending segregation was a matter of using those federal laws to challenge state laws in order to provide true freedom and equality for people historically suppressed because of their race. The Dallas school district was still segregated in 1972, when they claimed to have ended segregation by allowing students from a single Blacks-only elementary school to apply to attend classes in a distant Whites-only elementary. Georgia was no different. Anyone who thinks that the Civil Rights movement ended in the 1960s is gravely mistaken. The fight continues.

As the Georgia Democratic Party started to catch up with the rest of the nation in putting forward Black candidates such as Andrew Young and starting to take an active interest in repealing Jim Crow legislation in the state starting in the 1970s, we can see the erosion of that party’s control in the state houses. Keep in mind that this is still a state where Whites are the dominant political force. They became that way because of laws that made it difficult for Blacks to vote, strengthened by laws that then removed voters for failing to vote. When the Democrats started to challenge the laws of their political legacy, the segregationists defected to the Republican Party, which was welcoming to the idea of continuing those segregationist laws.

There was a sharp cutover after 1993 – that’s when the US Congress passed the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) that made it illegal to purge voters for not voting, among other things. After 1993, Georgia’s state offices and senate representation looks much, much redder. The Whites who depended upon suppressing Black votes to retain segregation-friendly power dug in to protect those laws, and it was the Republican Party that afforded them that redoubt.

I’ll note that I see a similar seismic shift in Texas politics around the same time. It’s all red, all the time, after 1993 in Texas.

When the Georgia legislature finally removed the Confederate battle flag in 2001, that ties in directly with the final shift in state politics: Republicans took the legislature in 2003 and the governorship in 2005 and have held all three for the last 15 years. Basically, the segregationists washed away all their connections to the Democratic Party and ensconced themselves in the Republican Party. They were the same opponents of civil rights and racial equality, but they were no longer welcome in the Democratic Party.

And that’s why the law passed by the Democrats back in Jim Crow days was never taken from the books – the segregationists were able to block those efforts. When they could no longer do so as Democrats, they did so as Republicans.

There is zero mention in the National Review article or the Georgia Secretary of State page about how the voting purge law in Georgia violates the NVRA. Nor is there mention of how the State of Georgia fought to retain that voter purge law in the face of a legal challenge.

And yes, the voter purge law is so wide-reaching that it does take in some Whites in that dragnet. But when the targets of the purges are over 90% Black, one has to question if the law is truly race-neutral in its impact. Moreover, the methods used to establish the targets of the voter purges are themselves racially biased.

The State of Georgia has the following rules for voter purging:

How a registration becomes subject to cancellation:

Step 1:
A registered voter files a change of address request with the U.S. Postal Service or
Official election mail is returned undeliverable or
A person has no contact with elections officials for three years. Contact can be in the form of voting in any election or primary, signing a petition, updating voter registration, or renewing or changing a driver’s license.

Step 2:
Not responding to a confirmation letter mailed by the county voter registrar.

Step 3:
Having no contact with voter registration for two additional general elections, meaning not voting in any election or primary, signing a petition, updating voter registration or renewing or changing a driver’s license.

Step 4:
Failing to respond within 30 days of the notice which they are being sent by either
a.  returning the attached postage-paid postcard they will receive or
b.  updating their registration
1.  on
2.  smartphone app, or
3.  visiting their county voter registrar’s office.

Now, federal law stipulates that re-registration is NOT required if a person moves within the county. It also stipulates that failure to vote may NOT be used as a criteria to maintain voter databases. So that “a person has no contact with elections officials for three years” is itself a violation of the NVRA. It’s also timed to not include the last presidential election cycle, which guarantees a huge number of potential candidates for purging.

Step 2 is “not responding to a confirmation letter.” Politicians know how to send letters that can’t be ignored: our mailboxes are full of oversized, colored cardstocks plastered with slick advertising in simple language. The Georgia confirmation letter violates every one of those principles of mass marketing, like it’s designed to be thrown away or not noticed.

Step 3 is an extension of the illegal “they didn’t vote” criteria.

Step 4 is another postcard designed to be ignored.

