Michael Kinsley has written one of his best columns ever, Losing on the Bush Diet:
Suppose you had a friend who was grossly overweight for years but lately had been looking very trim. Suddenly, though, he puts on 30 or 40 pounds and is waddling around like his old porcine self. He explains that he's found a marvelous new diet: "You eat like a pig and stop exercising until you get so fat that you just have to lose weight." Would you say that your friend is kidding himself?

And if your friend went on to complain that he was getting fat because other people were eating too much, and that this diet was the only way to stop these other people from putting those unsightly pounds on him, would you think his self-delusion was becoming clinical? Or would you start to suspect that the joke is on you?

Yet this is essentially the logic adopted by the Bush administration and the Republican congressional leadership to rationalize turning the federal budget surplus back into huge deficits.
Go read. Get mad at stupid Republicans. YEAH!

Major Paper Acknowledges Voting Machine Issue

A San Jose Mercury News editorial today acknowledged the voting machines problem! The editorial, If voters get a record of their ballot, they can check on the system includes (there's more),
I know zip about software code, but if I were the supervisors, I'd put a lot of stock in the views of Stanford computer professor David Dill, SRI Computer Lab scientist Peter Neumann and other experts who have spent their careers matching wits with hackers. When they say security is a problem, there's cause for worry.

The clearest explanation I've heard of the security problem with touch screen systems and the commonsense solution to it came from Alan Hu, an associate professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia and a protege of Professor Dill. He offered it during a hearing this month. It's worth repeating.

Imagine a store, he said, where the clerk shows you the total of your purchases on a handheld electronic calculator. Behind the counter, he enters your purchase amount into a ledger. He shows you the total, then clears the calculator for the next customer.

Suppose the clerk occasionally pockets the cash and ``forgets'' to enter the purchase in the ledger book. Or maybe he skims off cash and enters a smaller amount than what you purchased.

A computerized voting machine that shows your votes on a display screen only and records your votes internally is like a clerk using a handheld calculator. To reduce the risk of cheating or help catch sloppy errors, you can do a background check on the clerk, just as you can certify a voting machine's hardware and software. You can have the clerk fill out duplicate ledgers, analogous to redundant hard drives in voting machines. You can encrypt the ledger books to prevent others from forging them -- and encrypt data storage and transmission in voting machines. But in both cases, no amount of security or auditing of records will catch cheating or errors, because the cheater is the one preparing the audit record.

The solution to a dishonest clerk is simple. The clerk enters each transaction on a cash register, and the customer sees what is on the cash register tape. If there's any doubt about the clerk's accuracy or honesty, you compare what the clerk recorded with the cash register tape.

The solution for the voting machine is essentially the same: You show a printed copy of the ballot for the voter to confirm; if there's a discrepancy, the voting machine can be shut down. If there's any doubt about the correctness of the voting machine, you can compare the totals it reports with a separate count of the printed copies.




Time to Go, Zell

Isn't it about time for Zell Miller to announce that he is really a Republican? Or perhaps he feels he is more useful to the Republicans calling himself a Democrat.


Heading Off Any Trouble

This is posted over at Roger Ailes:
Today, some jackass sent an insulting e-mail to Oliver Willis which was designed to look like it came from me. I cleared things up with Oliver, who was very gracious. Around the same time today, I received an e-mail which was designed to look like it came from someone other than the real sender, which was sent through a re-mailer.

If anyone gets an e-mail like this which supposedly came from me, please let me know. I can assure anyone who recieved something like this that it did not come from me.
In case something's up - anyone who has received any e-mails from me that might be offensive, check with me and make sure it's from me.

Continuing on this point - Anyone that has received any e-mails from me that make me look stupid, it wasn't me. If I should have put the addresses in the BCC and instead put them in the CC in that e-mail Monday - it wasn't me. If I accidentally sent everyone 10 copies of the Robert Reich Commonweal Institute endorsement - it wasn't me. Richard, if you got an e-mail from me that said, "Blow me" - it wasn't me. If the e-mail in any way indicates that I might owe you money - it wasn't me. If it had any misspellings or typos - it wasn't me. If I turned down a free dinner invitation - it CERTAINLY wasn't me.

If you believe it was me, then the terrorists win. It was Bill Clinton that did it.

