Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Electronic Vote Stealing

OK, that's it. Paper ballots for me from now on!

Check out this video from a lab at Princeton U. [Hat-tip to Bob Harris] It's amazingly easy, and pretty much undetectable.

This is pretty much what a bunch of us techies have been warning about for years. I'm glad someone has made such a clear, simple demonstration.

I Can't Believe We're Having This "Debate"

It truly sickens me that the United States government is discussing what they euphemistically refer to as "alternative interrogation techniques." Never mind that when the government starts using euphemisms (e.g., "collateral damage"), it's time to run the other way. Basically the government is looking for a sanction to torture people without calling it that. Great; as if it doesn't hurt to torture someone as long as you call it something else.

I have already written far more in this blog than I ever wanted to about torture. It is self-evident to me that torture is bad, it is wrong, and it is dangerous, disastrous public policy. It demeans both the torturer and the victim, and it lowers the threshold for future abuse.

Josh Marshall made a good point the other day:
If you were to pick the single greatest hypocrisy of the Bush Presidency, wouldn't it have to be this: that the man who ostentatiously claims Jesus as his favorite philosopher (he of "do unto others as ye would have them do unto you" fame) would say, in all seriousness, "Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. "What does that mean, 'outrages upon human dignity'?"
WWJD, indeed?

Monday, September 18, 2006


No, not an expression of irritation--it's a greeting for a holiday! There seems to be no reason for it, but it's fun. And Pastafarians everywhere know that the world needs more pirates!

So, enjoy, me hearties! For those in need of remedial pirate-talk lessons, check this useful video.

Voting, Yet Again

The Washington Post has a lengthy article today about how, just maybe, there might be problems with the use of electronic voting devices this fall. And maybe, just maybe, some localities might not have adequate fallback procedures.

My favorite quote from the article is this:
What is clear is that a national effort to improve election procedures six years ago -- after the presidential election ended with ambiguous ballots and allegations of miscounted votes and partisan favoritism in Florida -- has failed to restore broad public confidence that the system is fair.
Well, duh. You don't solve a credibility and accountability problem by hiding the mechanisms behind an opaque, electronic curtain. Secret ballots are important, but once the votes are cast, transparency and openness are vital to public acceptance of the results.

Buried at the end of the article is the fact that despite recommendations that partisan administration of elections be abandoned in favor of nonpartisan means, virtually nowhere has that happened (including here in my home state of California). Elections and voting are too important to be a political football. There should never be a question of partisanship in the administration of elections or the counting of votes. There is already enough political pressure in the election process.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Business Travel

I haven't been on a business trip in a couple of years (one of the benefits of taking time off work, then working for a tiny company in its early stages). But this week I had to fly to Philadelphia for a couple of days. Great! September is usually a great time to be on the East Coast, since the humidity has gone, and the cold hasn't set in.

Forecast for just the 2.5 days I was to be there: Rain. Showers. More rain. *sigh*

And apparently the Pennsylvania highway department has it out for non-locals. Because if you make just one little slip, you're on the ramp onto the turnpike instead of the road you wanted. And not only does this mean you can't turn around for 10-12 miles, you also have to pay for the privilege. Cruel. Frustrating. Especially when one is already a bit jet-lagged.

But our meetings went well. Nice people. Got to have dinner with a dear old friend.

And then that wonderful weather decided to play havoc with my flight home. I had carefully found a 2:00 pm flight that would get me to San Francisco by 5:00 pm so I could join my wife and a friend for dinner at 6:00 before our 8:00 theater tickets. Hahahahahahahaha.

The 2:00 flight took off sometime after 4:30. We touched down at 7:34. I was in Row 31 of 32 on the plane, so I was almost the last one off. Luckily, no checked bags, so I ran to the taxi stand, and we set some kind of land speed record, arriving at the theater at 7:59 for the 8:00 curtain. I actually had time to sit and catch my breath (and stow my carry-ons under the seats) before the curtain went up.

I'm looking forward to a nice, relaxing weekend at home. After we get back from seeing the new dinosaur exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Naughty Words

See? I told you so. Civil discourse is going to hell in a handbasket, and it's all because we can't control ourselves in front of our kids. I exaggerate here, but truly, these people appear not to get it. Small children (here I'm talking up to about age 6 or 7) just don't know how to read the context of a conversation, so they don't understand when or why it might be appropriate (or not) to swear.

And if they hear it all the time from their parents, what conclusion can we expect them to draw? It's one thing if they occasionally hear one of their parents swear when they get very angry or something, but if every sentence is punctuated with F-bombs, then of course they will parrot them.

I was stunned when a friend of our told us her kid (about 2-1/2 at the time, I believe) had told her to "F*** off." Then she explained that the kid had learned it from watching The Sopranos. Ah, well, what did you expect?

We learn from our teachers. And when we are the teachers, others learn from us. Or as Jack Flanders said, "What seems to be coming at you is coming from you."

It's not cute. It's obnoxious.

Friday, September 08, 2006


I've been trying to ignore much of the fuss over ABC's planned 9/11 mini-series. I mean, I saw the phrase "ABC mini-series" and knew there couldn't be much of interest there.

In all fairness, I don't watch much television, would certainly not have watched that show, even were I to watch TV. But I am inspired by some of the rhetorical flourishes I've seen in the discussion.

This one is my favorite, from Roger Ailes:
Bush was fully informed about the threat from Bill Clinton himself, Richard Clarke, etc. and did nothing. If Bush had "ample warning," then how did the Clintonites "know better." What the fuck was the Clinton administration supposed to do, refuse to turn over power until all terrorists were eliminated? Stay in office until Bush passed a reading comprehesion test? If Bush was not prepared to deal with terrorism from day one, he should have never stolen the election in the first place.
The whole fuss is interesting, and it's been intriguing to see how much pressure has been put on ABC about this show. It will also be interesting to see if they cave in and pull the show, as has been rumored.

I feel like I'm watching a circus through a telescope or something.

I am also amused that Blogger's spell-checker suggested that I replace "fuck" with "Fuji". Given the frequency with which that term appears in blogs, I'm surprised it's not in their dictionary!

Friday, September 01, 2006


Go: watch, read.

I always enjoyed Keith Olbermann when he was a snarky sports reporter on ESPN. But I've come to appreciate his integrity as a reporter when I occasionally catch his Countdown program.

There are few in his business who will even offer an opinion (except maybe to bolster Conventional Wisdom). To actively criticize the administration, and to do so for over five minutes, is stunningly rare.

And a particularly good quote from Edward R. Murrow at the end:
“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”