Monday, September 29, 2003

A corollary to yesterday's post on Bev Harris: While her "public interest" website, blackboxvoting.org, has been taken down at Diebold's demand, her "commercial" website, blackboxvoting.com, remains up. I'm not sure what the differences between the two sites were, but I'm given to beleive the answer is "not much."

Sunday, September 28, 2003

To call the issues raised in a recent Salon article worrying would be a masterful understatement. Entitled An Open Invitation to Election Fraud, it chronicles the story of Diebold Election Systems, America's #1 supplier of electronic voting machines. The article tells a story of low-security systems, exposed to the internet, with easily modified access logs. In other words, anybody with the right knowlege can log on and read the latest vote tallies before the government sees them, change said tallies, or even reprogram the machines - and leave no record of anything having happened. The article, based around an interview with Bev Harris, a writer who's spent the last year investigating the election equipment industry, quotes internal Diebold memos discussing the alleged flaws and discounting them as acceptable. And she quotes further memos from Ken Clark, Diebold's chief engineer, alluding to the fact that Diebold not only intentionally put back doors into the system, but had been actively using them to perform unspecified operations on installed voting machines, unbeknownst to state officials. The full text of those memos are no longer available. Diebold sued Harris' website to have them taken down. Their argument. Copyright infringement. Note that you can only claim copyright on something you actually did write...

As to specifics, Harris mentions a few things that approach the territory of conspiracy theory. And as all good conspiracy theories do, she has disturbing evidence in support. Diebold's CEO, Walden O'Dell, is a major Bush fundraiser. He's on record saying he's "committed to helping Ohio [his home state] deliver its electoral votes to the President next year." When Diebold's machines were used for the first time in Georgia in 2002, there were 6 major Republican upsets, including the Senator's and Governor's races. As far as anyone can tell, Diebold updated the software on the voting and tabulation machines up to eight times in the lead-up to the election. Those updates were not examined by state officials. Further, the individual memory cards kept by each machine have been erased by Diebold, and they've overwritten the software on each of the state's tabulation systems. In other words, there is no longer any record of what votes were cast or how those votes were counted, save for the testimony of Diebold Election Systems, Inc. Had the machines printed a paper record of the votes (which they don't), the state would be legally required to hold those records for 22 months. Diebold lobbies aggressively against any paper trail requirements.

Whether or not anything actually has happened, I'm worried. What's wrong with a paper and pencil? That's how they do it in Canada, with the votes counted on-site. Ever hear of Canadian voter fraud?
OK, I've got to admit I have no idea what message this cartoon is supposed to impart.


Lalo Alcaraz, LA Weekly, via Daryl Cagle's Pro Cartoonist Index

It does, however, raise a question: "Where can I get Pepe the Chili merchandise?"

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Apple ate my computer. Thanks to their Mac OS 10.2.8 update, my iMac was inoperable from Tuesday onwards. Academic Computing services at my college said my only recourse was to reformat my hard drive. I was able to save it through the magic of Alsoft's DiskWarrior, but I paid $80 for the privlege. "Not worth our money" says Academic Computing, thereby dooming the next generation of malfunctioning computers to erasure.

Remember, kids, never install anything until you've got testimonials that it works, even if Software Update tells you it's just the greatest thing ever.

Monday, September 22, 2003

From the Washington Post, via Atrios and Kos:
Speaking of contracting out, an administration move to privatize air traffic control at 69 airports has sparked opposition from labor groups, which contend it would compromise safety.

The administration had proposed 71 airports, but House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska), who supports the effort, got someone to strike the two Alaska airports on the list.

Young, on an Alaska cable TV show a week ago, acknowledged the move generated some heat.

"Of course the criticism of myself," he said, "is that I exempted the state of Alaska." But there were ample reasons for that, he said, ticking off a number of them.

"Lastly," Young said, "my hotel room is on the top floor of the Sheraton, and the airplanes take right off towards my hotel room. Every morning I look out and there's one coming right at me. It's an interesting experience and I want to make sure everything is done right in that field."

This one just speaks for itself.
As the Galileo spacecraft plunges into Jupiter, my faith in the Space program is replenished. For $1.4 Billion, the cost of a B-2 bomber and a half, we sent this thing 3 Billion miles and found out there might be life on Jupiter's moons. In the practical arena, you only have to read the stories to see what came from this mission. The main antenna failed to deploy. They now know why, and it won't happen again. Further, they were able to resume the mission by communicating with Galileo via its reserve antenna and reprogramming its computers from Pasadena. Doesn't that seem like a technique that might come in handy? The ship took a lot more radiation than it was designed for. A lot of equipment went down. Galileo didn't have an onboard toolkit, or a mechanic for that matter. Despite that, the NASA crew was able to keep it running by rerouting power through undamaged conduits, redesigning its software to make the remaining equipment do things it was never meant to do, and repairing balky equipment using techniques they made up on the spot (according to one article I can no longer find, they got a jammed tape recorder working by turning nearby equipment on and off in a manner which caused electricity to arc through the tape, changing its chemical composition and freeing it.) Oh yeah, and all this from a machine with the power of a 60-watt bulb and the intelligence of an Apple II.