So when these postcards go out to an overwhelmingly Black population, it’s setting them up for failure. Because of the multiple steps, defenders of the measures will argue the virtues of each step individually, rather than take the steps in their totality and attempt to defend a process that targeted over 500,000 mostly-Black voters and stripped them of their votes, having the nerve to put the blame on the victim in this case.

The fact is that these voters were not lost in terms of tax payments or court summons processes: somehow, the people who had unverifiable addresses for voting purposes were exactly where they needed to be to pay taxes or to get called to court. Getting back to direct mail marketing technology, those people never stopped getting targeted mailings from an industry that has easily-replicable methods of address verification. That industry makes its money off of knowing exactly where everyone is, all the time. The politicians sending out the postcards rely on that targeting when it’s time to send out their election fliers, but they seem to be totally ignorant when it comes to making sure Blacks are able to vote.

It’s sad to state that the Republican Party in Georgia is a refuge for die-hard segregationists and white supremacists. It’s sad to state that the Republican Party in Georgia has targeted Blacks to remove them from the voter rolls. It’s sad to state that the Republican Party in Georgia continues the horrific legacy of racial inequality. It is sad, but true.

And what is sadder still, the Republican Party in Georgia is not “one bad apple”. It is representative of other state Republican Parties and the national party organization as a whole.

I’ll end with a 1981 quote from Georgia native and former national Republican strategist, Lee Atwater. I quote him in full, even when he uses unutterable words.

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now you don’t have to do that. All that you need to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues that he’s campaigned on since 1964, and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater: Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger”. By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busingstates’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger”. So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the back-burner.

Repentance and Resurrection

I had a dream recently in which I was bearing witness against another person at the Judgment Bar of God. I felt the severity of the situation and the magnitude of each word that I said. I wasn’t there to tell part of the truth and be done – I had to testify of everything, I was compelled to do so.

The person I was testifying against was a politician, and I bore witness of what I saw and experienced during his administration. As I did so, he turned his face away from me, towards a darkness. At that point, I thought of the scripture about how the wicked will desire for mountains to fall upon them, so that they would not have to face such judgment. I note that my testimony was solicited purely for injuries suffered by the nation because of his misrule – his personal matters were not for my testimony, as I had only second-hand knowledge of such. I also knew that he was not alone as a ruler – all who have held power are held to account for it. Those who want to repent and to be made whole face that pain of truth and bear the burden of their mistakes. Those who are yet proud and unrepentant turn towards the darkness and wish to be as far as possible from God so that the pain of memory and truth does not trouble them.

As I bore witness, I also felt my own soul, troubled by what I knew would face me: the testimony of those who I had wronged and harmed in my life. But I resolved not to turn to the darkness. I wanted to face the pain and pass through it. I knew that I would be resurrected and that I would have a chance to choose better, without the clouding effects of misleading men to steer me wrong. I would have cleaner choices, and I could train myself with a millennium of doing better so that I would be made whole, perfect and complete in my repentance.

Resurrection is not an end of itself, or a gateway to an end-state. It is every bit the ushering in of a new phase of existence, as momentous as birth or death. We are taught that we are not all resurrected at the same time – in my dream I felt my place in that line. I knew that, because of my sins, I was not to be the first to be resurrected. But I also knew that, because of the good I had done and to the extent I had accepted Christ as my Savior, I would also not be the last. There would be people who I had clashed with in life that accepted the Gospel in death that would be resurrected before me. There would be people who I had looked up to and admired for their righteousness in life that had deeper demons than I could see that would be resurrected after me. Part of repentance was in forgiving others that I might be ready to live among them in righteousness and in not being judgmental, that I might welcome in others when they were ready to join with me in righteousness.

We were all in line, we would all have a turn. The most righteous would be the first to be raised, that they might prepare a place for those yet to come, each in turn preparing to welcome in more and more to do the work needed to welcome in more. We would do this with love, and I felt that compassion. I feel it again as I recall it.

