Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Re-Electing a President

IF YOU DRIVE a Volvo and you do yoga, you are pretty much a Democrat," the Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman—soon to be the head of the Republican National Committee—reportedly told a meeting of Republican governors last week. "If you drive a Lincoln or a BMW and you own a gun, you're voting for George W. Bush."Since he's so confident labeling people based on outward characteristics, Mehlman must understand why his being a 37-year-old "bachelor" who refuses to answer questions about his sexual orientation is a tip-off to many that he's a pathetic closet case, and a pretty vile one at that, having used antigay hatred (aka "moral values") to help elect Bush. Mehlman was actually boasting to the governors about his slick new strategies, telling them that the Bush-Cheney campaign studied voters' consumer habits—basically snooping into voters' personal lives—in targeting them.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Shouldn't we be more concerned about something like this?

http://ucdata.berkeley.edu/new_web/VOTE2004/index.html

Friday, November 12, 2004

Elite (elitist) theory

The theoretical view held by many social scientists which holds that American politics is best understood through the generalization that nearly all political power is held by a relatively small and wealthy group of people sharing similar values and interests and mostly coming from relatively similar privileged backgrounds. Most of the top leaders in all or nearly all key sectors of society are seen as recruited from this same social group, and elite theorists emphasize the degree to which interlocking corporate and foundation directorates, old school ties and frequent social interaction tend to link together and facilitate coordination between the top leaders in business, government, civic organizations, educational and cultural establishments and the mass media. This "power elite" can effectively dictate the main goals (if not always the practical means and details) for all really important government policy making (as well as dominate the activities of the major mass media and educational/cultural organizations in society) by virtue of their control over the economic resources of the major business and financial organizations in the country.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

"Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all." --Thomas Jefferson


[Sorry]

Prosperity Runs Rampant, In Other Countries

BANGALORE, India

Outsourcing companies in India are jubilant that the elections in the United States have returned President Bush to office.

"This is great news for the offshoring industry," said Nandan Nilekani, chief executive of Infosys Technologies, a software services company. The trend toward outsourcing will now become even more inexorable, Nilekani said.

News on Wednesday that John Kerry had conceded the election to Bush was greeted with joy in the industry.

"We are very happy that Bush is back," said Kiran Karnik, president of the industry group Nasscom, or National Association of Software and Service Companies. "The president's track record has been of recognizing the advantages of free trade."

Bush's re-election will bring out the latent demand for outsourcing and lead to more offshoring announcements by companies, he said. "Some corporations have been cautious about signing or announcing deals in the last few months," Karnik said. "Now they will no longer hold back."

[Full Article]

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

political ignorance

“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” John F. Kennedy

Monday, November 8, 2004

America The Gullable

Perhaps the most important function our media serves is to provide voters with the information they need to make sound decisions in the voting booth. If people don't know what they're voting for, our democracy is in serious trouble.
Unfortunately, it appears that we're in serious trouble.
This election was marked by a staggering amount of voter ignorance. Polls show that voters -- especially Bush supporters -- were grossly misinformed about their candidate's position on a broad range of issues. Surveying supporters of the President, a University of Maryland PIPA/ Knowledge Networks poll found:
72% still believe that there were WMD's in Iraq.
75% believe that Iraq was providing substantial support for Al Qaeda.
66% believe that Bush supports participation in the International Criminal Court.
72% believe that he supports the treaty banning land mines.
The catch? None of these statements are true.

Hmmm. . . . .

"So," Dean said, "anybody who can hack into a PC can hack into a central tabulator?"

Harris nodded affirmation, and pointed out how Diebold uses a program called GEMS, which fills the screen of the PC and effectively turns it into the central tabulator system. "This is the official program that the County Supervisor sees," she said, pointing to a PC that was sitting between them loaded with Diebold's software.

Bev then had Dean open the GEMS program to see the results of a test election. They went to the screen titled "Election Summary Report" and waited a moment while the PC "adds up all the votes from all the various precincts," and then saw that in this faux election Howard Dean had 1000 votes, Lex Luthor had 500, and Tiger Woods had none. Dean was winning.

"Of course, you can't tamper with this software," Harris noted. Diebold wrote a pretty good program.

But, it's running on a Windows PC.

So Harris had Dean close the Diebold GEMS software, go back to the normal Windows PC desktop, click on the "My Computer" icon, choose "Local Disk C:," open the folder titled GEMS, and open the sub-folder "LocalDB" which, Harris noted, "stands for local database, that's where they keep the votes." Harris then had Dean double-click on a file in that folder titled "Central Tabulator Votes," which caused the PC to open the vote count in a database program like Excel.
In the "Sum of the Candidates" row of numbers, she found that in one precinct Dean had received 800 votes and Lex Luthor had gotten 400.