Sometimes things go wrong. But sometimes, even the things that go wrong can be made into something absolutely, perfectly right. This was one of those times. Congratulations on a job well done Galileo, and the same to the group of scientists and engineers that made her possible.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

There's a Russian band called "Utah". What's up with that?
New site up in the links: OurCampaigns.com. Honestly, I still haven't figured out exactly what it is or how it works. It's similar to Project Vote Smart, but with a different - and obviously not overly concerned with accuracy - data set. That said, they have some things I've had trouble finding elsewhere, such as voting data from the last election easily accessible from data on this or next year's races. They take a lot of flyers on predicting who will be running for various positions in the future, and seem to list just about everyone as related to everything, but it's still an interesting resource, if perhaps not one with any practical value.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Interesting new Salon article about automation. Talks about the current wave happening at checkout counters and the like. They talk to a couple of futurists who have, as expected, differing views on what to expect. "Earthly Heaven" (actual quote) or mass unemployment? I have to agree with the idea that trying to save US manufacturing jobs is probably a lost cause. If the work can be done more efficiently by machines or Malaysians, what sense does it make to do it otherwise? I do beleive that automation will lead to a better world where humans are employed in work that fully draws on their talents; however, I think government does have to step in to make this dream a reality. Basically, left unchecked, the guy who owns the machines will make a huge amount of money by making the nations workers destitute. What's to be done? Members of the Club for Growth should probably stop reading now: It's all about the taxes, taxes, taxes. There ought to be a tax on robotics, not to discourage their use but simply to spread the wealth they create. Nobody would be using them if they weren't a net creator of wealth. A country which can rely on machines for its manual labor has the capability for universal wealth, but the management of that automation is critical. We're inexorably headed for a revolution, but what kind is still in our hands.
Which is the better ticket, Dean-Clark or Clark-Dean? Or will Clark turn out to be a total dork-off? Need a little time to tell.
A quick history of modern business:

1. Enron, WorldCom, et al do a bunch of illegal stuff, destroying the value of the companies while fabulously enriching management
2. The NYSE looks the other way
3. SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt announces bold new strategy of demanding a pay raise
4. Congress gets mad and institutes some laws, while Pitt is replace by William Donaldson
5. The now fabulously wealthy managers of Enron, WorldCom, et al get away pretty much scot free
6. Said fabulously wealthy managers elect to pay the NYSE's chief $140 million for looking the other way
7. SEC Chief Donaldson announces he thinks this is a good idea
8. Congress gets mad and hold hearings
9. The now fabulously wealthy manager of the NYSE gets away pretty much scot free
Running a blog that no one reads is an interesting experience. Sometimes I just don't have the impetus to write anything. Due to the nature of the beast, that's actually pretty ok. I don't know, however, whether the sporadic entries are a function of non-existant readership, or whether the non-existant readership is a convenient rationalization. I'm pretty sure the sporadic nature of entries isn't the cause of the site's low profile - that's more a function of my nondescript, unmarked location somewhere in the vast maze that is the Internet.

Speaking of which, I wonder where the server this thing is hosted on is located?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Well, two things about that rally in Drexel Hill. One, despite the complaints of some that we weren't allowed right up to the motorcade (some people have to call EVERYTHING fascist or their day just isn't complete), security really was reasonable. We were in plain sight of the thing when it went by, and the cops didn't harass us at all. Second, there was nobody there. There were maybe about 20 protestors, and maybe about 50 locals along other parts of the route. I heard the Sierra Club was organizing a significant protest, but they never showed. As for the DelCo for Dean campaign I was supposedly affiliated with, only 2 people showed up. Well, it was raining hard. Next time we'll let 'em know what's what.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Why am I not surprised that, due to supply shortages, US soldiers have been reduced to asking their parents to send backpacks and night-vision goggles? That's on top of the earlier reports that US troops in Iraq are more and more commonly using captured Iraqi AK-47s, because no one thought to send enough rifles to equip the tankers and artillerymen (just in case they had to patrol the streets of Baghdad on foot or something crazy like that).
No kidding? Looks like that wacky 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked the California recall election until punch-card machines can be replaced. Never thought that would happen. What the federal government has to do with California's gubernatorial politics (or why the ACLU opposes the recall) is beyond me. Wonder where this one's gonna go?
The President is going to be nearby in Drexel Hill later today at another $2000-a-plate fundraiser. As usual, there's going to be a protest outside. I'm going to try to attend, assuming the rain holds off. I'm starting to get sick and tired of this Pennsylvania hey-it's-raining-no-it's-not-oh-here-it-comes-again nonsense. Between that and the humidity... anyway, I kind of want to go just to see what it's like. A friend who spent the summer observing protests for the ACLU claims the secret service does an admirable job making sure the president and the protestors never see each other, allegedly because the sight of dissent "upsets" our fearless leader. Well, if I go, I'll let you know about it.
Another usenet post, from talk.politics:

2 years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, it is clear that the
leaders of both sides of the "war on terrorism" fail to understand the
ordinary people on the other side.