But I also recall the pain of my soul as I remembered those who I harmed with my decisions. My repentance here is to prepare me to face the pain of judgment. I do not believe that I will face a wink and a nod and a free pass to heaven just because I made a few good choices here and there. Judgment is a full accounting of my life. I am allowed to feel joy for the good I have done, but I am also responsible for feeling the pain of my evils, if I am to cleanse those evils from myself and become perfected in Christ, able only then to return to Heavenly Father.

I want to be good, and part of that want means that I must face judgment and not turn away from truth. If I truly want to be one with my Heavenly Father, I need to be able to see the totality of my life and know where the atonement will make me whole because of the pain I feel for those sins now. The more I can repent of and make restitution for here and now, the less pain I endure in my judgment – and the more work I will be able to do to show love for my fellow humans, my brothers and sisters.

But I also know that there are sins in me that I am not yet aware of, that I have not yet repented of, that I have not yet made restitution for. The mortal oubliette in my person is opened up and brought into light in that judgment. The dream I had made me search inside my memory for when I had done wrong, and I found those episodes, and it pained me deeply. That is the first step to restoration, and I am glad for it, but I have more to do. I am not anxious about not being first in line to be resurrected – I am thankful that I am in line and that I know that I emerge into new life when I am ready for it. I hope to be there as quickly as I can be there, and that that all hinges on my willingness to repent today.

The Opposite Gospel

In the year that the government ordered a tax audit, Joe Carpenter took his family out of the USA and took up residence in an overseas tax shelter. There, little Joe Carpenter, Jr. was born. Everyone called him “JC” because his dad told them to.

Joe Sr. said, “JC are great initials. They’re mine. If he’s going to inherit my business, he’ll need initials like I have. Everybody call him JC, or you’re fired, and I’ll have the local police arrest you and deport you, even if you’re a resident in this fleabag nation!” Because Joe Sr. had lots of money, everyone who worked for him pretended to love his ideas.

A few days after JC was born, several dictators sent representatives bearing gifts to visit the child. In return, Joe Sr. lobbied Congress to drop business sanctions against those nations so that he could invest in them. When some Congresspeople objected to dropping sanctions against nations where the dictators would torture and execute people for no reason, Joe Sr. said that those politicians hated America and should be replaced by business-friendly politicians. He then supported the campaigns of white supremacists to replace those Congresspeople and said that was good.

When JC was 12, Joe Sr. brought him to work one day. While Joe Sr. was in a meeting, JC wandered off. Joe Sr. had no idea that his kid wasn’t with him until 3 days later, when he found JC in the board room, pointing his finger at upper management and screaming at them that they were all spineless dungheaps, not fit to work for his dad if they couldn’t turn their profitability around. Joe Sr. smiled and said, “That’s my boy. What he says, goes. Any of you that he fired, I want you out of here before lunch.” And it was so.

And so JC developed, day by day and week by week, into the kind of executive his father had been. When JC was 30, Joe Sr. retired as CEO and put JC into that position. Joe Sr. retained his position as Chairman of the Board, but let JC call the shots, both for daily operations as well as long-term corporate strategy.

Well, there was one interim CEO in there because Joe Sr. had to retire suddenly and leave the USA over a particularly nasty sex scandal. Joe Sr. appointed John Waterman as interim CEO until JC was available to officially start in that role.

Before he took over as CEO, however, JC took a 40-day vacation to a desert beach resort. He ate well and partied for every one of those 40 days. At the end of the 40 days, Satan came to him and said, “JC, if you bow down to worship me, I’ll give you all that you want.”

JC said, “My father told me about you. Send your contract to legal to let my boys have a look at it, and we should be good to go.” They shook hands and then went over to hang out with Jeffrey Epstein.

When JC got back from Epstein’s place, he want to see John Waterman. Now, John had been accepting praise for his role as interim CEO, but he always said that JC would be 10 times better than him, easily. Some of the activist shareholders were questioning Waterman’s hiring decisions, saying that they didn’t come from good business schools. Waterman replied, “Look, I don’t care if the guy is from Wharton or community college, I want someone who does what he’s told. I can make a manager out of anybody, if they just do exactly what I tell them to do.”

