Showing posts with label fraud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fraud. Show all posts

17 October 2021

The Digital Detective, Wall Street part 3


I’m still astounded Fortune 500 companies and government facilities not merely allowed, but invited me, a 19-to-20-something freelance me to play with their very expensive computers. I mean work, not play, yeah, work is definitely the word. Reputation is everything. And okay, I have authority issues. So I’m told.

Striking off on my own meant no security blanket, no 401K, no pension, no profit-sharing. It meant scary months when I wondered if the phone would ring with a client and months when I wondered if the previous client was going to pay or not. That’s a concern– some companies withheld payment until they once again needed help. Sometimes managers wouldn’t like what I reported. My type of work– designing systems software– was specialized, so occasionally famine struck.

During one drought, camels were toppling over, birds fell from the sky, and my bank account appeared a distant mirage. Finally a call came in before the telephone company could cut me off. It was Wall Street again, a mutual funds house. Loretta was their CIO, Chief Information Officer.

100 Maiden Lane, NYC © Emporis
100 Maiden Lane
NYC © Emporis

“Darling, are you available?”

“Personal or pleasure?”

“Are you saying personal isn’t pleasure?”

“You’re married.”

“Was, Darling, was.”

“Loretta, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, I’m not.”

She lied. I could almost hear the sounds of tears leaking from her eyes. She was a nice lady who’d come up through the ranks.

“Loretta, what’s happening?”

“If you’re available, I need your help.”

“Please don’t let it be application programming.” Even if it was, I desperately needed the work.

“Well… Did you hear we’re undergoing a conversion from Cobol to C?”

“You and every other firm with fresh graduates.”

My professors, Paul Abrahams and Malcolm Harrison, were language experts. Abrahams was chairman of ACM’s SIGPlan and would eventually be elected president of the US’s professional organization, the Association for Computing Machinery. They received early releases of Unix and with it the C language. For me, it was a love-hate relationship.

She said, “I know you’ll be simply shocked, but we’re experiencing crashes. We can’t cut over until we nail the problem. Nobody around here can read machine code. I know it’s not your thing, but nobody knows how to do Cobol anymore.”

In the following, I’ve tried to trim back technical detail to make it more accessible and I apologize where I failed to restrain it. The gist should suffice.


Next day I took the Staten Island Ferry to lower Manhattan, where I strolled up Pearl Street and turned onto Maiden Lane. The mutual funds house took up a few floors of an older building, although the interior was done in chrome movie set futurism.

The glass room remained there running their big iron computer. Off to one side was a new server chamber covered in curved, blue plexiglass. Very spaceshipish.

Loretta blended 10% boss and 90% Cub Scout Den Mother, which made her a popular manager among the guys. She called in her lead analyst and chief programmer, Richard and Robert. The latter radiated lethal hostility.

“Leigh’s here to shoot that bug that’s killing us.”

“We don’t need help,” Robert said flatly. “He’ll just waste our time.”

Loretta said evenly, “You’ve had months and it’s still not identified. Please give Leigh all the help he needs. He’ll likely work nights to have the computer to himself.”

After Loretta departed, Robert said, “I know who you are. You used to be hot shit.”

“I’ve never heard it put so charmingly. Listen, I’m not here to take your job. I’m not here to threaten you. I’d like to get the job done and move on. Show me what’s going on.”

As predicted, the program started and died with an out-of-address exception– the program was trying to access memory that wasn’t there.

I asked for listings and a ‘dump’, formerly called a core dump, a snapshot of memory when the system died. The address of the failing instruction allowed me to identify the location of the link map, an org chart of routines that made up the program. Sure enough, the instruction was trying to reference a location out of bounds of its memory.

I took the program source listing home with me and spent a couple of days there studying it. It was ghastly, a compilation of everything wrong with bad programming and especially in C. It contained few meaningful variable names and relied on tricks found in the back of magazines. Once in a while I’d see variables like Principle or Interest, but for the most part, the program was labled with terse IDs such as LB, X1 and X2. This was going to take a while.

The company had no documentation other than a few layouts from the analyst. When I called in to ask a question, Robert stiff-armed me. I arranged my first slot for Friday evening with time over the weekend.

I began with small cleanup and immediately hit snags. I’d noticed a construct that read something like:

hash_cnt = sizeOf(Clientable);
cust_cnt = abs(hash_cnt);

Wait. What was the point of the absolute value? C’s sizeof() returned the number of items in an array. It should never be negative. You could have five apples on a shelf or none, but you couldn’t have minus five.

As part of the cleanup, I removed the superfluous absolute value function. Robert dropped down as I compiled and prepared to test. I typed RUN and the program blew up. What the hell? Robert appeared to sneer, looking all too pleased.

He said, “That section was written by that old guy, John. He didn’t know crap, so no surprise it’s hosed up.”

I knew who he was talking about, a short, pudgy guy in his 40s with Einstein hair. I’d never been introduced, but I’d heard him speak at a conference. John was no dummy, no matter what Robert said.

Robert smugly departed. I stepped through the instructions, one by one, studying the gestalt, the large and small. My head-smack arrived on Sunday. Curious why sizeof() would return a negative value, I traced how hash_cnt was used. As I stepped through the instructions, I saw it descend into a function called MFburnish().

I couldn’t find source code for MFburnish(). No one could. Without source, it would be very difficult to determine what happened inside it.

I went back to the variable Clientable that was passed to sizeof(). The array was loaded from a file, Clientable. Both consisted of binary customer numbers. I spotted something odd.

C is peculiar in that it uses null (binary zero) to mark the end of an array. This file had two nulls, one about the two-thirds mark and another at the absolute end.

At first, I thought the file had shrunk and the marker moved down while remaining in the same space. But when I looked at the file, it had the same defect… or feature.

As some point, I looked at the link map to check upon another routine and for the first time noticed what I should have spotted earlier. There amid C Library functions of isalpha(), isdigit(), islower(), isupper(); was sizeOf().

Double head-smack. First, C’s authors claim sizeof() is a unary operator like +n and -N. To me, sizeof() looks and acts like a function and nothing like a unary operator. By definition, it shouldn’t show up in a link map with real functions. But on closer inspection, the programmer specified not sizeof() but sizeOf(). Another annoyance of C is that it’s case sensitive, meaning sizeof and sizeOf and SizeOf and even SIZEOF are not the same thing. This kind of nonsense wouldn’t have been possible with their old Cobol system.

The deception seemed awfully abstruse, even by C standards.

interest truncation example

The Clientable had two parts. The first part contained the account numbers of every client. The latter part repeated certain clients. Unlike sizeof(), the ginned-up sizeOf() showed the actual length of the full file expressed as a negative number, hence the abs() funtion.

Someone had written deliberately misleading code. But why?

Money, of course. Moving backwards, I began to look at the code with a different eye. And there it was… not merely the expected interest calculation, but the conversion from binary to decimal, another Cobol to C difference. One of the company’s programmers had pulled off the oldest thefts in computerdom– shaving points when rounding numbers.

Next week: The Confrontation

Following are Cobol versus C notes for the technical minded. Feel free to skip to next week.

