Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

  • Ideas for verifiable electronic voting.

    Elections are coming up, and once again, lots of places will be using touchscreen machines. Many of the exact same machines were proven to be compromised in 2004 and 2006, and one of the main companies, Diebold, was taken to court in California and eventually settled for millions of dollars and changed its name.

    Anybody who knows me knows that I love technology though. I think that the current electronic systems are terrible (enough that I voted early as a permanent mail ballot voter), but I also think that they offer the potential of having elections that are more fair and verifiable than old fashioned hand-counting. Here are my ideas for how to do it.

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  • How I plan to vote.

    This is how I’m thinking about voting on the upcoming November ballot measures here in California. I’m making this public because I invite your opinions and constructive discussion, and in particular, I welcome well-reasoned counterarguments. If I’m going to have my mind changed, it better be done before the votes are cast!

    For the propositions, I used the Voter Information Pamphlet and Ballotpedia together to make my decisions.

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  • The government is considering what?

    I’m hoping that the Washington Times is conducting a social experiment or making a very inappropriate and scary joke, because this is just insane.

    The Department of Homeland Security has expressed great interest in making everyone that wants to get on an airplane wear a special bracelet that can be used to shock you so badly that you won’t be able to move for several minutes per shocking. It also features a built in GPS, so they can monitor you and shock you from anywhere. It will have all your personal information stored in it, and can be used for “interrogation purposes” as well.

    Expressing interest isn’t the same as seeking implementation, but with stuff like this combined with President Bush pardoning himself against potential war crimes, I’d almost bet that you thought about George Orwell before I even mentioned him in this sentence.

    We need January. Immediately.

  • Heartless Idiots

    I’m going to boycott the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and you should too.

    To make a long story short, the store refused to let a five-year-old girl who was having a bathroom emergency use their restroom. Needless to say, the little girl defecated all over herself and her parent, at which point they finally ran to a movie theater that let them clean themselves up.

    If the store manager hadn’t mocked the humiliated family afterward, there might not have been a story. But the manager did decide that it would be a wonderful idea to further agitate them, and so now it’s been picked up by The Consumerist, which has additionally pointed out that as a matter of fact, there’s a rule in California called the Uniform Plumbing Code that requires a “toilet facility for customers, patrons, and visitors of all mercantile and business establishments.”

    And with this embarrassingly heartless breach of both California regulations and just the simple Golden Rule itself making it onto the front page of Digg as well… Rut-roh for the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory!

    Score one for the karma police.

    Update: I can’t stand people that counter legal citations with, “Well, you’re not a lawyer, so you should just shut up!” Well, I found somebody that did that, and then went on to insinuate that anybody sympathizing with the little girl is just an anti-business radical. Here is what they said.

    Is any one hear a lawyer in California who specializes in these type of cases? Does anyone know exactly what this establishment was zoned as, or what it technically is operating as? I think the the answer is no. Quit trying to act smart by pulling laws and facts out of our ass when you are neither fully briefed nor fully trained to handle the situation. Get off your soap box and stop wasting our time.

    As for the whole “human compassion” argument, what if that girl shit herself in the food prep area, in it contaminated the food? What then? Or what if she had some sort of virus that got on the food and made people sick? Is that mother going to cover the store for their losses? No, she isn’t. This is a complex situation which can’t be simplified because you think big bad corporate America is wrong.

    Brilliant in countless ways, no? Anyway, I couldn’t help but respond. Admittedly I was a little bit snarky, but that’s just my sense of humor for you. And it’s a Digg comment anyway, not a grand treatise. Just enjoy it.

    Heaven forbid regular people be able to use the internet to look up laws and make sure that corporations are not ignoring them! How pretentious! Who do these people think they are, living in a democratic nation with a “by the people, for the people” attitude toward government? Stupid empowered citizens and their anti-American penchant for citing things like laws!

    But seriously, if lawyers were the only ones meant to be able to understand the rules we all have to live by, then we’d be in a pretty bad situation, don’t you think? “You have to have a restroom for people to use” is a particularly easy to grasp regulation in my opinion.