Anyway, JC goes to see Waterman. They have a big production that was staged for the media in which Waterman says he’s not worthy to share the same podium as JC, and JC tells Waterman, “You’ll share the podium because I told you to!” They have a good laugh and the business press just ate it up like candy.

JC brought in his own team of C-level executives, 12 of them, to spread his vision to the company as a whole. He raided a seafood processing company for a number of their execs, and also had a former IRS high official – JC was well-connected. His COO and right-hand man was one of those seafood guys, Pete Rock. JC and Pete made a great team.

JC didn’t bring in Waterman, though. There were some outstanding corporate tax issues from when Joe Sr. was in charge, so JC decided to hand the IRS Waterman’s head on a platter as the fall guy for the tax problems.

When JC took over officially, he called for an all hands meeting. This is what he said:

“We’re really blessed to be here today, especially those of us with big options packages. It’s going to be like heaven for us when they vest.
“Speaking of heaven, Carpenter Industries is canceling all paid bereavement leave, effective immediately. I want you worrying about profits for the living instead of memories of the dead. We’re like sharks here, keep moving or you die.
“Nobody gets nothing if you’re meek and quiet. You want to inherit the earth? Be like me, brash and bold!
“And if you want more of this politically incorrect talk, I’ll keep it coming.
“I want you to go after profits, without mercy. If you don’t, I might just fire you, without mercy.
“If you want to get a commendation from my dad, then you better get one thing straight: He doesn’t give prizes to Boy Scouts or little goodie two-shoes types. You don’t get a bonus from him that way.
“I’m not my father’s son because I’m a peaceful sort or anything like that. I go for the blood, I go for the jugular. Business is war, and that’s what we do here, war!
“And I got no time for so-called whistleblowers. As far as I’m concerned, those people are traitors and I’ll go after you with every legal trick in the book. I’ll bury you. So think twice before you decide to call 60 Minutes or anything like that.
“Just remember, I only insult my friends. The rest can go to hell. So if you’re mad about anything I say, good news, you still have a job where you get to hear it. You’re welcome.
“No doubt, you’ve heard in church, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Well, I got no place for that here. I need killers, real dyed-in-the-wool killers who will get Carpenter Industries more profitable than it’s ever been. You better not get caught, I’m telling you now, because I got no room for losers, but I also got no room for people without a killer instinct. Do yourself a favor and quit now, make room for someone who’s got the guts to be rich.
“We’re also introducing a stack ranking system. If you’re working alongside a fool or an idiot, tell your boss! Get that guy the hell out of here!
“I do need to stress that you all follow our company guidelines on sexual harassment so that we don’t get sued. Again.
“Anyway, I’m a real eye for an eye kind of guy. That’s how I want it to be around here. Somebody screws you, you screw them right back, but double, got that?
“All right, meeting over, get back to work or you’re fired.”

The Book of Mormon and Liberation Theology

For those interested in the socio-political details of The Book of Mormon, this is a compelling article for consideration.

The notion that The Book of Mormon has a thread of liberation theology in it was something I was recently considering and, prior to putting out my own thoughts on the matter, I wanted to see what was already out there. I find Dr. Potter’s assertions that the liberation theology in The Book of Mormon to be not just “a preferential option for the poor”, but also a stark warning to those with wealth and privilege to be most agreeable.

Bear in mind that while liberation theology shares with Marxism a criticism of capitalism, it by no means agrees upon the actions necessary to correct the abuses of capitalism and the social divisions and stratifications necessary to maintain a capitalist society. While Marxism would have workers of the world unite in a struggle, The Book of Mormon argues instead that the rich should humble themselves, give of what they have to the poor, and to use power in service, rather than to demand servitude.

As a church that has a long history of being predominantly white and English-speaking, with a patriarchal system, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is itself putting forward a message that it is worldwide, multicultural, and home-centered, with that home equating roles performed by husband and wife, particularly in terms of spiritual authority. It is a mistake to equate the Nephites with white Americans with conservative 1950s political views. It is a mistake both of history as well as self-perception.

It is even a mistake to equate the Nephites with the Church: how often do prophets preach to the Nephites because of their rejection of their message? Better to equate the Nephites with the Lamanites, both descended of the same parents, as well as parent-culture. Both can be blinded by lies. Both can be caught up in pride. And both can be redeemed by the same gospel message.