03 October 2021

Certifiable – Arizona Elections Corrections 301


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For perhaps the final time, this is OAN’s Blanca Mujer reporting from Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

We arrive at this much anticipated juncture wrapped in unfathomable disappointment. We’d hoped to prove massive fraud took place on election day, but instead, to paraphrase Oath-keeper Senator Wendy Rogers, the Deep State has so cleverly hidden their huge deception, it’s become impossible to find. Thus Wendy Rogers and others urge the election be decertified and rerun until they get the results they want.

I apologize for the background noise. What you hear is a great gnashing of teeth on the floor of the Arizona legislature. Senate President Fann is acting all innocent and Karen like she never heard of this and opposed it all along. My, my, my.

How were we to know she’d hired the one election truther who, uh, believed in truth. Cyber Ninja didn’t get the difference between determination and predetermination. Listen, buddy, when we shell out $6-million, we’re not paying to get the same answer as the previous three recounts-slash-audits paid for by Arizona taxpayers.

At least we got free colorful T-shirts.

This has been Blanca Mujer… and seriously, why does everyone in Arizona call me ‘Moo-hair’? Speak English, for heaven’s sake, my name rhymes with huger. This is Blanca Mujer getting the hell out of town, OAN Pseudo-News, Phoenix.

Validation, Verification, Verdict

No one, liberal or conservative, left, right, or center, expected the answer that arrived last week, a finding of no fraud and a judgment that votes tallied, slightly widening the win-lose gap.

During the interminable wait for results, one clue surfaced, almost immediately dismissed, considering the pressure of power and money. That hint: An acquaintance of Doug Logan claimed anyone who knew him would say he’s an honest man.

And so he was… so he is. Doug Logan and apparently his friend Ben Cotton may have fringe notions, but amid death threats, they put the gritty in integrity.

Meanwhile in Idaho, My Pillow’s Mike Lindell instigated an audit by claiming between 4.2 and 30 percent of votes in every county were shifted by computer from one party to the other. Some of Idaho’s precincts are so small, they couldn’t justify electronic tabulators, so votes were counted by hand. Idaho’s partial recount showed the numbers matched almost exactly except for a nine-ballot overcount for Mr Trump.

Loose Ends

The thrust of this series has focused on the numerous election fraud conspiracies. Before abandoning this topic to the trashcan of hysterical, histrionics history, a few more crazy notions cropped up in recent weeks. Two of the wilder ones are worth mentioning.

4.2%

4.2%

Let’s introduce a pretty smart guy named Shiva Ayyadurai. For some reason, petulantly claiming he invented email in 1979 at the age of 14 has become increasingly important to him. Generation X doesn’t believe anything was invented before their own births, so he can’t believe he didn’t invent anything other than the name… maybe. As someone who was using email years earlier and invented encrypted email in the mid-1980s, I take his claim with a huge block of salt.

But he makes other fringe claims such as vitamins offset COVID and election fraud. He’s appeared on fraud felon Steve Bannon’s show to expound upon conspiracy theories. What sets Dr Ayyadurai apart from run-of-the-mill election truthers is a claim that would make Scientologists cringe.

According to Ayyadurai, every voting machine in every state in the US is designed to shift 4.2% of votes from the (R) column to the (D). 4.2%, every machine, every state.

If you’re thinking 4.2% comes from rigorous quantitative regression analysis of election-engineered differential equations… you’d be wrong.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (published the same year Ayyadurai ‘invented’ email), Douglas Adams’ humorous quasi-sci-fi novel, tells us the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42. And therefore, according to Dr Ayyadurai, precisely .042 of votes were tampered with. Seriously.

𝄞♪♫ And 42’s exactly two dozen and the reverse of 24 and we call it a day and the age of Howard Hill, which rhymes with Bill married to Hillary which rhymes with biliary that takes a lot of damn gall and starts with B, the actress of Maude with rhymes with fraud, and there you have it, proof of election tampering. ♬♩𝄇
— apologies to The Music Man
hypodermic with Russian salad dressing

Salad Days

Help yourself to a palate cleanser and strap yourself in for a fresh election conspiracy from none other than admitted felon and foreign agent for Turkey, Ukraine, and other non-American venues, Michael Flynn.

According to Flynn, former Security Advisor, God help us, pro-vaxers are slipping coronavirus vaccines into salad dressing and plan to genetically alter lettuce to contain mRNA inoculation material.

Honest. I hope it’s iceberg lettuce. It might add flavor.

The Future, or Something Like It

Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are struggling toward full-blown recounts despite assurances from election authorities that all went smoothly and no fraud was detected. Precincts are giving pushback to the state especially against revealing voters’ personal information. As in the Arizona fraudit, a judge may have to rule whether to permit the recount.

Texas Governor Abbott snapped to attention, genuflected, and kissed the ring when the ex-president asked for a recount of four counties. The reason seems to be because they can. Strangely, the office of Supervisor of Elections is presently vacant, so no one is certain who’s calling the shots.

And finally back in Arizona, disbelieving fraudit supporters and ‘democracy skeptics’ now demand a new statewide election recount.

Democracy skeptics… They’re driving America.

22 August 2021

Certifiable – Arizona Elections Corrections 202


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Arizona election fraudit recount, Doug Ducey, Mark Brnovich, Karen Fann, Wendy Rogers, Kelli Ward, Katie Hobbs, Amy B. Chan, Stephen Richer, Jack Sellers, Clint Hickman, Allister Adel, Benny White, Ken Bennett, Randy Pullen, Doug Logan, Ben Cotton, Bryan Blehm, Larry Moore, Tim Halvorsen, Christina Bobb
convenient list of political players

Hello once again from Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. This is Blanca Mujer, OAN reporter. It’s exciting end times amid threats to arrest RINOs of the Maricopa Election Board as we wait breathlessly for Cyber Nunchucks to release their report that the fraud conspiracy was so huge, people couldn’t see it because of its sheer size.

Liberal Republican judges have forced the audit to reveal its secret funding. So yes, I blushingly admit your One-America Network has pumped more than $600 000 into this beautiful experiment to overturn the election. You too can continue to donate as we near $6-million given to that darling one- or two-man company, Cyber Ninjas to ensure the answer we want.

A shout-out today to my mother. Mom, you said I’d never amount to anything as a journalist, so look where I am now! OAN! Bet you’re sorry now!

This has been Blanca Mujer, OAN News.

When Dem Cotton Balls Get Rotten

In May, the so-called auditors raised a very public stink that files had been deleted (an accusation repeatedly mentioned in fund-raising rallies). This was put forth by Ben Cotton, another fraud theorist, a subcontractor with precious little election experience, when the grown-ups went out to lunch.

The County Recorder famously said about the files, “I’m looking at them now.” Maricopa election officials gently suggested they look in the folder labelled something like Election 2020, where the ‘missing’ SQL files magically appeared. The recorder may also have suggested they hire an average 13-year-old to help with their computers.

As Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella might say, “Never mind.” Stung by the Maricopa Recorder’s suggestion of ineptitude, Ben Cotton insisted he had to ‘recover’ the data, letting implications of erased files remain in the public’s mind.

But wait, there’s more. From the US Department of Justice, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan sent a letter to the Arizona Senate expressing concerns about (a) the door-to-door interrogations and voter intimidation and (b) serious breaks in the chain of custody and security of ballots, which should always remain in the control of election managers. At the time, a defiant Senate President Karen Fann told Federal Election officials to ƒ off, Arizona would do things her way.