Voting Machine Additions

I have added new articles/websites to the Collection of Voting Machine Articles.

Voting Machines: Vote Tampering in the 21st Century (NOT the same site as "Black Box Voting - Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century")

Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project


Another Voting Machine Article

Commonweal Institute's Uncommon Denominator: "new computerized voting machines are vulnerable to tampering."

Clinton Fighting Terrorists

From BuzzFlash: Tired of Getting Those Wingnut Emails Saying Clinton Did Nothing for Terrorism? Well, Send Them This Page.

Scalia and Self-Government

Remember civics and history class, where we learned about our constitution and our government, and how America is about democracy and "the people" and self-government? The fundamental concept underlying our country is that we are self-governed.

America was the first country with true self government. Until then the underlying concept of western government was that government's powers existed because of God's authority. This was the "divine right of kings" -- you did what you were told because the king ruled with authority granted by God. According to St. Paul, "For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."

Our "Founding Fathers" broke away from those essentially theocratic beliefs to form the United States. Their Declaration of Independence states that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed." Our Constitution begins with the words, "We the People of the United States". Our country's fundamental founding concept is that our government derives its authority from the consent of the governed - WE THE PEOPLE make the decisions.

America made enemies when it declared that people should be governed by people. Royalists, monarchists and oligarchists do not believe these things. Many now believe that corporations and markets are better suited to make society's decisions. The enemies our country has historically faced have been those who believed that someone at the top decides, not the people. First England, with its God-chosen King. Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II. Hitler's Nazis with their ideology of "God's chosen people" as Hitler privately referred to "the Aryans." The Soviets were ruled by dictators who worshipped an ideology. Even our Civil War was fought against those who believed God gave them the right to own other people.

Does America's concept of self-government still have enemies? Self-government is rejected in favor of God's government in a shocking May, 2002 article, God's Justice and Ours, [alternate source] written by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The article is a refinement of January, 2002 remarks Scalia made at a U-Chicago panel discussion.

In the panel discussion and subsequent article Scalia explains his reasons for his belief that the death penalty is moral. His argument is that government - the State - is allowed to do things that regular people cannot do because government has a higher authority granted to it by God. He writes, "The death penalty is undoubtedly wrong unless one accords to the state a scope of moral action that goes beyond what is permitted to the individual." He believes God chooses humanity's leaders, and democracy obstructs God's wishes by imposing ordinary people as the decision-makers. He condemns the "tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government".

If one believes this, then one has the problem of how to identify the leaders that God chooses. Scalia appears to think that the way to identify legitimate God-chosen leaders is when they seize power in conflict, demonstrating that God chose them over others. He writes,
"These passages from Romans represent the consensus of Western thought until very recent times. Not just of Christian or religious thought, but of secular thought regarding the powers of the state. That consensus has been upset, I think, by the emergence of democracy. It is easy to see the hand of the Almighty behind rulers whose forebears, in the dim mists of history, were supposedly anointed by God, or who at least obtained their thrones in awful and unpredictable battles whose outcome was determined by the Lord of Hosts, that is, the Lord of Armies. It is much more difficult to see the hand of God—or any higher moral authority—behind the fools and rogues (as the losers would have it) whom we ourselves elect to do our own will. How can their power to avenge—to vindicate the “public order”—be any greater than our own?"
THIS is the thinking of the guy who, in an electoral conflict, put Bush into the White House, blocking the democratic recount because a vote count showing Gore winning would harm Bush's legitimate position as president-elect. Does Scalia see the Bush v Gore case as a "battle" that demonstrated that god chose Bush over Gore? Did Scalia think that he was acting as the people's - the Constitution's - agent in this, or instead as God's agent?

The fact is that there are plenty of individuals, even in America, who do not believe in democracy. Think about the statements that voters in Florida are "too stupid to vote." Just read the messages at any libertarian message board. Just think about the underlying philosophy behind the Republican corporatists: democratic government is bad and so should be weak, corporations are good, the rich are good, one-dollar-one-vote is the market way to make decisions. Just think about how the Christian Right controls much of the Republican Party now -- powerful people and organizations that believe America is violating the laws of God by following concepts of self-government.

But OUR system believes that the PEOPLE govern. OUR constitution says that WE THE PEOPLE determine our destiny. And Scalia swore an oath to uphold and defend OUR Constitution!