And so, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have this document that stresses the importance of community, of shared experience, and of material sacrifice, while condemning those who seek after riches, who place the self above the community, and who seek to create or perpetuate unequal social systems. I’m going to finish reading this document and will likely have more to say on this matter going forward.

Hell Hath No Fury Like an Admin Scorned

Take a good look at this guy, because he may be potentially more devastating you your company than a major natural disaster. He is an admin, and he’s not happy about going to work every day.

network admin from Citibank was recently sentenced to 21 months in prison and $77,000 in fines for trashing his company’s core routers, taking down 90% of their network. Why did he do it? His manager got after him for poor performance.

I don’t know how the manager delivered his news, but it was enough to cause that admin to think he was about to be fired and that he wanted to take the whole company down to hell with him. Thing is, he could have done much worse.

What if he had decided to sell information about the network? What if he had started to exfiltrate data? What if he had set up a cron job to trash even more network devices after his two-week notice was over? And there could be worse scenarios than those… what can companies do about such threats?

It’s not like watching the admin will keep the admin from going berserk. This guy didn’t care about being watched. He admitted to it and frankly stated that he was getting them before they got him. His manager only reprimanded him – who knew the guy was going to do all that just for a reprimand? But, then, would the company have endured less damage if it had wrongfully terminated the admin, cut him a check for a settlement, and then walked him on out? So what about the other admins still there? Once they find out how things work, they could frown their way into a massive bonus and we’re heading towards an unsustainable situation, in which the IT staff works just long enough to get wrongfully terminanted.

So what does a manager do with a poorly-performing employee that’s about to get bad news? Or an amazingly good employee that nobody (including him) knows that he is about 10 minutes away from an experience that will make him flip out? Maybe arranging a lateral transfer for the first guy while everyone changes admin passwords during the meeting… but the second guy… there was no warning. He just snapped.

Turns out, good managers don’t need warnings. Stephen Covey wrote about the emotional bank account, and IT talent needs a lot of deposits because the demands of the job result in a lot of withdraws. A good manager is alongside her direct reports, and they know she’s fighting battles for them. That means a great deal to an employee. I know it’s meant a great deal to me. My manager doesn’t have to be my buddy, but if my manager stands up for me, I remember that.

Higher up the ladder, there needs to be a realization in the company that it needs to pay the talent what it is worth. I’ve known people that earned their CCIE, expected a significant bump in pay, and got told that company policy does not allow a pay increase of greater than 3% in a year. They leave the company, get paid 20% more to work somewhere else for a year or two, and then their former employer hires them back for 20% more than that. By that time, though, they’re now used to following money and not growing roots to get benefits over time. By contrast, maybe a 20% bump – or even a 15% bump, maybe – could have kept the employee there.

What are the savings? Not just the pay. The firm doesn’t have to go through the costs of training someone to do the job of the person who’s left. The firm retains the talent, the talent is there longer and now has a reason to try to hold on to those benefits, and there’s a sense of loyalty that has a chance to develop.

If an employee has a sense of loyalty, feels like compensation is commensurate with skills, and has a manager that fights real battles, that employee is better able to ride out the storms of the job and not snap without warning. If that manager has to encourage an employee to do better, maybe then he’ll try harder instead of trashing all the routers.

There may be no way to completely prevent these damaging outbursts from happening, but the best solutions for people’s problems aren’t technological. They’re other people, doing what’s right.

A Night at the Outsourcer

Driftwood: All right. It says the, uh, “The first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract” – look, why should we quarrel about a thing like this? We’ll take it right out, eh?
Fiorello: Yeah, it’s a too long, anyhow. (They both tear off the tops of their contracts.) Now, what do we got left?
Driftwood: Well, I got about a foot and a half.

After talking with people from companies whose experiences with their outsourcing‍ contracts can be best described as “disappointing”, I wonder if they didn’t have the equivalent of the‍ Marx Brothers‍ representing them in their contract negotiations. I’m not saying that the corporate lawyers were idiots‍ , just that they may have been outclassed by the outsourcers’ lawyers. This is a specialized situation, after all.