Cabin Fervor

Ignoring local and federal concerns, subcontractor Ben Cotton disappeared out of state while ‘trucking’ election material to a ‘secret lab’ 18 hours and 1300 miles (2100km) distant from Phoenix. The involvement of a truck suggests something seriously large and heavy was removed far from the jurisdiction of auditors, the Arizona legislature, and law enforcement.

Bizarrely, outside of Salon and an Anderson Cooper 360 clip, this has received little press. No one supposedly in charge in Arizona seems certain of what, where, when, and why. Audit Director Ken Bennett and Cyber Ninja Doug Logan vaguely ‘thought’ unspecified election items were taken to a CyTech ‘secure laboratory’ in Montana. If any of this is true, it strongly suggests Arizona has lost the last remnant of control of the situation.

Being the curious sort in a criminally curious blog, I dug into the secret lab location, coming up with a cabin– a very fancy cabin to be sure– in the middle of the woods in Montana. If by chance I’m right, this is what it looks like:

Definitely legit. Notice the high tech secret lab equipment, the scientific secret laboratory ion proteolyser barbecue grills, the secret laboratory grade vertabrazier lounge recliners on the secret lab veranda, and the NASA-approved secret laboratory Adirondack chairs. Yep, looks like a hi-tech lab should look.

Minutes Instead of Months

Meanwhile, back in Pima County, a gentleman named Benny White ran for Pima County Recorder on the Republican ticket and unfortunately lost. His loss became our gain.

Curious about the statistics of his race, he accessed the public records database (like the one the ‘auditors’ claimed was deleted) for analysis. Once he had the statistics in hand, he realized he could extrapolate the larger federal election.

Clear Ballot logo

He reached out to a pair of retired federally certified election auditors, Tim Halvorsen and Larry Moore. Their federally credentialed firm, Clear Ballot, had bid to handle the Arizona re-audit. Unlike Cyber Ninja’s juvenile web site, Clear Ballot laid out their experience, summarizing with the lede, ‘Clear Ballot Completes Successful, Transparent Elections Nationwide’. Um, transparent… successful… complete… Not what Arizona was looking for.

Halvorsen and Moore said their firm could do in minutes what Cyber Ninjas and CyFIR were taking months to complete. They offered a challenge: Give them any still sealed box of ballots, and within five minutes they could tell exactly what was in it.

White, Moore, and Halvorsen determined 60,000 Republicans in Maricopa County and 15,000 in Pima County did not vote for the presidential incumbent. These are the ballots Cyber Ninjas and CyTech have desperately perused with ultraviolet lamps, alternate angle lighting, DNA analysis, ink/toner inspection, and psychic readings, hoping to prove the votes fraudulent or at least too suspicious to use.

Mr White shared Moore and Halvorsen’s conclusions with Senate audit director and liaison, former Arizona Secretary of State, Ken Bennett. Bennett confirmed the Maricopa audit results were nearly identical to Clear Ballot’s, both significantly different from Cyber Ninjas.

Sharing professional opinions enraged Ninja’s Doug Logan who called it ‘sharing data’ (albeit public data), and demanded the Senate remove Bennett. Logan later said Fann made the decision to terminate him on her own. Thus we saw Bennett fired and then unfired, quit and then unquit, and after considerable gnashing of teeth, reinstated to oversee what little can be seen.

Maricopa isolated election schema
Maricopa isolated election schema

Stripping in Public

Among the plethora of ‘R’s in the list of involved political personnel, you’ll notice a single ‘D’, Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Secretary of State. The Arizona legislature has moved to strip her of powers and limit her access to legal advice and finances, so that the audit may speak with one voice. You know, one party, one voice, like fascist and communist countries. Those powers of the Secretary of State will be turned over to Attorney General Mark Brnovich who has lobbied hard against Hobbs and has himself been accused of improprieties.

Brnovich, who’s a few vowels shy of a pronounceable name, should have questioned the legitimacy of a secretive, partisan, opaque Roman spectacle to set aside the careful and considered approval of the Maricopa election by members of his own party who’d already held three (or four) recounts and audits, coming up with nothing but a pristine election. Instead, he became part of the legal genius successfully persuading a judge to allow the magic show to proceed.

It’s worth wondering if Brnovich, the subject of ethics complaints as recently as a year ago, seized upon the ‘fraudit’, as locals on both sides say, as a legal distraction. Instead of backing the Secretary of State, he has opposed Katie Hobbs at every turn, maneuvering for control over the election process. As one observer noted, Brnovich is giddy with the prospect of subsuming the Secretary of State’s powers and budget.

It’s BOGO– Buy one office, get a second one free. From there, it’s a small step to the governor’s seat.

The Price is Ripe

Arizona Senate President Fann and Doug Logan have fought hard against revealing how Cyber Ninjas was funded for the immensely secretive process. The Senate’s donations agreement with Cyber Ninjas calls for no limits, no restrictions, no accountability. A judge rebuked Karen Fann for attempting to evade Arizona transparency regulations, and ordered funding information to be released. Among the larger contributions were:

group founded by J Patrick Byrne   $3 250 000
group founded by foreign agent Mike Flynn   $1 000 000
group founded by OAN’s Christina Bobb   $600 000
group founded by lawyer Sydney Powell   $550 000
group founded by lawyer Matthew DePerno   $280 000
group founded by lawyer L Lin Wood   $50 000
donations by My Pillow’s Mike Lindell   unknown
Arizona taxpayers, courtesy of Legislature   $150 000
other (approximately)   $250 000

Karat and Schtick

Big money is riding on one outcome. Here is a key question: If you were paid $6-million by backers expecting one answer, how would you respond?

This spurious, secretive, and frankly bizarre recount befuddles professionals. Experts point out a true and valid recount and audit could have been conducted in hours, not months. Further, ballots should not be dismissed if they’re folded the wrong way or smudged with Cheetos dust.

Senate Presient Karen Fann deliberately dodged federally certified audit firms and backed a conspiracy theorist. No fraud hypothesis was too wild not to be taken seriously.

Sellers letter to Senate

Meanwhile, Maricopa Board of Elections supervisors have received orange jumpsuits along with messages that they, individually, and their family members will be executed. One voice indeed.

Maricopa Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers sent a sharply worded letter to the Arizona Senate telling them to get this farce done and be prepared to defend it in court.

The Six-Million Dollar Man

True investigations, whether criminal or scientific, begin with an open mind. Never should an investigation lead with an unchallenged premise fraud had occurred, but here, Cyber Ninja’s job was to prove the premise.

From the beginning, this so-called ‘fraudit’ has never been about proving if the election was in doubt, but how doubt could be cast upon it. As Katie Hobbs pointed out, real audits are conducted under three unbreakable rules. The Senate and Cyber Ninjas have broken all of them.

Maricopa Republicans deserve admiration and credit for withstanding often brutal attacks upon their hard work, integrity, and physical safety, resisting the slide toward a one-party state. It’s a pity the rest of the state can’t learn from them.

Cyber Ninjas has promised to release their report tomorrow (Monday). Considering Doug Logan revealed the results before the ‘audit’ commenced and he’s been paid $6 000 000 to take his conspiracy theories mainstream, the outcome probably won’t be surprising.

