Monday, September 29, 2008

How to steal an election

Intuitively, you might think that e-voting machines should be good for technology industries; after all, if machines didn't replace paper, many of us in these industries would be out of a job. But have you noticed that technology professionals like those that hang around at Slashdot, the EFF and Ars Technica are the same people that loudly proclaim their distrust of electronic voting machines and want paper audit trails?

Click the headline to read all about the flaws in electronic voting systems that can allow votes to be stolen wholesale. As a Computer Engineer (in training) that started programming at age 11, I can vouch for the horrifying plausibility of this article.

By the way, the article talks about how it is possible for vote-counting software to be modified in such a way that the changes can't be detected. But if you take the time to read through the long account I linked to in my last blog entry, you'll note that many of the techniques used to shift the election results from Kerry to Bush in Ohio were actually very blatant and low-tech--such as voter caging, refusing to recognize voter registration cards that are not printed on very thick paper, not giving out provisional ballots, causing long lineups at polls, or declaring a fake terrorist emergency. While these techniques may have angered voters, they served their intended purpose just the same. Apparently, remaining undetected while rigging the ballot is merely a bonus.
The remedy to much of the above, by the way, would be not to put leaders of one party in charge of interpreting and enforcing election law -- duh. The electronic voting system, however, can be subverted even if those in charge of the election are fair and neutral.

Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

Every once in awhile I read something about major irregularities in the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Having never heard a rebuttal to these stories, I wonder how it is that such a tremendous fraud can slip through the mainstream media unnoticed.
As the last polling stations closed on the West Coast, exit polls showed Kerry ahead in ten of eleven battleground states -- including commanding leads in Ohio and Florida -- and winning by a million and a half votes nationally. The exit polls even showed Kerry breathing down Bush's neck in supposed GOP strongholds Virginia and North Carolina. Against these numbers, the statistical likelihood of Bush winning was less than one in 450,000. ''Either the exit polls, by and large, are completely wrong,'' a Fox News analyst declared, ''or George Bush loses.''

But as the evening progressed, official tallies began to show implausible disparities -- as much as 9.5 percent -- with the exit polls. In ten of the eleven battleground states, the tallied margins departed from what the polls had predicted. In every case, the shift favored Bush. Based on exit polls, CNN had predicted Kerry defeating Bush in Ohio by a margin of 4.2 percentage points. Instead, election results showed Bush winning the state by 2.5 percent. Bush also tallied 6.5 percent more than the polls had predicted in Pennsylvania, and 4.9 percent more in Florida.

Click the heading for the whole story by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

What about the 2000 election?

I recently saw an HBO movie called Recount, about the 2000 battle for a recount in Florida. You would expect this film to be somewhat dry, but I promise it is quite gripping. While much of the dialogue may be fiction, the plot is basically accurate, yet has more twists than anyone would expect from a true story. I had no idea the election was so close, or that many recounts were halted while in progress. All thumbs up!

P.S. Isn't there something wrong with the fact that votes in swing states like Florida are much more valuable than those in non-swing states? Shouldn't all votes count equally? If you think they should, support an end to winner-take-all elections, or better yet, an end to the electoral college.

Another interesting thing.

Economics: war versus common sense

A Slashdot post I saw by "jollyreaper", replying to another post.
FDR tried and failed to fix the 1930s recession..... it ultimately took a world war to bring-back full employment. Without the war, FDR would have been voted out of office in 1940, and the recession would have stretched through most of the 1940s.

Obama faces what FDR faced, and Obama's not going to be any more successful. (Unless a war saves him.)

Why is it we always praise wars for bringing full employment? I hate to use the cheesedick "war on x" phrases but seriously, what if we were literally do pull out all the stops and mobilize the population on the scale of total war but make the enemy be shoddy infrastructure or crappy housing or something. Instead of marshaling the entire industrial might of the nation towards turning out bombers and tanks, why not treat the whole war as a massive public works project? Make the government the employer of last resort. "If private industry cannot provide work for our good citizens, the government will employ them in something as close to their profession as possible, working towards the public good." It's unemployment benefits that don't keep you out of work and gives the government a tangible return for the money. When the economy picks up, the private sector can start hiring the workers back.