Like the company doing the outsourcing, the outsourcer wants to maximize profits. Outsourcers are not charitable organizations, offering up low-cost business services to help the hapless firm with IT‍ needs. They want to get paid, Jack! Some may want a long-term, quality relationship with a client, but there are plenty out there that want to sign a contract that, on the surface, looks like it will reduce costs, but it contains hidden standard business practices‍ that will rake the clients over the coals.

One of the biggest gotchas in an outsourcing contract is the fact that the relationship between a company and its IT is no longer one of company to employee, but company to contractually provided service. That means the “one more thing” that managers like to ask for from their employees isn’t an automatic wish that will be granted. Did the contract authorize that one more thing? No? Well, that will cost extra, possibly a lot extra.

Another loss is the ability to say, “I know that’s what I wrote, but what I meant was…” as a preface to correcting a requested change. In-house staff can be more flexible and adapt to the refinement of the request. Outsourced staff? Well, it seems as though the staff were engaged to make a specific change, so there’s a charge for that, even though you decided to cancel the change in the middle of it. Now, the change you requested needs to be defined, submitted, and approved in order for us to arrange staff for the next change window…

There’s also the limit on the time-honored technique of troubleshooting the failed change and then making the troubleshooting part of the change. Consider a firewall change and then discovering that the vendor documentation left out a port needed for the application to work. In-house staff have no problem with adding that port and making things work. Outsourcers? If that change isn’t in writing, forget about it until it is. And, then, it may be a matter of rolling back the change and trying again, come the next change window.

Speaking of firewalls, that brings me to the “per line of code” charge. If the contract pays by the line of code, prepare for some bulky code if the contract does not explicitly state that lines of code must be consolidated whenever possible in order to be considered valid and, therefore, billable. Let me illustrate with an example.

My daughter is 14 and has zero experience with firewall rules. I asked her recently how many rules would be needed for two sources to speak to two destinations over five ports. She said five rules would be needed. I then gave a hint that the firewall help file said that ports could be grouped. Then, she proudly said, “one!”

While that’s the right answer for in-house IT staff, it’s the wrong answer for an outsourcer being paid by the line. 20 is the right answer in that case. It blew her mind when I told her how many different firms I’ve heard about that had 20 rules where one would do. As a teenager with a well-developed sense of justice, she was outraged. So long as contracts are signed that don’t specify when, how, and what to consolidate, she will continue to be outraged.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her about how some outsourcers contract to provide services like email, but the contract did not outline all the things we take for granted as part of email but which, technically, are not email. Shared calendars? Not email. Permissions for an admin assistant to open a boss’ Inbox? Not email. Spam filtering? Not email. Email is the mail server sending/receiving to other mail servers and allowing clients to access their own inboxes. Everything else is not email, according to the outsourcers’ interpretation of the contract. Email is just one example, and all the other assumptions made about all the other services add up with the above to create a situation in which the outsourcing costs significantly more than keeping the work in-house.

This can have significant impact on security. Is the outsourcer obligated to upgrade devices for security patching? Is the outsourcer obligated to tune security devices to run optimally? Is the outsourcer required to not use code libraries with security vulnerabilities? If the contract does not specify, then there is zero obligation. Worse, if the contract is a NoOps‍ affair in which the customer has zero visibility into devices or code, then the customer may never know which things need what vulnerabilities mitigated. There may be a hurried, post-signing negotiation of a new section about getting read rights on the firm’s own devices and code… and that’s going to come at a cost.

Another security angle: who owns the intellectual property in the outsourcing arrangement? Don’t make an assumption, read that contract! If the outsourcer owns the architecture and design, your firm may be in for a rough ride should it ever desire to terminate the contract or let it expire without renewing it.