15 August 2021

Certifiable – Arizona Elections Corrections 201


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Arizona election fraudit recount, Doug Ducey, Mark Brnovich, Karen Fann, Wendy Rogers, Kelli Ward, Katie Hobbs, Amy B. Chan, Stephen Richer, Jack Sellers, Clint Hickman, Allister Adel, Benny White, Ken Bennett, Randy Pullen, Doug Logan, Ben Cotton, Bryan Blehm, Larry Moore, Tim Halvorsen, Christina Bobb
convenient list of political players

Back with you now, this is OAN’s Blanca Mujer reporting from Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. Faces are lit with ultraviolet expectations, waiting for our amazing and wonderful Cyber Nunchucks to issue their final report, without doubt declaring the election void.

Later today, we’ll interview all six Democrats in the state of Arizona to get their views. Right now, I’ll take a moment to answer viewers’ questions. Miss Sylvia Plait of Long Island, New York tweets, questioning how I pronounce my name. It’s moo-jer, Sylvia, rhymes with stooger. Why on earth would you think otherwise?

The probe continues as our Senate subpoenas the swivel chairs at the Maricopa County Elections Board’s nearly empty office, threatening arrests for refusal. Last week, Senate Leader Karen Fann asked a judge for arrest warrants when election officials balked at turning over wifi staplers.

If by chance something goes wrong as happened on January 6th, white supremacist fangirl State Senator Wendy Rogers, the Leona Helmsley of Arizona politics, has declared the election so hopelessly compromised and corrupt that the Senate must decertify the 2020 election, recall electors, and hold the election again.

To paraphrase Wendy, “Deep, deep fraud must have occurred, buried so far down, it can’t be discerned, necessitating we negate the election.”

Aren’t recounts exciting! Stay tuned. This has been Blanca Mujer on OAN…

Arizona world interference conspiracy map

Conspiracies 201

Math and logic aren’t Arizona’s strong points. But wait, you say, OAN and Fox have been rife with stories about discovering 74,243 mail-in votes more than were mailed out.

You heard that and it’s wrong. In fact, of 2,364,426 requests for mail-in ballots, 1,918,024 were returned. Turns out the inexperienced Cyber Ninjas (which perhaps should be called Cyber Ninja) confused early voting numbers with mail-in numbers. Confusion has happened a lot during this odd recount of the recount of the recount of the recount.

Despite a glaring lack of election experience, Cyber Ninjas has asked the legislature and courts to keep secret their super-secret trade secrets for detecting secret fraud. While failing to keep doors locked and preventing unauthorized people off the counting floor, Cyber Ninjas has restricted independent observers.

not a genuine ballot
messy ballot

Also, Cyber Ninjas sought to disqualify ballots that were folded, those with smudges or stains, and one with a suspicious Cheetos dust fingerprint. Arizona election professionals explained people do human things and some may be a little grubbier than others. A coffee ring or a booger on a ballot shouldn’t invalidate the entire ballot.

More than 75,000 Maricopa and Pima Republicans did not vote for Mr. Trump, and officials want to know why. The Arizona Senate debated and Cyber Ninjas demanded door-to-door ‘verifications’ of citizens voting. Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward threatened jail for ‘obstruction’, saying, “There could be arrests of people who are refusing to comply.” Perhaps fearing lawsuits, the Senate has held off, but it’s indicative of the lengths they are willing to take.

Conspiracy 202

I’d expected to update the previous article about the Arizona recount x 4, but I hadn’t anticipated the boatloads of new conspiracy theories. The updated map hints at new wrinkles.

blue thermostat
Thermostat (D)

red thermostat
Thermostat (R)

Odd Bedfellows

In addition to China, South Korea allegedly shipped freshly marked ballots directly to Arizona. Supposedly China, coordinating with Iran, targeted Maricopa and Pima Counties. South Korean ballots are particularly sought after because Seoul developed offset printing capable of filling in circles with genuine graphite, making them particularly difficult to detect except, presumably, for the absence of the secret watermark.

News of yet another European operation is attributed to disgraced Michael Flynn. Italian operatives altered Arizona tabulation in real time via satellite. Belgian Deep Fake video altered Fox News coverage, misreporting that Biden was winning.

When Maricopa officials denied voting machines were connected to the internet, conspiracy businessman J Patrick Byrne, attorney L Lin Wood, and others argued they linked wirelessly through Nest™ thermostats. Cyber Ninjas argues they can prove connectivity when Maricopa turns over their routers and remaining servers.

Chickens Come Home to Roost

With millions of excess ballots floating around the country and the Colonial Pipeline clogged like a Soho apartment toilet, operatives desperately needed to dispose of genuine ballots, those imprinted with the telltale watermark. To date, not one secret watermark has appeared in the 2.1-million ballots, proving the scale of the scam.

The CIA, working against interests of the American people, flew military transports loaded with planeloads of real ballots into Abu Dhabi. There they arrested Inaugural Chair Tom Barrack as he bravely attempted to videorecord election shenanigans. From United Arab Emirates, ballots were trucked into the Saudi Arabian desert and dumped, where the evidence remains today.

For those taking notes, Riyadh openly admits disposal trucks journeyed into the Saudi wasteland, but claim they were discarding carcasses of frozen chickens possibly tainted with salmonella processed and packaged during the coronavirus outbreak. Pallets of ballots or sickened chickens? You be the judge.

But chickens weren’t yet off the meathook. On 6 March, gazillions of shredded ballots were reported in dumpsters behind the Maricopa Tabulation Center. Two hours after the ballots disappeared, a suspicious fire broke out at the state’s largest poultry farm owned by Maricopa County’s District 4 Supervisor. The origin of the mysterious fire remains unknown, but it incinerated 166,000 hens out of four million chickens. According to multiple web sites, an investigation into this ‘convenient’ fire will prove the birds were stuffed with ballots.

Disqualification

Election workers are trained to look for a voter’s intention based on America’s vision that every citizen has a constitutional right to vote and have their vote count. Arizona and Cyber Ninjas have taken the position that only the clearest, unambiguous, absolutely certain vote should be tallied. Only a fully, filled-in circle, firm enough to indent pristine paper unsullied with grubby hands should count… if it doesn’t violate their predetermined mathematical model.

Extremist web sites including ProWhiteParty, FrankSpeech, and InTheMatrixxx podcasts leaked that the powers that be propose disqualifying up to half of Maricopa’s 2.1-million ‘counterfeit’ ballots, arguing Maricopa election clerks were far too lenient accepting ‘suspicious’ and ‘spurious’ votes. Various technologies brought to bear on the challenge include alternate source UV light, quantum physics side-scanning, and Commander Jovan Hutton Pulitzer’s proprietary particle kinematic artifact detector™ (PKAD), effectively a 21st Century update of dowsing technology.

Whatever the ultimate count, proponents say suspect and counterfeit ballots should be discarded based upon ballot characteristics. Their rejection mechanism has been compared to a vending machine spitting out a worn dollar bill.