Scalia writes, "The reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it, but the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible." How far is this from a call to overthrow our constitutional government and replace it with a theocracy? This guy should not be on the Supreme Court. This sure sounds like he does not believe that the law comes from "We the People," as the constitution says it does, and does not believe that the very principles underlying our form of government are legitimate! He calls for "people of faith" to combat democracy because it obscures "the divine authority behind government"!

How far have we come from the country I used to know - from the things I learned in my high school civics class? If our system were functioning properly Scalia would never have been nominated to a seat on our Supreme Court. If our system were functioning properly he would never have been confirmed. If our system were functioning properly Scalia would be impeached. Article VI, Clause 3, of our Constitution, says: "judicial Officers ... shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution." How could it possibly be more clear that Scalia does not fulfill his oath of office? It's a testament to how far we have come from our self-governing roots that we are not in the streets demanding the resignation of such individuals. It is a testament to the strength of the forces in our country who oppose democracy and want to impose theocracy/corporatocracy! This is the battle we are engaged in with the right.

Does President Bush's view of the law resemble Scalia's? Do you remember when Bush attended a secret meeting with the Christian Far-Right's Council for National Policy and emerged with the entire right-wing communications apparatus -- the "Mighty Wurlitzer" -- lined up behind him? What did he promise them? What about the snippets leaking out of the White House concerning Bush's belief he is chosen by God to lead the Christians against Islam? Scalia himself endorses the idea that God authorizes Christian revenge, when Scalia writes, "government carries the sword as "the minister of God," to "execute wrath" upon the evildoer." Is that Bush speaking, or Scalia, or do the two really sound like one?

I have been corresponding with Eric Zuesse, author of the book, Why the Holocaust Happened: Its Religious Cause & Scholarly Cover-Up, who has been studying Scalia's speech for some time, and who has a yet-to-be-published article that demolishes Scalia's interpretation in his speech of St. Paul's writing. Zuesse says,
"My analysis criticizes Scalia's assertions as regards their historical falseness about Romans 13:1-5, and also as regards the beliefs they indicate to have been behind his actions in Bush v. Gore.

I especially criticize his implicit repudiation of the Declaration of Independence saying, that "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," and the U.S. Constitution saying that "We, the people of the United States ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." Both contradict Scalia's "Government, however you want to limit that concept, derives its moral authority from God."
So which is it going to be? Are we going to continue self-government? Or are we going to change to an authoritarian system, ruled from the top by a God-chosen leader? Is a theocracy the right-wing vision that Bush is implementing? Did Scalia already give us "the God-chosen leader" on December 9, 2000?


A Threat To Peace

A Threat To Peace.

How Voting Machines Should Work

I left this as a comment over at Ruminate This.

Here's what people mean by a paper backup:

The voting machine makes the voting easy and the new technology ensures that there are no invalid ballots. After you vote the machine prints out a paper backup of YOUR vote, for YOU to examine. Then YOU take that paper ballot to the desk where the voting officials are sitting, and you deposit that paper backup into a LOCKED BALLOT BOX. All the officials at the table watch you do it and watch each other to make sure everyone keeps their hands out of the ballot box.

At the end of the night that locked ballot box is opened and the ballots are counted. All the officials are watching and verifying this counting. They compare this count to the count shown by the machine. THEN the machine is allowed to transmit its totals to election headquarters where computers are able to quickly tabulate election results. The election officials write down the results of their own counting, lock the ballots back in the box, and take the box AND their written records to headquarters for use in case of a recount.

This is a foolproof system. It does not rely on accurate machines, instead using human verification of every step.

I've worked in polling places in San Mateo Country, CA, and this is similar to how it is done now, except for the improvement of technology making the voting easier and ensuring that there are no invalid ballots.

Update - Question - "...as I see it, your entire audit procedure relies on a separate but equal paper voting system. If that is your deal, why bother with the machimes at all?"

Answer: Because good touch-screen machines make the voting easier, prevent invalid votes and confusion (like Palm Beach Jews voting for Buchanan), report reliable counts to computers at headquarters so the election is over in a few hours, and the paper trail ballots they print out are uniform, evenly marked, valif, and verified by the voter.