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Company to Pay for Election Problems 135

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the accountability-shouldn't-be-too-much-to-ask dept.
technoid_ writes to tell us the Indiana Star reports that Election Systems & Software has agreed to pay the Indiana State Government $245,000 in addition to extra hand-on and technical support in response to problems during the May primary. From the article: "The company, which has faced similar complaints in other states, reached a settlement with Arkansas officials Monday. In that deal, ES&S pledged services, training materials and technical support but offered no payment. Jackson, the Johnson County clerk, said the company "has done a 360" since the primary. ES&S officials have been more assertive in preparing for the fall elections. The instructional materials, she said, also will help."
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Company to Pay for Election Problems

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  • by krell (896769) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:02PM (#15964611) Journal
    That headline's too long. It should have been "Company to Pay for Election". Oh wait. That's not exactly newsworthy, is it?
  • Slackers (Score:5, Funny)

    by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:03PM (#15964616) Journal
    "Jackson, the Johnson County clerk, said the company "has done a 360" since the primary."

    Translation: We've done nothing but play Xbox since the primary.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LunaticTippy (872397)
      I think Jackson meant a 180 but is bad at geometry.

      ° doesn't seem to work here
      • by GMontag (42283)
        Jackson is the County Clerk. I think he means that he is not qualified to do anything outside of government work.

        If this statement is any indication of his communications skills I can't wait to see his report on the voting machines!
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Gospodin (547743)

        I wish they'd done a 540. I've always wanted to see a company do a 540.

        • Is a radio station good enough?

          If so, AM540 WFLA [540wfla.com] is the one for you.

          If not, well, I tried. ;)
        • by rts008 (812749)
          I doubt the whole company could do this, but Tony Hawk did a 900!
          (not a skaterpunk, but still impressed!)

          (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9lDh8Bckl8&mode=r elated&search=)
    • Would have been cheaper to wait for the Wii. Wave WiiMote in left hand for liberal and right right hand for conservative.
  • So only $245,000? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:03PM (#15964623)
    Only $245,000 to rig an election? Sounds cheap to me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You get what you pay for. It is only Indiana.......
    • Yeah, well Indiana is a red state already. It is pretty easy to rig an election where everyone is already voting for the payee.
      • Re:So only $245,000? (Score:4, Informative)

        by 70Bang (805280) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:50PM (#15965367)

        Not as red as you might think. But we do observe Daylight Saving Time (finally).

        This is the first time there's been a Republican Indiana governor in a very long time.

        Lest anyone think this is a one-time thing for ES&S or Diebold, do some research. Googling ES&S will bring back enough hits it reminds me of a practice on the farm used to happen: back up the manure spreader and fill it up. Unfortunately, the only way to get it from one farm to the other was on the streets. Flashing lights and red triangles in a rural area still wasn't good enough for people and decided to show everyone their horn worked. For a long period of time. Oops! I hit the wrong lever. "Sorry, sir. I didn't mean for a layer of sh%t to cover your windshield and related areas. No, I didn't do it because it was a nice day out and your windows were open."

        One of the things ES&S is notorious for is sneaking untested software onto the machines and by the time TPTB (The Powers That Be), it's too late to change the election. ES&S did that in '02 (for certain and practically any election which has been checked after the fact) and someone blew the whistle. She was fired on the spot for disclosing the company's trade secrets. She was elected by the city or state by lunch the next day as a watchdog.

        Disclosing The Fact Untested Software Was Installed Without Telling Anyone" is a trade secret (not to mention illegal)?

        There have been any number of discussions in Congress regarding methods of elections: OSS vs. proprietary, etc. The argument is OSS might make it possible for someone to study it and find exploits which could be used to maninulate election results.

        What I have done through research is whilst the the penalties are paid to the upper echelons, what machines are used is at the precinct level. That means just under two years to find a way to make one precinct or one or two voting booths in a particular precinct work, then branch out.