Reasons for rejection may include:

  • ballots containing bamboo fibres
  • ballots containing rice paper
  • ballots containing improper ‘feel’
  • ballots containing stains
  • ballots with improper Q-codes
  • ballots with personal identifying info
  • ballots with incorrect color luminosity
  • ballots with incorrect moisture content
  • ballots with torn or missing corners
  • ballots with ‘kinematic artifacts’
  • ballots failing UV-A/UV-B examination
  • ballots of suspect thickness
  • ballots of suspect weight
  • ballots mailed in unfolded
  • ballots folded the ‘wrong way’
  • ballots folded (non-mail-in)
  • ovals partially filled in
  • ovals filled in with toner
  • ovals without depressions or indentations
  • ovals not filled in by human hand
  • precinct-printed offset registration marks
  • inconsistency between national, local votes
faux watermark
watermark
Proponents consider this last item especially critical as it mathematically ‘proves’ fraud, according to a number of sources. The idea questions split tickets– cases where the bulk of a ballot’s votes go to one party, but the presidential vote was either for the other party or absent altogether. In other words, if down-ballot votes went Republican, then a vote for Biden must be erroneous. Exposing this fraud is a primary reason Cyber Ninjas fought to conduct door-to-door investigations.

Note that no ballots have been found bearing the secret FEC watermark.

Note this is an opinion piece and it contains i-r-o-n-y. Don’t shoot the messenger– I just report it.

16 May 2021

Certifiable – Arizona Elections Connections


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hacker in winter ninja gear
Florida Cyber Ninja™
comes with winter gloves,
woollies, and balaclava toque

In an OAN exclusive, this is Blanca Mujer reporting from the Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where faces are lit with ultraviolet wonder. We’re proud to witness elation and, dare I say, vindication sweep among the ballot tabulators recounting the recount of the recount of the recount of the audited, ultra-secure 2020 election. The arena hasn’t seen this much excitement since the 1973 upset of the never-to-be-forgotten Scottsdale Hamsters over the Pima Prickly Pears.

Kept from the public, Arizona election officials had secretly watermarked official ballots discernible through UV-light. Florida’s determinedly inexperienced Cyber Nunchucks has discovered not one of Maricopa County’s ballots thus far examined carries the distinctive watermark. Random samples pulled from the remaining 2.1-million ballots have also proved counterfeit.

Florida’s Cypher Numnuts is rushing to analyze ballot DNA, certain to be loaded with rice paper and bamboo fibres. Some 40 000 Chinese manufactured counterfeit ballots are known to have been airlifted into remote southwest Arizona, even as Chinese submarines smuggled ashore hundreds of thousands of premarked ballots on America’s Eastern Seaboard to co-opt elections in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Georgia.

Detecting the lack of official watermarks makes this historic day one of… Just a minute, my producer is signalling me… (taps earphone) OAN interrupts this broadcast with a message from My Pillow. This has been Blanca Mujer, OAN News.

Arizona-world election connections

The above scenario is not as outrageous as you might imagine. All of the above-mentioned are among lesser conspiracy theories pursued by stolen-election proponents of Arizona’s challenge to democracy.

The Chinese-British-Venezuelan Connection

Popular theory contends Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez discovered Chairman Mao Zedong had set in motion a blueprint to take over the United States government without firing a shot. Chávez realized the plan could only succeed by seizing control of a Spanish election specialist company, Scytl. In a multi-prong plan, Chávez and the Chinese government sabotaged the US elections with a combination of rigged voting machines and counterfeit ballots.

faux watermark
genuine Federal Election watermark

As Venezuela infected, infested, and injected Smartmatic election machines with a voting virus, China launched a submarine to land prefilled ballots along the Eastern Seaboard. Simultaneously, a low-flying Chinese stealth cargo jet hooked around Cabo San Lucas, flew up the Sea of Cortez and airdropped 40 000 ersatz ballots into Yuma or Pima counties. The Chinese operatives didn’t realize the administration was way ahead of the wily Asians and had imbued official balloting paper with watermarks detectable under ultraviolet lamps.

The amateurish and error-ridden web site of Cyber Ninjas led some (including me) to underestimate the genius of stolen election proponents. The only reason I could think of to explain UV lights shipped into the Coliseum was to seek chemical alterations. Instead, the clever Ninjas first used UV to look for those exclusive but elusive watermarks.

Not finding them implied every single ballot was fraudulent.

The Chinese Disruption

Knowing opponents tended to be obsessed with facts caused the Cyber Ninjas to dig ever deeper. They deployed indirect lighting to examine the infilled ovals on the theory vigorous voters would dent the paper under Nº 2 pencils contrasted with mass ‘xeroxed’ (presumably photocopied) ballots shipped into the state. Unfortunately, the preferred Sharpie pens left little or no dent.

Not trusting microscopic analysis, Cyber Ninjas used indirect UV and DNA testing to detect rice paper and bamboo fibres, an absolute indication of Chinese rather than Russian interference.

Another obstacle arose. China depends upon its numerous pulp mills to manufacture paper. Conversely, the USA also makes rice paper and grows bamboo right there in Arizona. Tucson’s Bamboo Ranch operates seventy-five bamboo groves.

The Russian-Canadian Connection

That resurrected an earlier theory regarding the Keystone Pipeline that ran from Communist Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, suspiciously not delivering oil to the states over which it ran. The pipeline was actually a giant pneumatic tube devised to distribute paper ballots from the great forests of our northern neighbour to Putin Russian-Ukrainian allies in the States. Remember these tubes… we’ll return to them momentarily.

To solve this international mystery, we turn to Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert, supported by Arizona dentist Paul Gosar, DDS, and famed attorney, Sydney Powell, esq. Bear with me, as reported by NewsMax, OANN, and InfoWars, this is convoluted.

putative election map
Gohmert/Gosar/Powell Army Intel map

The Spanish-German Connection

Shortly after the election, feelers put out by a dejected, desperate, but determined Sydney Powell returned intel of electronic voting irregularities involving British Smartmatic SGO machines in Venezuela, but also Scytl SA devices built in Barcelona, Spain. Scytl computers in Frankfurt were pre-programmed to manipulate election results while hiding the true election map at the direction of US Army Intelligence, the NSA, and particularly the CIA.

It’s unclear if Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney notified Powell or if Sydney Powell contacted him, but she organized an assault team to confiscate Scytl computers. She brought in disgraced former Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who’d confessed working for Russia and Turkey, and lied to Vice President Pence and the FBI. Powell called upon Flynn to redeem himself by hand-picking USEUCOM US Army loyalists from the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion (the Kraken) for an assault in Frankfurt to seize the servers. When Secretary of Defence Mark Esper balked at the operation, Flynn and Powell ordered him fired and replaced by Christopher Miller.

According to on-the-ground German tweets, the raid was a partial success, although one woman and five or six (the record is unclear) Army Special Forces men lost their lives in the attempt. How Cyber Ninjas became involved is also unclear.

not a genuine ballot
possibly not a genuine Arizona ballot

The Straight Poop

The Arizona investigation has triggered a disastrous side result. The unexpected ballot examination ordered by the Arizona Senate has aroused panic amongst Deep State forces in Georgia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They couldn’t call back a Chinese submarine to retrieve the bogus ballots, so instead, they flushed them down the Colonial Pipeline.

Unlike the Keystone Pipeline, this one actually carried petroleum. Similar to your home’s sewage lines, those millions of dumped ballots hopelessly constipated the Colonial’s series of tubes. A naïve press blamed the clog upon innocent Russian hackers.

To Provoke and Serve

While naysayers mock the partisan efforts as theatre and compare the recount to the Crazy Times Carnival and Clown Show taking place next door to the counting house, Arizona treats each conspiracy contention seriously. Cyber Ninjas reportedly hired a local private militia called the Arizona Rangers to provide security. Although these fake ‘rangers’ have neither police nor security training, they reportedly look and act like aggressive cops chasing away nosy reporters. They manifest more interest in deterring scrutiny than protecting the voting equipment chain of evidence.

