May 9th, 2005

Apollo 4 on column of fire

An unusually good piece Eschaton entry

The Koehler-gets-spiked story is getting interesting, in that it is being reported at Duncan Black's dull little blog, Eschaton. Have a look-see:

Apparently, the third rail of political reporting

As some of you may be aware, Robert Koehler wrote a great article for Tribune Media Services called The silent scream of numbers, detailing the reasons to suspect foul play in the 2004 election. What you may not know is that that article, and a later one on a similar theme, were not picked up by many papers that normally carry his work. His latest column, Citizens in the rain, has actually been spiked by TMS itself.

Perhaps the most annoying item in this story is the fact that The Chicago Tribune, which does not run Koehler's column, nevertheless attempted a rebuttal, neatly missing the point and of course re-writing history to claim that Richard Nixon set "a moral example" by not contesting his loss in 1960. (In the real world, Nixon did contest one state for weeks. He didn't contest Illinois because his own party's shenanigans in the southern part of the state couldn't bear scrutiny.)

The corporate media keeps pretending that this is all about overturning the election and refusing to accept defeat. They just don't seem to get it that it's democracy's loss, not Kerry's, that's at issue here.

Look, we have an election result we cannot verify. That's unacceptable. Among other things, it means we can't know that any future elections will be honest - unless we stop this business now, before those future elections take place.

Bradblog has the story, and an update noting that Editor & Publisher has run an article about it.

(No, I don't know why this post originally appeared with a 12:12 PM timestamp and therefore jumped below earlier posts. I fixed it. Hope not too many of you fell through the time warp....)

-Avedon 5:12 PM


BuzzFlash reads Eschaton for me. :)
Apollo 4 on column of fire

How you know we are in trouble

Yesterday Tim Russert was told that the CIA was ordered to bring back
Osama bin Laden's severed head, preserved on dry ice -- and Tim
Russert's reaction was to ask where the CIA could get the dry ice in
Afghanistan.

We are in trouble because of Tim Russert's reaction. It would be
better to replace him with a trained elephant than to go on like this.
Exclamation point

Joseph Cannon's brain is working overtime

I really like the way Joseph Cannon is cogitating on the U.S.'s dismal election process. In case you didn't know, the Bushist Arbeiterspartei has been hard at work diverting the energy for electoral reform into a process of electorate reform -- most notably, requiring photo identification to vote. Cannon sees it my way:
Some believe that this movement is designed to direct attention away from the likelihood of computer fraud. True, but the matter goes deeper. The Republicans hope to suppress participation by the poor and the dispossessed.

That's why I put it the way I do: the Bushists aren't merely distracting us from election reform -- they are using the efforts of election reformers as a vehicle to further destroy our elections.

I blame John Kerry for furthering this degradation. He promised that everyone's vote would be counted, but it was a lie he told for rhetorical purposes. His concern was not whether everyone's vote would be cast and counted, but whether there were enough of these to make a difference in the outcome. Knowing he would not succeed in changing the outcome, Kerry instead preserved his political capital. Democrats need this capital when they go to deal -- in the days when there was a Republican Party, that would have been useful, though if it were me I would have refused to promise people their votes would be counted, insisting my speechwriters find a truthful thing to tell the people.

John Kerry has further promoted the degradation of American elections by not AFAIK suing the Swift Boat Liars. Maybe he has plans to bring such a suit, but I doubt it. He might as well hand out pamphlets declaring his de facto support for libel and slander as means to an end.

More of Cannon's clear cogitation on elections:
A USA Today story outlines the nationwide push to do away with paper-free computer voting. But there is now evidence that the addition of Paper may not do the trick...

Adding to the confusion is a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study that found problems with paper backup for electronic voting machines.

In the study, 36 "voters" used electronic machines to pick candidates and were asked to double-check their ballots using a paper printout. Then they were asked to go through a similar exercise in which their vote choices were played back to them by a computer-generated voice through headphones. Errors were interspersed in the ballots. Only 8% of those using the paper backup caught the errors, compared with 85% using the audio system.

Ted Selker, an authority on human interaction with machines who oversaw the MIT research, said the study supports observations he made of voters using paper backups during recent elections in Chicago and Nevada. "I have lost confidence in paper trails," he said.

Yes, but this addresses only the question of double-checking the choice made in the voting booth, which is not the real issue. The issue is the central tabulators.

Paper receipts are of value only in the case of a recount. Alas, if the margin of announced victory is not so thin as to trigger a recount, then the compu-vote will go unchecked.

That's good enough for the Democratic Party, no doubt, because if the outcome weren't close then fair counting wouldn't matter anyway, because the outcome probably wouldn't change, but the effort to count the votes would make the Bushist Arbeiterspartei harder to appease. But the part about paper "receipts" being ergonomically poor also is important. How to run a good election is really a matter that should be turned over to science and engineering, such as the MIT research, and taken completely out of political hands.