    If they want to do business in California, they have to play by California’s rules, and they clearly did not comply with the Uniform Plumbing Act, which quite plainly states that they need to provide restrooms to customers, patrons, and visitors. The opus is on them to make sure that they are complying with all applicable business regulations. Oops.

    Now, of course I agree that it would be a bad idea to just let people wander around where the food is prepared, but that’s why you don’t put the restroom that you are obligated to provide for people in the middle of the kitchen.

    This is not a complex issue at all. This is a case where an entire store did not go by the golden rule of treating others as they’d wish to be treated, resulting in some pretty gross humiliation of a little girl, which in turn is resulting in the company being exposed for not being in compliance with the law.

    Sorry, but I seem to still somehow find myself feeling much more sympathetic toward the little girl that was pointlessly humiliated than I do toward the heartless, law-breaking corporate entity that humiliated her.

  • Letter to Collin

    The following is a response to an open Facebook posting made by a friend of mine, who is a very outspoken Ron Paul supporter.

    Dear Collin,

    I used to be unsure of Ron Paul completely, then I thought he was a decent choice, but he never made it to the point where I thought he’d be the best choice. For a while now, my opinion of him has been steadily declining, though I do still have a lot of respect for him and still think that he has more merits than the other Republicans.

    My first concern with Ron Paul has always been about economics. I certainly don’t think he’s corrupt, but I sure don’t think that his position of releasing corporations from as many standards and regulations as possible is in the interests of the people. Laissez fair economics do not work, and when we tried to implement it in the past, lead to the rise of kingly tycoons and oppressive monopolies at the direct expense of all honest American workers (read: pretty much all but 1% of the nation got burnt, and badly).

    It’s easy to sell the vision of “Lower taxes and unleash the corporations!” But please, we’ve tried that more than once, so can we try to actually look at the numbers and admit that progressive economies are doing really well?

    I’ve also come to question him more and more on his stances on civil rights. He says a lot of wonderful things about how he’ll stand up for us and give us our rights back, but then he completely nullifies himself by always ending with, “…so I’ll leave it up to the states.” If he thinks that the federal government doing something would be oppressive, then why does he turn around and basically say that it’d be okay if the state governments did it to me? The answer is simple. With his hands off approach to everything, he is making himself and our democratic system less capable of guaranteeing our rights or enforcing pretty much anything, leaving us defenseless against the greedy, powerful groups that just want to exploit everything and everyone they can. His lack of support for net neutrality is a prime example of where his “hands off” answer to everything means allowing our rights to be trampled and our media controlled by internet service providers. Freedom in the digital age is only going to get more important, so I’m very sad to see him do nothing to protect my rights aside from “letting the states deal with it.”

    I think that you should think about Barack Obama more. Now, here’s a guy who has already done a lot of really obvious things that needed to be done, like introduce the bills that make it so we now can see more clearly who is bought and paid for in congress. He’s trying to make our nation more open and transparent. In government, he’s advocating using open systems and machine-readable information standards that would actually allow citizens groups to dig their noses into every little nook and cranny of bills. As far as the lives of the people go, he’s committed himself to supporting things like network neutrality to guard our rights to access whatever information we want to see from whatever sources we want it free from coercion and control by internet service providers and the connected phone companies and other monopolies. Strengthening standards and regulations instead of “letting other people decide,” promoting transparency instead of “trusting things will handle themselves,” and actually getting up and protecting my rights instead of saying “it’s up to the states, not me” is good by me.

    Ron Paul has his merits, but his policies leave a lot of room for doubt for me. Maybe I’m just being overly skeptical, but then again, now seems like a pretty good time to be skeptical. And the fact that every time I’ve gone and talked about my doubts to Ron Paul supporters (who have all been very polite) and only gotten “I’ll have to think more about that” as answers doesn’t help sooth my doubts either.

    Barack Obama is a breath of fresh air this nation has been holding its breath for, and he’s got a real chance of winning the democratic nomination and the White House. I don’t see you denouncing Ron Paul, but in the event that he no longer seems like he has a chance of winning in your eyes, I hope Barack Obama can have your vote.

    Your friend,
    James