Arizona election fraudit recount, Doug Ducey, Mark Brnovich, Karen Fann, Wendy Rogers, Kelli Ward, Katie Hobbs, Amy B. Chan, Stephen Richer, Jack Sellers, Clint Hickman, Allister Adel, Benny White, Ken Bennett, Randy Pullen, Doug Logan, Ben Cotton, Bryan Blehm, Larry Moore, Tim Halvorsen, Christina Bobb
convenient list of political players

Meanwhile, Cyber Ninjas has demanded the Maricopa Sheriff’s office turn over county routers to them. The sheriff has refused, raising the threat of a subpoena from the Arizona Legislature. To date, web sites aligned with Q-Anon appear relatively silent whether the Arizona Rangers militia or the National Guard should seize the routers.

Thinking they must mean servers (which Cyber Ninjas claim have been tampered with), not routers, I discussed this with my friend and colleague Thrush, a founder of MagicNet and one of the top network experts in the Southeast. Between the two of us, a networking guru and a fraud forensics specialist, we cannot conceive of any useful information that could be gleaned from a router. We’re convinced Cyber Ninjas don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

We also discussed wifi routers discovered on the ballot counting floor by alarmed observers. Cyber Ninjas claimed the routers were turned off, never mind their very presence and the blinky-blinky bits. I suspect they had shut off the SSID display and not the wifi radios, meaning they were very much active but invisible to the outside world.

As We Speak

This has been a particularly difficult article due to the fluid nature of the madcap Arizona recount. Conspiracy theories rapidly rise and fall and rise again with renewed life, without regard to the writer trying to capture competing hypotheses.

Haboob (an Arizona desert girl, hence her name) remarked the presumption of conspiracies cause believers to create realities around them. I might add to that never-ending conspiracies. I can hardly believe the election occurred half a year ago.

Right now, the voting equipment and pallets of ballots have moved into non-air-conditioned storage in a fairgrounds building too hot to work in. Experts and the US Department of Justice complain that in addition to breaks in the chain of custody and UV damage, the intense Arizona heat (well in excess of 50ºC, 122ºF) causes ballot paper to break down. Arizona Senate President Karen Fann told them to mind their own business, which of course they were.

A dismayed viewer can’t help but wonder if the heat also causes brain damage.

03 January 2021

The Skating Mistress Affair, Part IIII


bank vault

Parts I-III provide the background of a unique bank fraud investigation.

In Part II, negotiations soured and in Part III, legal action failed miserably. The bank thought they were done for, but I wasn’t.


The Commentator

To continue developing and enhancing the software, I needed to understand it at least as well as the author. Nothing would do that like immersion in it, and nothing would aid in immersion like having to document the programs line by line, block by block, section by section.

Tedious. Refill the Ritalin, oil the exercise bike, and absorb.

Data Corp set up a pair of desks for me, not with their programming group but in a large room staffed with accountants, bookkeepers, and clerks. That made me the only guy amid thirty-some women.

pink office chair
 
pink Princess phone
Princess phone
 
boobs coffee cup
a slightly less risqué model
 
latex fingertip protectors
latex fingertips

Flirtatious and fun, the data center girls delighted in playing pranks on me. Some tricks were small, such as when they glued a dozen water-cooler cups together and hid the rest. Others were more ornate. They ordered a pink and gold chair for my desk, and installed a Playmate screen saver. My black office phone found itself replaced with a princess phone also in pink. A welcome gift box on my desk contained a coffee cup shaped like breasts.

My office mates flattered and flirted. Once, I asked a supervisor why the girls believed they could get away with such outrageous behavior. “You look easy to tease,” Shelly said. They read me like a Power Point slide.

They were also kind, sharing lunch with me. I never knew who installed a bud vase on my desk and kept its rose and water fresh.

One afternoon, the VP stopped by to pick up a couple of data cartridges. I opened my desk drawer… and immediately slammed it shut. I’d caught a glimpse of something lavender and lacy. Every eye was riveted upon me, watching what I’d do next.

“Er, maybe this drawer,” I muttered, only to spot another item, pink and frilly. The women had filled my drawers with, well, drawers, lingerie at least. I could feel the back of my neck burning.

“Er, I have to dash down to the computer room,” I said. “I’ll drop them off at your desk.”

“But…”

He peered after me suspiciously, knowing something was up. As I took off, he glanced around at the women who were all staring at him.

One morning I arrived to find a fat pink envelope on my desk decorated with hearts and cupids. Inside was tucked another plump envelope with a calligraphic message on it: “Shelly, Julie, DiDi, and Roxy invite you for the weekend. Necessities enclosed.” Heads craned my way as I slipped my thumbnail through the seal.

Out fell a dozen of the tiniest condoms. They’d filled the envelope with the thin latex fingertips clerks slip on when flipping through sheaves of checks and currency. Their cleverness cracked me up. When I stopped laughing, I took out a ruler and carefully measured one of the latex rings. Nodding judiciously, I placed one in my wallet. The lasses laughed, hooted, and jeered and cheered.

We Leave Our Light Off For You

At night, I pretty much lived at the data center, starting on the computers as soon as one was freed up from the work day. To snatch a few hours’ sleep, I holed up in a small motel near the bank’s Data Corp office.

During my extended stays, hotels generally grew used to me, A low-key and seldom demanding demeanor made the maids happy and sometimes pampering. Managers were pleased to X-out a room from their unrented list for a month or six, sometimes more. Across many states and a few countries, hotel life worked efficiently for me.

But deep in the Shenandoah Valley…

This local motel operator wasn’t used to a nomad like me, out all night, sleeping during the day. He glowered at my arrival each morning, frowned as I departed in the evening. Chambermaids reported reams of secret code documents in my room. Learning I skulked down to the bank building each night convinced him I was up to no good. He grew suspicious nefarious activities were afoot.

He telephoned the bank. They routed him to the Data Corp center and wound up with an operator who told him, “Oh, that’s the guy involved in the computer fraud.”

He’d heard enough.

Next morning, exhausted from a long and grueling bout of decoding and debugging, I arrived to find the motel manager in the lobby, arms folded, glaring at me. My haphazardly packed suitcases stood by the door.

Stiff-lipped and obviously fearful of a disheveled guy my size, he said, “Pay your bill and leave. I’ve called the police.” Activity in the motel stopped as a gallery of employees gathered at the balcony rails to witness their innkeeper deal with his dastardly guest. I disappointed them by producing my American Express.

With no internet at the inn, he refused to lend me a phone book to look up alternative hotels. The manager got his final satisfaction by ordering his bellboy to toss my bags outside.

Theirs was an independently owned franchise of something like Motel 7. An hour later, cheek buried in a Howard Johnson’s pillow, I sleepily fantasized complaining to Motel 7’s corporate office… and drifted off to sleep. Just another hazard of the road.

Reanimation

Here I delve into technical details of Sandman’s cryptography and computing. Feel free to skip ahead to The Flash Gorden Super Decoder Ring.

The first hurdle required overcoming a lack of tools, even a lack of tools to build tools. I needed to develop solutions on the bank’s computers, and they weren’t geared for deep-level development. The answer was to invent parsers in assembly language, the language of the machine itself, not meant for the type of character analysis and manipulation I needed. That filled the early days and then came the heavy lifting.

