Friday, May 30, 2008

Ownership Society

Having a burden of possessions is called ownership. Having a burden of possessions others actually own such as a mortgaged house, is slavery. Can you imagine any other alternatives?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Be Calmed

We set up the prize to avert our eyes
From the courseless tossing waters we row,
"Something to live for", a passable guise
For an emptiness we don't want to know.
Our wiring rewards all striving towards
The project that projects self on goals.
Losing whatever floats our boat, the ground of being affords
A respite on the shoals.

Do not despair. The wiring is still there.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

When things go wrong

When things go wrong, it is vastly more fruitful to seek what went wrong than who is wrong.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Its not forever, its not magic

I don't believe in magic. I do believe my own mind has more workings than I will probably ever be aware of let alone understand. I am therefore prepared to take tentative steps on faith conditioned by observation. These steps would be counterintuitive to anyone in the grips of the Republican mindset of insecurity, scarcity and self preservation. But, as my saintly old teacher would say to me: "Try it and see how it makes you feel".

If you let yourself be guided by the concern for the condition this world's rights and resources will be in when and as you leave it to others, a kind of magic happens. You will cease to fret over the world to which you may go after departing this one. In fact,
The big tip-off that you haven't understood your life in this world is your obsession with a next world.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Implementing the golden rule

It is one of humankind's most noble intentions. It is a matter of personal belief perhaps, but I believe it is in fact nothing less than practical advice, the only advice that can be followed without eventually needing an army to back you up. Yet, despite being one of the most widely praised bits of wisdom and being rediscovered and restated in many cultures and religions, the Golden Rule has not been implemented as an enduring social norm. I just checked the newspapers this morning and its status as law or practice seem to be confined to two circumstances:
  1. As law, it only exists in the form of specifications for redress when the principle itself has been violated.
  2. As practice, its implementation is only in the realm of personal seems to evaporate in the wilting entropy of "taking care of number one".

Even in the personal arena, it is mysteriously difficult to abide by the rule. It really is a rule we teach children because one has to be very much a grownup to follow it when they have acquired a life and the basket of perceived self interests. The "but"s abound. I offer you a lower threshold of difficulty, a less steep path, toward the noble intention:

Listen to others using the same openness and attention with which you would like to be heard.

Seriously. What if, for instance, you were able to listen to Rush Limbaugh so carefully that you actually figured out what the origins of his confused pain and neediness were? That example is a tough case but it will make the daily confrontations of your life seem a bit more tame perhaps.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

If you did not reach this page by accident....

...then accept my apologies. Do not adjust your mindset, we are experiencing technical difficulties. The name changes of late have demonstrated that my hit counter was, as I have suspected, mostly counting Google's scratching when others have an itch to see underwear that hides little. That is then to say, the hit counter lies to me, and measures nothing. This is a technical consequence of the unfortunate name choice. In the near future, the blog title will stabilize at "Pithing Contest".

I have been in a funk lately. Depression is not the problem but I seem able to find dozens of reasons not to lift a blogging finger to the keyboard. Spring rages just outside my window, the earth calls me to poke it with a shovel and make it green. The one thing I can control in my life is how many different boxes I parcel my crap into. "This blog is all about me" is a trap. So, it seems, is "this blog is all about X"...choose the X you like but then try like crazy to bend every post to relate in some way to that X.

Readers are imaginary friends. Not that there is never an overlap of interests but focusing only on why-writers-write with no thought of why-readers-read is a sound formula for wasted web pages. Thinking hard about what people want to read and learning to satisfy that want is a job for professionals. So I have a compromise. Separate blogs cost me nothing while allowing consistency of topic and voice. In a little while, I will be pointing you to the experimental first cut at that compromise.

I have never been face to face with more than two or three people who read what I write here. They have either forgiven me or forgotten me. By examining my own bookmarks and blogrolls, I see that I only browse for an ostensible purpose and a particular kind of content. Only a few bloggers slip into the comfortable category of "interesting AS a person, lets see how she/he is doing"...we mostly go for a particular kind of news, or interpretation. The dozens of tags that cropped up for posts here is idle amusement. I do not believe "post categories" is a useful feature...or at least that many bloggers apply it so well that it actually serves readers

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

From a distance it can be hard to distinguish

Who was that woman you were with last night....someone who saw you with her told me.