I’m not even considering the quality of work done by the outsourcer or the potential for insider threat – those can be equal concerns for some in-house staff. The key here is that the contract is harsh, literal, and legally binding. That means vague instructions can have disastrous results. Tell an outsourcer to “make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” do not be surprised if the outsourcer rips open a bag of bread, smashes open the jars of peanut butter and jelly, mashes the masses of PB & J together, shoves the bread into that mass, and then pulls out the bread slices with a glob of peanut butter, jelly, glass, and plastic between them. He gave you what you specified: it’s not his fault that the instructions were vague.

There can be a place for oursourcing, particularly as a staffing solution for entry-level positions with high turnover. But every time I talk with someone from a place that either is currently in or is recovering from an outsourcing contract that went too far, I hear the horror stories. The outsourcers’ lawyers know what they’re doing and the firm’s lawyers fail to realize how specific they have to be with the contract language to keep from looking like they may as well have been the Marx Brothers‍.

Driftwood (offering his pen to sign the contract): Now just, uh, just you put your name right down there and then the deal is, uh, legal.
Fiorello: I forgot to tell you. I can’t write.
Driftwood: Well, that’s all right, there’s no ink in the pen anyhow. But listen, it’s a contract, isn’t it?
Fiorello: Oh sure.
Driftwood: We got a contract…
Fiorello: You bet.


I had a very sad friend. His company bought all kinds of really cool stuff for security monitoring, detection, and response and told him to point it all at the firm’s offices in the Russian Federation. Because Russia is loaded with hackers, right? That’s where they are, right?

Well, he’d been running the pilot for a week and had nothing to show for it. He knows that the tools have a value, and that his firm would benefit greatly from their widespread deployment, but he’s worried that, because he didn’t find no hackers nowhere in the Hackerland Federation, his executives are going to think that these tools are useless and they won’t purchase them.

So I asked him, “Do you have any guidance from above on what to look for?”

“Hackers. They want me to look for hackers.”

“Right. But did they give you a software whitelist, so that if a process was running that wasn’t on the list, you could report on it?”

“No. No whitelist.”

“What about a blacklist? Forbidden software? It won’t have everything on it, but it’s at least a start.”

“Yes, I have a blacklist.”

“Great! What’s on it?”

“Hacker tools.”

“OK, and what are listed as hacker tools?”

My friend sighed the sigh of a thousand years of angst. “That’s all it says. Hacker tools. I asked for clarification and they said I was the security guy, make a list.”

“Well, what’s on your list?”

“I went to Wikipedia and found some names of programs there. So I put them on the list.”

“And did you find any?”

“Some guys are running the Opera browser, which has a native torrenting client. I figured that was hacker enough.”

Well, security fans, that’s something. We got us a proof of concept: we can find active processes. I described this to my friend, and hoped that he could see the sun peeking around the clouds. But it was of no help.

“They’re not going to spend millions on products that will tell them we’re running Opera on a handful of boxes!”

He had a point, there. Who cares about Opera? That’s not a hacker tool as featured on the hit teevee show with hackers on it. And, to be honest, the Russian offices were pretty much sales staff and a minor production site. The big stashes of intellectual property and major production sites were in the home office, in Metropolis, USA.

So I asked, “Any chance you could point all that stuff at the head office?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s the Willie Sutton principle.”

“Who was Willie Sutton?”

I smiled. “Willie Sutton was a famous bank robber. His principle was to always rob banks, because that’s where the money was. Still is, for the most part. Russia in your firm is kind of like an ATM at a convenience store. There’s some cash in it, but the big haul is at the main office. Point your gear where the money is – or intellectual property – and see if you don’t get a lot more flashing lights.”

My friend liked that. He also liked the idea of getting a software whitelist so he’d know what was good and be able to flag the rest as suspect. He liked the idea of asking the execs if they had any guidance on what information was most valuable, so that he could really take a hard look at how that was accessed – and who was accessing it.

And maybe there were tons of hackers in Russia, but they weren’t hacking anything actually in Russia. And maybe said hackers weren’t doing anything that was hacking-as-seen-on-television. Maybe they were copying files that they had legitimate access to… just logging on, opening spreadsheets, and then doing “Save As…” to a USB drive. Or sending it to a gmail account. Or loading it to a cloud share…

The moral of the story is: If your security policy is driven by the popular media, you don’t have a security policy.