        We won't talk about the BMV. I was lucky to have received a new registration sticker after 7-10 days. Everyone else has been told 2-3 weeks minimum

      • by Bob Uhl (30977)
        Interestingly, given our electoral college and Senate, this doesn't matter that much. Sure, the Republicans in Iowa can manufacture votes (as can the Democrats in New York)--but it doesn't matter, as even an extra 10 million popular votes mean absolutely nothing in a presidential election: the Republican candidate gets Indiana's electors and the Democrat gets New York's.
    • by lazlo (15906) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:40PM (#15964895) Homepage
      But it's better than that. It's $245K that they have to pay back to the people who won. So now, not only can you buy elections, but you can get a manufacturer rebate!
  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:04PM (#15964631) Homepage
    So, they're back where they started?
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Nah, they're just admitting it's all spin control.
    • by enharmonix (988983) <enharmonix+slashdot@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:38PM (#15965263)

      dang. you beat me to it :)

      From Last Action Hero (1993):

      Vivaldi (the idiot mafia boss): What is this, Benedict? First you're my friend, now you turn a 360 on me?
      Benedict (his henchman): 180, you stupid, spaghetti-slurping cretin! 180! If it was a 360, I'd go completely around and end up back where I started!
      Vivaldi: ... [confused] What?
      Benedict: Trust me. [Shoots Vivaldi.]

  • by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:05PM (#15964634) Homepage
    Jackson, the Johnson County clerk, said the company "has done a 360" since the primary.

    So, in his opinion, they haven't made any change at all. They should be fined, then.
    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      Naah, going in circles is standard operating procedure for the Bush Gang.

      Didn't Cheney just make a speech last week claiming that the American electorate sent the WRONG message to the "terrorists" by NOT electing Lieberman??

      So now we're supposed to ONLY elect Jewish guys to office? I'm sure that will go over peachy with all those Islamic fundamentalists....(Are we missing something here, or are all these clowns criminal AND nuts????)

  • So what they're REALLY saying is this:
    "Ok, you're right, we messed up. We shouild have been on sight to make sure that everything goes according to plan, and so that those nice spiffy 'errors' aren't seen by the staff to raise integrity questions later. How silly of us."
  • Then they're back to where they were in the first place.
  • Say no to everything until someone smarter figures out what would be the best thing to do.Or maybe they just became better persons after some time. Who knows?
  • More assertive? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:08PM (#15964663) Homepage Journal
    ES&S officials have been more assertive in preparing for the fall elections.


    Yeah, they need to make sure the 'right' candidate is elected.

    There is a court case in PA which is trying to force the 57 counties which currently use electronic voting machines to use paper ballots [constitutioncenter.org].

    Obviously this will never happen because having paper ballots would mean having a physical record of a vote if there was a need to do a recount. And we wouldn't want to have a physical trail of votes, now would we?

    • Paper Records. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Irvu (248207) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:33PM (#15965230)
      Leaving aside the Sarcasm, that's exactly what we want. Other states including New Mexico and Washington have gone this route as have many counties. In all cases its because of the demonstrated problems with voting systems. In New Mexico's 2004 election we have a perfect test case. In that year the state employed eight different systems scattered more or less randomly thuought the state. Four of these systems were optical scanners and four were paperless touchscreen or push-button DREs (Direct Recording Electronic systems). In the 2004 Presidential race it was found that votes were missing largely from minority voters. Worse yet the missing votes were in up-ticket races, noteably the U.S. Presidential Race. Typically votes are missing for down-ticket races like local judges. Interestingly enough these patternes appeared on all the paperless systems not just systems made by one company or another. Lost votes were not a problem in precincts using the optical scanners. The excess (overcounted) votes were removed because they had the paper backup.

      At the risk of nagging people, this info doesn't belong just on /. It belongs in letters to our state and local elections boards (whoever actually sets the law). It belongs in local newspapers via op-eds. Other people are concerned but most of then simply know nothing about these problems. Changing opinions on this issue won't really happen here, but elsewhere.