That was not exactly a woman. That was fate. We are just friends.

Some friends! I heard you were dancing with her!

No, I was not. But I can see how it might have looked that way. I have learned to bow gracefully to my fate.

I have a hard time believing you. You have quite the reputation as a Lothario.

I understand that view for in a sense I was just that. But first I had to seduce myself with the belief that I could pick my fate. Then choice after false choice I made, pursued and abandoned in disappointment. That, you see, is the hard part: thinking the plain one could not be your fate and the pretty one must be. And then I seduced myself with the belief that I could struggle against that which was not my fate. I call that a belief because it is a great truth resting upon a great assumption. I never knew my fate but she knew me. Thus it was my fate to struggle. I still know nothing but I feel better.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A narrow narrow path

You might think freedom should somehow mean the ability to go in any direction at any time. Does an expectation that will have you running into obstacles almost constantly really sound like a plan to experience true freedom? Quit worshiping yourself and come back to this world. True freedom begins as a narrow path that threads between not giving a damn what other people think of you and not giving a damn about other people period. Richard Feynman might have had a bit too much of the former. Most conservative pundits are busily cutting the legs out from under struggling humanity with their wild but unacknowledged surplus of the latter.
PZ Meyers and certain spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama seem to manage the balancing. So might a small percentage of the hobos and superannuated hippies I have seen living hand to mouth in warmer places than New England. Since not all who have found this liberation are wealthy, we know the American myth that hitches prosperity to freedom, often forcing them to pose side by side in the same vacuous sentence, is false. At least the freedom it speaks of is a misapplied name.

Socialization in general and our civics curricula in particular have conventionally meant being taught in various ways that our freedom is an ideal that can never be absolutely achieved because we share the world with others. That implied balance of an individual's needs with needs of others and its manifestation as social contract is only the minimum necessary to prevent violent social collapse. It is an inadequate definition of freedom that seems only fit for the ego. Freedom for egos as enshrined in western thought is enslavement to ego.

My observation is that not only are freedom and prosperity not positively linked but that valuing prosperity conditions the mind to become an engine of striving. The need for one's prosperity becomes the justification for another's eventual loss of freedom. But to even start on that path, one surrenders their own freedom to their own desire. And that is a narrow narrow dead end.

Where does this path of true freedom lead? No place most of us want to go. The freedom from desire is not realistic...but seeing through desire is a kind of freedom. The end of the path might be freedom from self. And freedom from ego. I am not there yet. Maybe you can't function without all the attachments of ego...but seeing through them is a kind of freedom.

I have been watching myself getting more and more wound up by the politics and the denatured economics that cannot even frame or formulate a sustainable well being. I get to the point that I want to scream out corrections to the mistakes that lead our species to dismantle what should have been a permanent heritage of beauty and bounty on this earth. It was neither owed to us or made for us. It was just there because we were made by that bounty. We can do so much better. Every one of us has some reason for the things we choose to do or leave undone. Whether this is cause or effect of our belief that we are reasoning and reasonable beings, I do not care to sort out. The situation I find us all in is that we are far more irrational than reasoning. Our cleverness is the servant of something other than cleverness. In this, we are not free and cannot be. Thoughts timeless and clarifying may arise and tower over their thinker. We do not trust visions, nor should we. So rationality seldom persists. The visions slip through our fingers, get shredded by our tongues, seem like madness if we pursue too intently. We could be worthy of insights that arise in us if we knew they were in us but not of us and if we learned a language by which to test and share them. My screaming elicits resistance or is totally ignored.
My screaming lights things for an instant. My rationales catch your irrationalities like a flashbulb going off amid a melee in darkened room. A second later I too am one of the thrashing and flailing bodies taking blows in the dark from others blinded by the flash.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