We've been cutting back on investing in infrastructure for decades, it'd be good to put some money back into our country again. Set a goal of getting us off fossil fuels over the next two decades, put government labs to work on seriously making a go of fusion power, green living, reshape our cities to be less energy intensive.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Iraq fact widget


McCain's tax plan versus Obama's

Both candidates seem to have plans that seem impossible to pay for, according to CNN:
The Tax Policy Center estimates that over 10 years, McCain's tax proposals could increase the national debt by as much as $4.5 trillion with interest, while Obama's could add as much as $3.3 trillion.
I sure hope both platforms are lies, because I don't think the country can tolerate so much more debt. Let's hope they will raise taxes enough to pay for their plans, or better yet, cut wasteful spending on military and pork-barrel projects.

Obama/Paul for president

It's kind of funny: I like both Ron Paul and Barack Obama, even though they would make wildly different policy decisions.

Obama would raise taxes on the rich and implement universal health care. He will not reduce the size of the military, just recall some troops and shift others to Afghanistan. Ron Paul, if he could, would reduce taxes, drastically reduce the size of government, and reduce the scope of our military spending. Interestingly, despite this last point, the biggest contributors to his campaign were from the military and he was more popular than McCain, Romney or Huckabee among members of the armed forces.

Obama is a mild liberal, now pandering ever more toward the "center" of the political spectrum as perceived by the media. For them, it seems, the "center" means accepting the military-industrial complex with its extremely high military spending, a casual willingness to use military force, proposing a deficit-funded budget, avoiding discussion of abortion so as to avoid appearing on one side or the other, an unwavering support for Israel, emphasizing one's Christianity, and so forth. He originally proclaimed that he would run a positive campaign focused on the issues, but with Republicans slinging mud and lies his way, it's no surprise he fights back with negative ads of his own.

Ron Paul is a libertarian, who makes up for this somewhat unpopular ideology with sheer integrity, straight talk, and an unwavering commitment to the rules and ideals of the constitution. Almost everything he says is gold because it rings true. He says the kind of things I think, but which the media and ordinary politicians ignore. He also defends the right to bear arms, but I can live with that as long as he promotes the rest of the constitution with at least as much fervency.

Both of them want political debates to focus on the issues, and neither want the media to be distracted by stupid sideshows. Both of them value ethics and a respect for the constitution. Both of them are more tech-savvy than Bush or McCain. Both of them recognize and dislike the corruption in Washington, and want change, though the scale of change Ron Paul would bring is surely greater. Both of them have a talent for speaking--though Obama appeals more to the heart and Ron Paul more to the mind.

Ahh, how nice it would be if I could take the best of each. Paul's straight talk with Obama's electability. Paul's contempt for big government plus Obama's belief that everyone should have access to health care and education. Paul's anti-abortion and anti-war leanings with Obama's anti-gun leanings. Paul's uncompromising support of the constitution, combined--in some impossible way--with Obama's ability to compromise in order to get things done.

I've got it. Let's have Obama for four to eight years and get our universal health care while ending the Iraq war, chipping away slowly at Washington corruption, and altering the tone of politics. Then let's vote Ron Paul, to take a sledgehammer to corruption, shrink government, close some of our 761 military bases, return to fiscal responsibility, end the drug war, and abolish all unconstitutional practices. Of course, for Paul to achieve all this is practically unbelievable today--but after drinking Obama's kool-aid of hope long enough, maybe the nation will be ready.

Mind you, I haven't heard either of them talk about two issues dear to my heart, intellectual property reform and electoral reform. It'll be interesting to see whether Ron Paul could have even the slightest chance of winning without the latter.

For a quick primer on Ron Paul, click here. Then check out his Campaign for Liberty.