      Some choice morsels of info can be found Here [votersunite.org], here [votetrustusa.org], here [votepa.us], here [washburnresearch.org] and here [truevotemd.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, they need to make sure the 'right' candidate is elected.

      Really incorrect. There's a considerable amount of progressives in the ownership as well - in fact, in Omaha (which is a pretty balanced city with a slight conservative feel, though we have a Democratic mayor and keep re-electing Ben Nelson for Senate who will almost certainly be re-elected again) some of these folks are very visible supporters of our Democratic candidates.

      Actually most of ES&S's problems are due to incompetence, not politics
  • A 360?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by autophile (640621) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:11PM (#15964689)
    said the company "has done a 360" since the primary

    What's with the misunderstood metaphors? Here's a helpful chart:

    Doing a 180 = taking an opposing position to that previously taken.
    Doing a 360 = doing donuts in a parking lot.
    Doing a 720 = you're drunk and the room is spinning many, many times.

    --Rob

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      to take certain angle analagies too far:

      doing a 90 = taking the first reaction to any situation, be it the best or worst reaction

      doing a 270 = taking the last reaction to any situation, be it the best or worst reaction

      doing a 540 (thats 360+180;) = taking the opposite position after first taking the same stupid position a second time
    • by TRS80NT (695421)
      ...spinning many, many times.
      Well, TWICE anyway. ;)


    • Re:A 360?! (Score:4, Funny)

      by LunaticTippy (872397) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:23PM (#15964782)
      a 180?!? Degrees are for small children. Use radians!

      "The company has done a pi since the primary" has a much better sound to it.
    • by binkzz (779594)
      "Doing a 180 = taking an opposing position to that previously taken.
      Doing a 360 = doing donuts in a parking lot.
      Doing a 720 = you're drunk and the room is spinning many, many times."

      Doing a 69 = nothing the judge wants to admit to
    • by serutan (259622)
      They've probably done more like a 127 or a 135 -- changed enough procedures and produced enough documents to enable the bureaucrats who hired them to cover their own asses, which is really all that counts.
    • Doing a 720 = you're drunk and the room is spinning many, many times.

      I am suprised that no one replied with this yet.

      No, 720 [klov.com] means you are playing a classic video game.
  • Slam Dunk! (Score:1, Redundant)

    by LightStruk (228264)
    Jackson, the Johnson County clerk, said the company "has done a 360" since the primary
    Wow, that makes me feel so much better. The company is going in a totally new direction now!

    By the sound of it, the company is performing a 360 helicopter jam with our voting rights.
  • Don't get in such a fuss. It just means that the election ended up being decided by the high scorer during a marathon multi-user "Halo 2" session.
  • I was wondering how much my vote cost. Apparently it's just over $200k.
    • by lowe0 (136140)
      "I was wondering how much my vote cost. Apparently it's just over $200k."

      On top of that, it's the greatest buy-one-get-six-million-free special of all time.
  • Anyone know WHY? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:20PM (#15964756) Homepage
    Why is anyone legitimately interested in a "paperless" election? I can see more electronics and other such things, but PAPERLESS?
    • by truthsearch (249536) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:33PM (#15964847) Homepage Journal
      Because it sounds more modern, like elections are "catching up with the times". Going paperless is so 20th century. They should just skip to the current century and call them Elections 2.0. Actually, Elections XP Corporate Edition might be more appropriate.
      • by rrohbeck (944847)
        Because it sounds more modern, like elections are "catching up with the times".

        Can't we just run a poll on MySpace? That would be so, like, cool.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by truthsearch (249536)
          Running the elections as polls on /. would be much better. The respondents would be at least 2% smarter. But then CowboyNeal would probably end up president.
          • by flooey (695860)
            But then CowboyNeal would probably end up president.