David Edgerley Gates previously brought to our attention substitution cyphers called cryptogramsfound in Sunday newspaper puzzles. Each encrypted letter translates or maps to a plain text letter. For example,

CryptoQuote Encryption Table
↪︎ ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789 ↪︎
JXOHY28RGUPB1WA736SLZQF5MD40CN9VTKIE

In the ‘Adventure of the Dancing Men’, Sherlock Holmes took on a secret society’s messages that differed from cryptograms only in the ‘letters’ represented as pictographs. The Dancing Men glyphs corresponded one-to-one with letters of the alphabet.

Sherlock Holmes Dancing Men translation table

Sandman didn’t resort to half measures. I realized he’d built multiple tables that made decoding a multiple more complex. I had to figure out the mirror image of what he’d devised. The American Civil War saw the use of hair-yanking two-dimensional cyphers. Sandman hadn’t made decryption impossible, merely difficult.

Toward that end, I built a translator to fill holes in the reconstituted tables, gaps where uncertainty failed to reveal which letter represented what. The translator checked for errors, refined and reran the process repeatedly until the blanks filled in.

The process was a variation of stepwise refinement: shampoo, rinse, repeat. I’d decrypted so much, I no longer doubted the plan’s viability. The more I decoded, the smaller shrank the unknowns list.

As Sir Conan Doyle pointed out, the frequency of letters we use in writing varies considerably, useful to know when solving puzzles and Wheel of Fortune. In many examples, ETAOIN occur most frequently in ordinary writing and KXQJZ appear least often. In my code tables, I’d cracked the ‘E’s, the ‘S’s, the ‘T’s and most of the other letters. Here and there I might not know the occasional Q or J, but that decreasingly mattered. Over time, I could plug holes as the solution became clear. I was going to whip this thing.

Ironically, if Sandman had simply treated labels as serial numbers, e.g, No52000, No52010, No52020, etc, he would have robbed them entirely of meaning, making decoding moot. He probably avoided that path, thinking it went too far and might set off alarms within Data Corp’s programming staff.

In the days before I’d realized the labels were encrypted, I wrote a program to extract a sampling from 25,000 lines of code, sort them, hoping they’d point a way to patterns. The harvest yielded 3600 unique names, not one of them a recognizable word or abbreviation. That clue alone suggested something bogus. Programmers might omit vowels, might use peculiar abbreviations, or sometimes use slang drawn from popular fiction like grok and borg, foo and plugh. In 3600 labels, I found not one meaningful word. Patterns, yes, but nothing recognizable surfaced.

I built frequency counters, applets to show how often characters appeared. I had to be wary of vowels since labels were limited in length and the first thing people jettison when abbreviating are vowels. The tables from the frequency counters not only revealed which letters were the most crucial, but also helped zero in on likely character replacements.

The first pass turned out better than expected. A thousand labels suddenly appeared readable. A few unknowns became obvious, but in one table I inadvertently mixed M with N. Correct and rerun. Rinse and repeat. Letter by letter, the coded alphabets unmasked.

Discovering how Sandman selected which table to use helped narrow the focus. The first character of a label served as a table selector. If that letter fell within the first third of our thirty-six alphanumeric characters, he used table 1, or within the second third, table 2, and so on. That mapping didn’t immediately jump out from the encryption, but it could be deduced as labels revealed themselves.

Sandman’s Encryption Table
  ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789
selector

↪︎ JXOHY28RGUPB1WA736SLZQF5MD40CN9VTKIE
↪︎ 5FXABTS2V71K9Y6G048HUOLEIPQJNZCDMWR3
V52KGBXSLOM7TIWH6P18Q03NYDJZCEUFR94A

7-of-9 and Other Figures

An important issue I had to deal with was context. If you’ve ever glanced at raw HTML, you saw that formatting tags were mixed in with common text. You might see something like:

<html><head><title>Student Body</title></head><body>

This page discusses who shall head the student body.

</body></html>

Imagine searching and replacing the keywords ‘head’ and ‘body’ without affecting the HTML tags in a hundred-thousand lines and upwards of a million words without making a mistake. The solution is to comprehend meaning, to grasp when head is part of a formatting tag and when it isn’t.

Much like a human reader, the translation program needed to comprehend context. It parsed the text, distinguished actual programming statements, formatting commands, comments, and assorted runes in what technical people call a non-trivial exercise.

The smart enough parser had to recognize if “7,9” referred to two registers, two memory locations, a mix of the two, coordinates, formatting, a decimal number, part of a comment, or an actress in a television show.

To minimize errors as I restored the code, I borrowed a programmer to help check expansions. Late into the night, our flat conversations sounded like alien air traffic controllers:

“… Hex two-five-five, nought, bang paren dog-easy minus splat…”

“… Xor var fox fox, double word, two-seven baker niner able, no deltas.”

A splat meant an asterisk, bang an exclamation point, a delta implied a difference, and much of the rest was hexadecimal. You’re following this, right?

Deltas had to be identified and dealt with. A final pass matched the assembled output of the original and my newly created decrypted version.


The Flash Gordon Super Decoder Ring

It took a shade over two months, but finally I could inform the vice president he had viable source code, better documented than the original. Since most people couldn’t tell assembler code from alphabet soup, he awarded me congratulations with a vague smile. After all, he had to trust what I said it was.

More satisfying was a phone call I made, one to Sandman.

He said, “I don’t believe it. Impossible. You could not have done it. I couldn’t have done it.”

“It’s true. Got a fax number? I’ll send you a couple of pages plus a cross-reference list of labels.”

“Wow, that’s stupendous. Awesome. I didn’t think it could be done. I respect you, you know. This has been extremely satisfying in a way, a battle of brains. Thrust and parry. Check and mate. You’re as good as they say.”

“You could be a contender, Dan. Do the right thing, join the universe on the side of the angels.”

I thought it was end game, but it wasn’t over yet. When no one was looking, perhaps influenced by his corrupt skating Queen, Sandman slipped another rook onto the board.

Computer Associates

I continued development, expanding the product’s capabilities. Some time earlier I had invented Fx, a technique to carve out an independent partition tailor made for such a product to run in. I refined it for Data Corp, which pleased the customers.

On the sales side, matters were not going well. Sandman was right about one aspect. The business model Chase maintained in his head did not match the reality of the market. Australian Boyd Munro had managed to support a high-flying international sales organization– literally high flying– Boyd and the top officers flew their own private planes. Their salesmen personally visited companies to sell a product that leased for a thousand dollars and upwards a month.

Chase owned a Cessna, but with a product that sold for a fraction of Munro’s in an increasingly competitive and changing market, flying half way across the country to make a sales pitch wasn’t feasible. Although we’d solved the technical and legal catastrophes, the board eyed the bottom line, and S&M– sales and marketing– loomed in their gunsights.

During my break in Boston, the vice president phoned. Another situation. Couldn’t he time dramas to occur when I was in Virginia?

“Leigh, what is your opinion of Computer Associates?”

“My opinion? They have staying power, can’t argue that. They change with the times. The company has a chequered reputation, though, considered shady. Rumors persist about a clash with Tower Systems out in California and that the D-fast and T-fast products were cloned. Supposedly the president’s brother is the corporate attorney, so one story says they bully smaller companies in court, grind them down with legal fees, Software Darwinism, the beast with the biggest claws.”