"Let's just flip those," Harris said, as Dean cut and pasted the numbers from one cell into the other. "And," she added magnanimously, "let's give 100 votes to Tiger."

They closed the database, went back into the official GEMS software "the legitimate way, you're the county supervisor and you're checking on the progress of your election."

As the screen displayed the official voter tabulation, Harris said, "And you can see now that Howard Dean has only 500 votes, Lex Luthor has 900, and Tiger Woods has 100." Dean, the winner, was now the loser.

Harris sat up a bit straighter, smiled, and said, "We just edited an election, and it took us 90 seconds."

On live national television. (You can see the clip on www.votergate.tv)

Friday, November 5, 2004

2004 EDITORIAL OBSERVER

October 18, 2004
EDITORIAL OBSERVER
By ADAM COHEN

Imagining America if George Bush Chose the Supreme Court

Abortion might be a crime in most states. Gay people could be thrown in prison for having sex in their homes. States might be free to become mini-theocracies, endorsing Christianity and using tax money to help spread the gospel. The Constitution might no longer protect inmates from being brutalized by prison guards. Family and medical leave and environmental protections could disappear.It hardly sounds like a winning platform, and of course President Bush isn't openly espousing these positions. But he did say in his last campaign that his favorite Supreme Court justices were Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and the nominations he has made to the lower courts bear that out. Justices Scalia and Thomas are often called "conservative," but that does not begin to capture their philosophies. Both vehemently reject many of the core tenets of modern constitutional law.For years, Justices Scalia and Thomas have been lobbing their judicial Molotov cocktails from the sidelines, while the court proceeded on its moderate-conservative path. But given the ages and inclinations of the current justices, it is quite possible that if Mr. Bush is re-elected, he will get three appointments, enough to forge a new majority that would turn the extreme Scalia-Thomas worldview into the law of the land.There is every reason to believe Roe v. Wade would quickly be overturned. Mr. Bush ducked a question about his views on Roe in the third debate. But he sent his base a coded message in the second debate, with an odd reference to the Dred Scott case. Dred Scott, an 1857 decision upholding slavery, is rarely mentioned today, except in right-wing legal circles, where it is often likened to Roe. (Anti-abortion theorists say that the court refused to see blacks as human in Dred Scott and that the same thing happened to fetuses in Roe.) For more than a decade, Justices Scalia and Thomas have urged their colleagues to reverse Roe and "get out of this area, where we have no right to be."If Roe is lost, the Center for Reproductive Rights warns, there's a good chance that 30 states, home to more than 70 million women, will outlaw abortions within a year; some states may take only weeks. Criminalization will sweep well beyond the Bible Belt: Ohio could be among the first to drive young women to back-alley abortions and prosecute doctors.If Justices Scalia and Thomas become the Constitution's final arbiters, the rights of racial minorities, gay people and the poor will be rolled back considerably. Both men dissented from the Supreme Court's narrow ruling upholding the University of Michigan's affirmative-action program, and appear eager to dismantle a wide array of diversity programs. When the court struck down Texas' "Homosexual Conduct" law last year, holding that the police violated John Lawrence's right to liberty when they raided his home and arrested him for having sex there, Justices Scalia and Thomas sided with the police. They were just as indifferent to the plight of "M.L.B.," a poor mother of two from Mississippi. When her parental rights were terminated, she wanted to appeal, but Mississippi would not let her because she could not afford a court fee of $2,352.36. The Supreme Court held that she had a constitutional right to appeal. But Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented, arguing that if M.L.B. didn't have the money, her children would have to be put up for adoption.That sort of cruelty is a theme running through many Scalia-Thomas opinions. A Louisiana inmate sued after he was shackled and then punched and kicked by two prison guards while a supervisor looked on. The court ruled that the beating, which left the inmate with a swollen face, loosened teeth and a cracked dental plate, violated the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. But Justices Scalia and Thomas insisted that the Eighth Amendment was not violated by the "insignificant" harm the inmate suffered. This year, the court heard the case of a man with a court appearance in rural Tennessee who was forced to either crawl out of his wheelchair and up to the second floor or be carried up by court officers he worried would drop him. The man crawled up once, but when he refused to do it again, he was arrested. The court ruled that Tennessee violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not providing an accessible courtroom, but Justices Scalia and Thomas said it didn't have to.A Scalia-Thomas court would dismantle the wall between church and state. Justice Thomas gave an indication of just how much in his opinion in a case upholding Ohio's school voucher program. He suggested, despite many Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, that the First Amendment prohibition on establishing a religion may not apply to the states. If it doesn't, the states could adopt particular religions, and use tax money to proselytize for them. Justices Scalia and Thomas have also argued against basic rights of criminal suspects, like the Miranda warning about the right to remain silent.President Bush claims to want judges who will apply law, not make it. But Justices Scalia and Thomas are judicial activists, eager to use the fast-expanding federalism doctrine to strike down laws that protect people's rights. Last year, they dissented from a decision upholding the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees most workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one. They said Congress did not have that power. They have expressed a desire to strike down air pollution and campaign finance laws for similar reasons.Neither President Bush nor John Kerry has said much about Supreme Court nominations, wary of any issue whose impact on undecided voters cannot be readily predicted. But voters have to think about the Supreme Court. If President Bush gets the chance to name three young justices who share the views of Justices Scalia and Thomas, it could fundamentally change America for decades.********************************
"We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny...An inescapable network of mutuality...I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