            I'm not sure if that should go in the "pro" column or the "con" column.
          • Running the elections as polls on /. would be much better. The respondents would be at least 2% smarter. But then CowboyNeal would probably end up president.
            I was ready to comment on the lack of CowboyNeal options in /. polls, but about 60% of the polls from the past 10 months actually have one. Weird.
    • by jkhuggins (460033)
      Can you say "hanging chad"?

      Seriously, though, there are a couple of motivations.

      a) Since we've long ago given up on actually counting ballots by hand, we need some sort of mechanized process to do so. Most current mechanized processes involve a person indicating a choice on a piece of paper (punching a hole, filling an oval, pulling a lever which punches a hole, etc.). As the 2000 elections in Florida showed, there are a great many ways for the act of indicating a choice on a piece of paper to obscure the
  • Newspaper (Score:4, Informative)

    by lucabrasi999 (585141) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:21PM (#15964764) Journal
    the Indiana Star reports that Election Systems & Software has agreed to pay the Indiana State Government $245,000

    I didn't realize the publisher of the The Indianapolis Star had changed the name of the newspaper.

  • by Chaffar (670874) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:22PM (#15964772)

    Anybody else read the title Company to Pay for Erection Problems ?

    -Those bastards, they're just trying to get free Viagra for top management...

  • "Jackson, the Johnson County clerk, said the company "has done a 360" since the primary."

    So what happened, did the wrong guys win the primary?

    • Charles Ponzi of the eponymous scheme immortalized himself with the most daring innovation in the history of crime.

      He gave his victims their money back.

      A few even got more than they put in. What they didn't realize was that they weren't investing in him, he was investing in them, buying the con-man's most powerful productive asset: trust.

      Trust has no place in the election process. Voters may choose to trust candidates. But the mechanisms by which voting takes place must should be trusted. Every part of
  • Bill of Goods (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shrapnull (780217) * on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:29PM (#15964825)
    Certainly this company still made money off of the elections, but am I wrong to conclude that there was a lot more to this then meets the eye?

    Having ordered more software titles then I can count (with accompanying hardware) for student information tracking, transcripts, test-scoring, etc, it's an all too common occurance for a company to deliver and install the software and leave the ultimate setup and performance up to in-house staff.

    It would seem that this system was 1) rushed into production, 2) the victim of mainstaying (the state won't change their process to accomodate the software, they want the software to accommodate the state's past methods), and 3) the company was completely ill-equipped to handle support in cruch-time.

    If you ask me the only, solution is open-source voting machines so any company can provide support, documentation is available nationally, and voters can have confidence not only in the process, but also in what's happening "under the hood" as well.
    • by lattyware (934246)
      Open source, So everyone can right in thier own rigging systems! It'd probably work... Except instead of voting, everyone just rights in some code to rig the votes, in the end, it's be the same, except we should call it 'SourceWikiPolling 2.0' It makes perfect sence.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shrapnull (780217) *
        Open source does not explicitly imply anyone can repackage a hacked version and sell it to a government entity. Governments currently use "certified" companies to purchase goods from (GS/GP Approved Vendors List). You can still maintain a single government supplier with the source code exposed to the world. The current electronic voting process lacks transparency, and open source would help address that issue.

        Rigging can be controlled a lot more easily if the system is open source then it can be in it's
  • by a_greer2005 (863926) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:30PM (#15964829)
    Cryps! Indiana star??? have the editors been replaced with retarded chimps? GOOGLE IT for Gods Sake...I google "indiana star" and "Indianapolis Star" is the first hit...
  • First it says Indiana, then it says Arkansas. I AM SO CONFUSED!
  • Reliability #1 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:33PM (#15964848) Homepage Journal
    Enough of this crap with broken/complex/rigged election devices. Let's just go back to paper, pencil and handcounting. It's cheap, fairly reliable, and leaves lots of evidence when tampered. Let the news media rely on exit polls for immediate results (after polls close nationwide). They're more accurate than the official results, anyway.
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      Yeah, and while we're at it, let's get rid of this goshdarned webwork of compustations! I'm plum sick of seein' all these kids with their fancy iPods bee-bopin' down the street, and I know they can hear me when I tell them to get off my lawn!!! I ordered me a mosquito repellerant out of the Sears Catalog, and by golly, when it gets here those kids will flee like the pests they are.