My oddly successful failure as a blogger

Is there a way to cure yourself of writing, to the exclusion of job and housework, just to see your words served to a planet in need of almost everything but more words? What is it that addicts me to this blogging?
  • I dearly love the occasional kind word from my readers.
  • I have a sense of responsibility toward the people whom google sends my way for answers not about underwear. Yeah. Imagine it. Me the expert.
  • Writing as sport and craft always was and still is fun though I do it badly.
  • No better way to explore one's lack of oneness, to experiment with expression for all the altered egos and subpersonalities. You need an escape from sticking to the fixed and consistent person a boss, a spouse or a customer expects or demands.
  • Writing out who I am so I can be that person, articulate that person...and maybe someday be reminded who I was.
  • Community. Odd actually since I am pathologically coy about my real identity, but aside from my work with MoveOn, and a former turn in trail biking advocacy, I don't meet or mingle with people who share my causes. Blogging has changed that albeit at the remove of a mask.
  • Some kick-ass thinkers to look up to, and to berate as well. And quite a few of even the busiest of them will reply to you when you get on their wavelength.
  • Some would disagree with this but I have learned things about politics, the psychology of online communications and some economics...It was high time I did know more about these things. If you don't learn them you remain a boor and a bore and are stuck at the rung of verbal poo flingers.

If I could confine my news addiction and windy bouts of self expression to a harmless few hours a week like any other well behaved hobby, why would I not otherwise carry on in the manner I have with this blog?
  • My posts grow to three pages and seem unfinished, words come oozing out, no natural end of rewriting seems to come...I still look back and wish I had said less and not wasted words on the topic of the moment. Such topics go stale even when they are good illustrations for the bigger themes I was really and always hunting.
  • I am not connected to rare insider news sources, not up at all hours. I am fond of sunshine and strenuous exercise, idiosyncratic in speech and logic and crappy with deadlines since I take a lapidary approach to sentence construction. That makes me a complete misfit for DailyKos, Agonist, TPM or HuffPo though I click on them a dozen times a day. And going it on my own is....well, you are looking at it.
  • My hit counter is a one-way mirror in which vanity makes me compulsively gaze as if hypnotized. It tells me a little about you but of me it only says "attachment to illusion of self". The vast majority of hits are Google touching a page because in so many pages whatever words you seek are here but always in a strange order and a perverse usage. By the accident of my blogs name, 2/3 of my traffic. The scary thing is finding 80% of my hits are hit-and-run Google references but ET is often middle of the first page or higher. How can a blog few link, or read have a page rank of 5?
  • A blog for each interest has not worked. A catchall where you cannot reliably find your interest pursued has not worked. And I have spared you my poetry for the most part. Somebody already invented the "blog about nothing" so what is this and what is the point of it?
  • Temporal tyranny of the treadmill. Even your best post simply disappears as and old post.
  • To build a readership would take time I do not have. To do less is mere vanity and the love of ones own words echoing in an empty room.
  • By the accident of my blog's name, way too much of a kind of traffic I really do not want [imaged lest it prove NSFW]:

So, I need to make a few changes. For now, the name changes. That will mess with people who remember page title but not the URL, and rely on google to connect the DNS dots. That won't be many. The URL stays the same. But maybe I stop getting 45 of my 50 daily hits from porn seekers.

Science reporting that pisses me off

A news release from NCAR that says things like antarctic atmospheric models have run about 1/2 degree C warm:

The authors compared recently constructed temperature data sets from Antarctica, based on data from ice cores and ground weather stations, to 20th century simulations from computer models used by scientists to simulate global climate. While the observed Antarctic temperatures rose by about 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.2 degrees Celsius) over the past century, the climate models simulated increases in Antarctic temperatures during the same period of 1.4 degrees F (0.75 degrees C).

And some of the chill is due to the ozone hole but model errors center on water vapor estimates...

Part of the reason that Antarctica has barely warmed has to do with the ozone hole over the continent. The lack of ozone is chilling the middle and upper atmosphere, altering wind patterns in a way that keeps comparatively warm air from reaching the surface. Unlike the rest of the continent, the Antarctic Peninsula has warmed by several degrees, in part because the winds there are drawing in warmer air from the north. The models generally capture these wind changes, although sometimes incompletely.

got turned into this:
Climate models miss mark


If scientists overestimated the amount of water vapor a slightly warmed atmosphere would absorb, it could throw off the entire model.