From the Solitaire Cryptographer guy

San Francisco Chronicle
OPEN FORUM

Getting Out the Vote:
Why is it so hard to run an honest election?

Bruce Schneier

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Four years after the Florida debacle of 2000 and two years after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, voting problems are again in the news: confusing ballots, malfunctioning voting machines, problems over who's registered and who isn't. All this brings up a basic question: Why is it so hard to run an election?

A fundamental requirement for a democratic election is a secret ballot, and that's the first reason. Computers regularly handle multimillion-dollar financial transactions, but much of their security comes from the ability to audit the transactions after the fact and correct problems that arise. Much of what they do can be done the next day if the system is down. Neither of these solutions works for elections.

American elections are particularly difficult because they're so complicated. One ballot might have 50 different things to vote on, all but one different in each state and many different in each district. It's much easier to hold national elections in India, where everyone casts a single vote, than in the United States. Additionally, American election systems need to be able to handle 100 million voters in a single day -- an immense undertaking in the best of circumstances.
Speed is another factor. Americans demand election results before they go to sleep; we won't stand for waiting more than two weeks before knowing who won, as happened in India and Afghanistan this year.

To make matters worse, voting systems are used infrequently, at most a few times a year. Systems that are used every day improve because people familiarize themselves with them, discover mistakes and figure out improvements. It seems as if we all have to relearn how to vote every time we do it.

It should be no surprise that there are problems with voting. What's surprising is that there aren't more problems. So how to make the system work better?

-- Simplicity: This is the key to making voting better. Registration should be as simple as possible. The voting process should be as simple as possible. Ballot designs should be simple, and they should be tested. The computer industry understands the science of user-interface -- that knowledge should be applied to ballot design.

-- Uniformity: Simplicity leads to uniformity. The United States doesn't have one set of voting rules or one voting system. It has 51 different sets of voting rules -- one for every state and the District of Columbia -- and even more systems. The more systems are standardized around the country, the more we can learn from each other's mistakes.

-- Verifiability: Computerized voting machines might have a simple user interface, but complexity hides behind the screen and keyboard. To avoid even more problems, these machines should have a voter-verifiable paper ballot. This isn't a receipt; it's not something you take home with you. It's a paper "ballot" with your votes -- one that you verify for accuracy and then put in a ballot box. The machine provides quick tallies, but the paper is the basis for any recounts.

-- Transparency: All computer code used in voting machines should be public. This allows interested parties to examine the code and point out errors, resulting in continually improving security. Any voting-machine company that claims its code must remain secret for security reasons is lying. Security in computer systems comes from transparency -- open systems that pass public scrutiny -- and not secrecy.

But those are all solutions for the future. If you're a voter this year, your options are fewer. My advice is to vote carefully. Read the instructions carefully, and ask questions if you are confused. Follow the instructions carefully, checking every step as you go. Remember that it might be impossible to correct a problem once you've finished voting. In many states -- including California -- you can request a paper ballot if you have any worries about the voting machine.
And be sure to vote. This year, thousands of people are watching and waiting at the polls to help voters make sure their vote counts.

Bruce Schneier is a security technologist, author of "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World" (Springer Verlag, 2003) and publisher of Crypto-Gram, a monthly newsletter. He can be reached at www.schneier.com.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

A new blog

(tap) (tap) (tap) Is this thing on?