Osama bin Laden doesn't understand that he cannot kill enough Americans
to make us want to be Muslims. President Bush doesn't understand that
he cannot kill enough devout Muslims to make the rest of them fear
America.

I doubt that I will see the end of this war in my lifetime.

Abel Malcolm

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Bob Graham went down as the one Senator who voted against the Iraq war resolution. I always just figured he was the one guy who thought the war was a bad idea and was willing to stick by his convictions. I never thought to look at what he was actually saying at the time. The New Republic did:

Graham used to argue that he was to the right of Bush on Iraq. On the Senate floor last year, he said he was voting against the war resolution because it was "too timid," "too limiting," and "too weak." He wanted the president to have even more authority to take on terrorists across the Middle East. But, tonight, Graham attacks from the left, reading from the war resolution and noting, "My friends, those who voted for that, gave the president a blank check. We cannot trust this president with a blank check." The line conveniently ignores that last year Graham wanted to give him much more--as he put it, a resolution that "would contain what the president has asked for relative to the use of force against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, and more."


Not that I ever thought the guy was going anywhere, but whatever respect I had for him has now left the building.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

According to the AP, Donald Rumsfeld says the plan is to hold the Guantanamo detainees without trial - proper, military, or otherwise - "until the global war on terrorism is over", which by his logic may take decades. Can this possibly be right?
Note: The George W. Bush $200 Bill does not actually exist.
It's September 11th. Just take a moment to do whatever you feel is appropriate.

Monday, September 08, 2003

A moment of silence for Warren Zevon. He's dead.

NY Times Obituary.

Chuck Asay, Colorado -- The Colorado Springs Gazette

This cartoonist frequently likes to make fun of the ACLU. The odd thing is, in this cartoon, I have trouble finding what he's making fun of. I mean, it's a little goofy, but I'm not sure exactly what's objectionable about it.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Take a look at the website of Iraq Today, one of three english-language newspapers now running out of Iraq. If you want to know what's going on in Iraq, you have to ask what the Iraqis are saying. I especially suggest looking at the "security" heading. In this section, the paper posts warnings as to where civilians are and are not safe. The September 2nd edition reads, matter-of-factly, as follows:

CMCC [Civil-Military Coordination Center] cites Adhamiyah, Rusafa, Thowra, al-Muthanna, Shaab, Hurriyah, Shuahla and the Al-Ameriah ( the area around Baghdad International airport ) as uncertain or hostile areas.

Carjacking is rife in the capital. Do not walk around the streets with bags or mobile/satellite phones.

The curfew in Baghdad begins at 11pm and ends at 4am; most governorates have no curfew.

Iraq's highways are considered dangerous. Highway 10 between Baghdad and the Jordanian border is especially hazardous, particularly around the Ramadi area. Armed bandits operate this route, using fast cars to stop large convoys of vehicles.

Highway 8, between Baghdad and Hillah is also considered a no go route by humanitarian organisations.
Highway 1, between Baghdad and Qasim is also very dangerous.

Police are present on the streets of the capital but they are Out-gunned and outnumbered.


I don't think any analysis I could offer would add anything to that report. Just imagine that in a newspaper. "80 degress, partly cloudy, the Dodgers beat the Mets, you'll probably get shot if you leave your house, and the NASDAQ composite is up by a point." What could that possibly be like?

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Added a link to Granny D's homepage under "Blogs". She's the 90-year old woman who walked from Pasadena, CA to Washington, DC to promote Campaign Finance Reform. She's written and spoken a lot since then, with an eloquence and power that puts most to shame.

Technically her page isn't a blog, but who's counting?
That wacky recall. My probability of supporting Arnold dropped significantly after he refused to participate in debate with the other candidates. I really couldn't care less who he groped; it might not be the action of a gentleman, but there are more important qualifications to govern than chivalry. By refusing to show up, he may be blowing his lead among Republicans to Tom McClintock, an ideological partner of last year's whipping boy Bill Simon. All signs point to Bustamante, dumb as he is... unless, of course, Arianna Huffington starts a miracle drive. Then, with McClintock neutralizing Arnold, Huffington splitting with Bustamante on the left, and Larry Flynt kept from monopolizing the porn-hound vote by Mary Carey, Gary Coleman will be in prime position to take the reins.

Who came up with this system again?
Whaddya know? The middle east in chaos again? Who woulda thunkit? After everybody spent a week or so blowing each other up for no good reason (it's just so fun!), Palestinian PM Abbas has resigned in disgust at all involved. Hey, what else is he going to do? His President just wants to wave him around while plotting to blow up Israel, the Israelis are trying to find a way to shoot around him (what are they going to do, hold fire? As if), and the US is preoccupied with contemplation of its own navel. Abbas was screwed from the start - it's surprising he held out as long has he did. I hold no hope that the fighting will stop as long as there's anybody left to fight.
I'm back in Philly. Hey everybody.