      Anyway, back when we used to use paper and pencil, it worked great until some crazy kids came up with something they called an
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I guess you're pretty happy about "upgrading" voting machines to ones so buggy and rigged that no one trusts them except crooked vendors and government dupes. Because newer is always better, right? Why don't you RTFA before going on some weird rant about luddism, when dangerous technolust is the problem we're actually dealing with.
        • by StikyPad (445176)
          You missed the point entirely, which is that there are problems with any system. The more complicated the system, the more possible points of failure. That's not an argument for regression though, it's just a reason to expect initial problems until things get sorted out. There may be some truth to the idea that some of the elections were tampered with, but that's hardly new. You're also making the assumption that because you didn't hear about more problems and tampering with pencil-and-paper, that they
          • by Doc Ruby (173196)
            If you think digital voting machines are suffering from "intital problems until things get sorted out", then you're not even reading the article we're discussing. You're not even aware of the serious problems with machines that are being used to rig elections, that fail even when probably not rigged, that are expensive, worse than useless, and don't even meet the existing inadequate legal requirements.

            You're dismissing all that as "nothing new", as if you know what you're talking about. I'm the tech advisor
  • and tamper-proofness, switch to Debold!
  • by ccmay (116316) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:49PM (#15964949)
    I am sick of these stories. Nobody trusts any of this electronic stuff. Everyone on the left thinks the Republicans are ripping off elections, but I assure you the right wing was saying the same things when Clinton was beating them like a rented mule. This crazy talk is tearing society up. Let's go back to paper ballots. We can wait a day or two for the results.

    -ccm

    • Please re-issue the comment on paper at your earliest convenience.

    • by podwich (766178)
      Of course, then there was the problem of "hanging chads", "pregnant chads", and the like. The whole thing's a mess.
      • by stinerman (812158)
        Fixed:

        The voting machine prints out paper ballot with marks made next to the candidate of choice for each office. This can be easily verified by the voter that the print out matches their vote made on the machine. That paper is the record of the vote, not some jumble of electricity or magnetized plate inside the machine. The machine can also be responsible for input validation (no more overvotes!).

        Preliminary totals (the mess of electricty) along with exit polls can give semi-accurate results a few hours
  • If the company did a 360, it means they went all the way around. Maybe they did a 180 i.e. turned it around, didn't like the ROI in being helpful and then did another 180 to go back to being bastards.

    =MikeT
  • Elections (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:04PM (#15965045)
    Elections are a complicated thing. No wonder there are problems. Consider that you want each individual to vote in such a manner that the vote is anonymous, so people can't blackmail each other, etc., but at the same time, you only want each individual to vote at most once. Also, you want to prevent all kinds of fraud from taking place.

    There is a better solution than the current methods, in my opinion. Part of the solution is good training. Perhaps when the voter registration and voter cards go out, a mini-DVD could come with it, so people can watch a video of how the voting process works. There would also be written material. Furthermore, the voting machines themselves would talk interactively, with written instructions as well, to make the system as foolproof as possible.

    It would work like this: You go into the voting booth. Each candidate or proposition that you vote for would appear one at a time on a display screen. As you vote for each item, it will tell you to confirm that this is the vote you intended to make. At the end of this process, a screen containing all your votes would appear, giving you a final chance to validate everything or go back to fix a mistake. Then, as you accept the vote, a printed paper ballot would be printed with the appropriate vote information, and you would be able to view it through a thick glass window, to make sure that what's printed on the paper matches what you voted for on the screen. This is the final time to make changes - choose to make a change and the ballot is visibly shredded and you get to try again. Choose to accept and the ballot is visibly inserted into a voting box.

    The computer system would keep track of all the votes, with results available immediately. The ballots would be counted by hand in the following days or weeks, as before, so as to verify the system's results. This would be foolproof.