“Computer Associates expresses an interest in buying the rights to our product. They want to send a software specialist to look over the programs. Can you fly here to show it to him?”

“You want to show a competitor our source code? In light of what I just explained, if only a small part is true, does this make sense?”

“Did I mention they are talking a five with a lot of zeros after it?”

“Five hundred thousand dollars? You are joking.”

“I do not joke.”

“Have them sign a non-disclosure agreement, maybe an MOU. Protect yourself.” I could tell from his reaction he wasn’t listening to anything but a five followed by five zeroes.

Bankers, hard-nosed but so naïve.

CA’s software guru turned out to be a Jersey guy with an enviable excess of kinetic energy. The bank’s coffee klatch girls studied Matt, sizing him up.

“He looks like the Leverage TV actor, you know, Christian Kane without the smile, don’cha think?”

“I picture that bad boy flying down the road on a motorcycle, long hair flattened back by the wind.”

“You hear how he talked to the receptionist? He gives me the creeps. You ever see Andrew Dice Clay?”

“Girlie, we got a male who fogs a mirror. What more do we need in a testosterone drought?”

Matt communicated mostly in monosyllabic grunts and nods, then dove head-first into the programs. The vice president hung about, all but wringing his hands before deciding his presence wasn’t contributing. Chase on the other hand, sat down prepared to answer questions. When Matt opened his notebook and began to make copious notes, I shot a questioning look at Chase. He merely shrugged and motioned me outside the room.

“The VP said anything goes. They want to sell it and don’t want us to throw up barriers.”

“What about the non-disclosure? Your bank had me sign one.”

“You are a consultant. This is an established company.”

“I don’t believe it. You wouldn’t give me a hint about the program until I signed sixteen documents. This guy waltzes in, they open the vault?”

“Pretty much. Look, they know your feelings; they just don’t see it your way.”

The VP returned and offered lunch, a largess almost unheard of. Barbecue, Southern buffet, Chinese… Matt waved them all away. “Cold pizza will do.”

Folks in the Shenandoah Valley like to get to know people they do business with. Matt did his best to keep a distance. Chase was clearly uncomfortable with this, but the vice president took it to mean Matt was all business and above frivolity while the rest of us worried about job security. The fact Matt saved the vice president forty bucks for lunch didn’t hurt either.

The afternoon turned into more of the same. Matt pored over the programs, taking extensive notes, filling page after page. He asked to use the phone in private a couple of times. About 5:30, we shut down for the evening, unusual for us. We invited Matt out to dinner. Chase suggested bluegrass, but Matt declined both.

We met again at nine the next day. Mid-morning Matt turned his attention to my Fx routine and his interest picked up, so much so that he was copying actual bits of code. How did this advance negotiations, I wondered. I closed the binder cover and excused myself, taking it with me.

I stopped in the VP’s office, and reported I didn’t like the way this was going. I’d developed this routine on my own, already had it purloined once, and I didn’t want it stolen again. Because I benefited from royalties, I allowed the bank to use it but they didn’t own it– I did. My holding out for a signed agreement did not make the vice president happy.

Lunch saw subs delivered. By mid-afternoon Matt said he was ready for a meeting. Even I wasn’t prepared for the audacity of his announcement.

“You know a guy named Daniel Sandman? We bought rights and title to the package from him. After minor changes, we shall bring it to market. We’re willing to pay you $10,000 for whatever rights you think you have and you turn your source code over to us.”

The blatant gall stunned us. Finally, Chase said, “The offer of a half million plus was just bullshit?”

The vice president, never one to forget proprieties, frowned at Chase but said to Matt. “You viewed our source under false pretenses?”

Matt shrugged. “You were under no obligation to show me a fucking thing. I suggest you consider this proposal quickly and unemotionally. I have no idea how long my bosses will keep the offer open. With or without you, we’ll bring the product to market within months.”

“What offer?” said Chase. “This is blackmail.”

“It’s actually extortion,” said the vice president. “It won’t fly here. We own the product. We have taken steps more than once to defend it. I cannot imagine what Sandman led you to believe, but the product is not yours. Now I’d appreciate it if you return the notes.”

“Forget about it. The notes are mine, freely allowed by you. You know Charlie Wong, the guy I work for? And his brother, their lawyer? Believe me, before this is over, we’ll own it, Fx and all, and you’ll be wishing you had the $10,000 to cover your first week of legal fees.”

“Fx is not for sale,” I said flatly.

“You think you can stop us?”

The vice president leaned in. “Our customer base monthly revenue is worth more than you’re offering. I suggest you leave, before Southern hospitality comes to an end.”

Matt tapped his fingers a moment and said, “You’ll regret it. Call me a fucking cab.”


The after-conference turned dismal. We had been humbled, deceived, threatened, misled and misused. Only our refusal to be bullied gave us the least comfort.

Matt’s feint and his company’s bluff corroded the bank’s confidence. Computer Associates’ audacity must surely have some credence, mustn’t it? The vice president sent out a tendril of query, tried a civilized probe into Computer Associates, which was met with stony implacability. Gradually, the cold acidic silence ate through the bank’s certainty and sense of justice. They decided to invest no more in the product.

I was retained for the time being because Data Corp still had customers who depended on the software and they would not abandon them. As manufacturers introduced new devices and operating system changes, our package continued to adjust and adapt.

Loose Ends

Chase departed, moving on to sell elsewhere. He reported an industry insider rumor that Computer Associates concluded Sandman either screwed them or they found him too volatile to work with. Either way, they killed off their project. But sadly, they’d also killed ours.

CA’s retreat came too late for us. With sales and marketing shut down, the die had been cast. Within a year or two, requests for updates to the software slowed and then tapered off altogether. The bank ceased billing the last few customers, letting them continue to use the product if they chose or migrate to a competitor’s offering.

Sand Castles

Sandman induced mixed feelings. He possessed a brilliant, if sadly injudicious mind. Like a Greek drama or a Russian novel, the characters and the outcome were doomed from the start. I thought of Sandman less a bad guy and more a pathetic protagonist hemmed in by a distorted perception of the world.

As a result, he acted vengefully and criminally. He’d defrauded a bank and its most important business clients. goaded by his lover, he blew every chance, every opportunity to get it right. When the blunders of a cigar-chompin’ deputy gave him a get-out-of-jail card, he attempted one more dishonest end-run, reselling a product he no longer owned. It shouldn’t have turned out a tragedy, but characters seldom get to decide the plot.

I confess I relished the contest. Like a novel’s protagonist, I had to see it through until its end. A friend noted I would have fought the battle even if I hadn’t been paid.

As a freelancer, jokes surrounded me about riding into town, smiting a problem, and riding out again as winsome daughters clasped their hands to heaving bosoms and cried out, “Who was that masked man?” Even the industry slang of a hired ‘code-slinger’ evoked the image of a geekish gunfighter. We each enjoy our illusions, but the challenge felt exciting.

Although a resoundingly happy ending didn’t materialize, the case looms in my past with a sense of satisfaction, of skirmishes won and a job completed. One could argue otherwise, but I like to think it a shadowy victory for the good guys.

As much as I enjoyed the battle of wits, the world would have been a happier place if Sandman had executed an ethical U-turn into the righteous lane. But if the ungodly, as The Saint was wont to say, always did the right thing, we’d have no story.