    • by polymath69 (94161)

      This is the final time to make changes - choose to make a change and the ballot is visibly shredded and you get to try again. Choose to accept and the ballot is visibly inserted into a voting box.

      [...] This would be foolproof.

      And if you see a playing card or a dollar bill torn up before your eyes, it's gone forever; and if you see a lady visibly cut in two, she's got to be daid, right?

      You can't trust your eyes. The system you describe might have two printers, the fake one of which shows its output

  • ES&S (Score:5, Informative)

    by MarkusQ (450076) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:08PM (#15965066) Journal

    This is the same ES&S who's chairman got into trouble with the Senate Ethics Committee [hillnews.com] because he failed to disclose his involvement with the company when he, as virtual an unknown in his first bid for public office, ran for and won a Senate seat against two well known and popular opponents [cnn.com] in what was widely called "a surprise upset" -- in an election which was counted exclusively on machines manufactured by ES&S [motherjones.com]. Subsequently, the law in his state was changed to prohibit election workers from looking at the ballots, and outlaw hand recounts. The only recounts permitted by law are on machines manufactured by ES&S. [scoop.co.nz]

    In case that helps put this in perspective.

    --MarkusQ

    • You know, I wonder if there might be a simple test for these voting machines. Keep the things from being tampered with after the election is done. Then, reset them and have some trustworthy people visible enter a known number of votes for various candidates. If the end result is not akin to the data entered, then somebody has screwed with the machine to make it skew in favour of particular candidate(s).
      • by roystgnr (4015)
        Then, reset them

        They're black boxes. Anyone who can reprogram them to produce corrupted output in the first place can program them to produce uncorrupted output when it's not election day.

        The best you can do with that sort of testing is to build more voting machines than you need, then on election day randomly pick some of them out to be the "control group" to count known dummy votes - and even that assumes that there aren't any corruptable machines (like the central tabulators) outside the testers' contro
        • by MarkusQ (450076)

          I see two problems with this right off the bat. First, as I noted on the thread next door, there are already known ways to hack the vote on "good" machines, on election day, either as an official with access to the machines or as an unofficial "super-voter" who has practiced the necessary steps.

          And secondly, the whole concept of "random samples" is subject to abuse, not only in theory someday but in practice now [newstandardnews.net]:

          And in Jefferson County, Green Party observer Ed Bortz reported that precinct staff had pr

      • You know, I wonder if there might be a simple test for these voting machines. Keep the things from being tampered with after the election is done. Then, reset them and have some trustworthy people visible enter a known number of votes for various candidates. If the end result is not akin to the data entered, then somebody has screwed with the machine to make it skew in favour of particular candidate(s).

        It's been done, more or less [bbvforums.org]. The reason it can't be done the way you describe is that at least one o

  • I'm working with ES&S equimpent and I've found that their documentation does need work.
  • Is this a first? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kirun (658684) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:16PM (#15965126) Homepage Journal
    A government department actually got some money back from an IT supplier that screwed up? Why isn't it standard for this to happen, instead of taxpayers always picking up the bill for projects that never work properly and go overbudget?
    • Harsh yes, but...

      • by kirun (658684)
        Well, the government screwing up itself is one matter, it's just as I've noted [slashdot.org] before [slashdot.org], it seems that the UK government likes to outsource its IT [guardian.co.uk] failures [ucl.ac.uk], and I'm sure the US is no different. It strikes me as plain bizarre that an entity in as good a bargaining position as a government can't get a good deal, and that they keep on hiring the same few consultancies who are clearly incompetent.
  • Wow! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by homebrewmike (709361) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:22PM (#15965159)
    Wow - a private company that makes a mistake. Gwarsh, I thought only liberal run goverments do that.

    Come to think of it, that's the difference between Democrats and Republicans: Republicans outsource their failures.
  • > ... the company "has done a 360" since the primary

    A 360, eh? As in: "Let's do a 360 and get the f*** out of here"?

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