"The entire model"! The model of what? Just the antarctic or the planet or the whole globalwarminghoax model? That concluding line is not supported by anything in the press release. Was the reporter coached, clueless or calculating on readership? The latter is a hunch that fits the observations: the first comment to the article was this:

"But Monaghan found the models consistently predicted that the continent warmed more than it actually did."

No!!! So, you mean that the Global Warming® models may, just may, be wrong?!? That's not possible because Al Gore (B.A. Political Science, failed out of divinity school) claims that we are all going to die due to extreme Global Warming®.

Thanks D.C. for printing a story that indicates that the models may not be right. We may not be in a "crisis."

Now, let the discussion begin using real science, not based on "models" with exaggerated formulas/predictions.


Why should I feel that I am being baited? Don't I know better? Anyway I like chomping on trolls:

Oh dandy, more bait for denialists. Only a morsel but they'll make a meal. I fault the title of the article for dog whistling to the clowns. Science is not a conspiracy to lord it over the fatuous, the uneducated and those who suffer faith-directed ignorance. It is an approach to knowledge. The approach has changed little since the time of Bacon. The knowledge, the current working set of facts and theories, of any given generation will change beyond recognizability in as little as one more generation...we scientists are OK with that. It delights us sometimes. The fear that "if any of it is wrong then it all must be wrong" is, as it should be, endemic among those with brittle belief structures, but such people should not project the way they operate on to others.

I often explain this as "A fixed truth is usually already broken."

The presumption of a moniker like "enlightenedProf" really ends the argument. Was it too hard to spell "lightened proof"? For the sake of any other readers who are uncomfortable not being on the side of the bully, listen up.

This story would not make the local paper in any other locale. This is a Boulder Colorado paper and there will be some readers whose profession this self styled "prof" belittles. Note that it is those very professionals who came right out with their new findings...probably knowing it will be snatched up by those inexplicable cases with an attitude that science is a plot to destroy the patriarchy or whatever it is thats eating them. Such ignorant blowhards should quit wasting everyone's time. Have they no more constructive way to get attention?
Repeat this: "Approach to knowledge". Get it? Not Truth, not Enlightenment, but good old "knowing how the world works so you don't bust it". Scientists do occasionally go for enlightenment after work. Note that Laurie Snider has to come up with a headline that will draw readers. She has done her job. Note that none of the quotes from the scientists involved portray any alarm or imply the new data upsets the whole enterprise...just improves the model. For those who consider theology or the platitudes of their particular political party to be the only "model" that can be accepted, the concept of adjusting a model is very hard to take in. At any rate, regardless of whether much actually changes in this or that GCM or any other climate prediction model, it won't mask the fact that the antarctic has been losing ice shelf acreage and baring never-before-seen bedrock at a rate above any other point in human history.

EP, you poor fellow, do you have a conspiracy theory that posits thermometers can somehow be in cahoots with the devils and scientists? Or perhaps the evil comes in to the process whenever a matrix of differential equations has more than 665 columns? Have you used a thermometer before? They are very accurate and could be very helpful in proving that you are not running a fever. You know where to put the thermometer?

Reducing science budgets until Norquist could drown them in a bathtub

I have gotten into the habit of scanning The write ups are short and generally good at conveying the impact of a journal article to a general audience but hey, its not war and politics they write about so how stimulating could it be? [or didn't y'all notice your volitional reading is geared to stimulation? Conditioned stimulus perhaps, but stimulation all the same!] Well, the writing is not always dry and the writers tap the right notes when the know they have more than science to report.
If you think the only class of people Bush and company cut adrift by neglecting Katrina-ravaged NOLA where the poorer and mostly black and this. A significant research team got its progress demolished there and the scientists finally got the message they should go elsewhere because the administration was never going to come through for the reconstruction of New Orleans. You may not understand all the talk of introns and RNA in which the remarkable findings are couched. Its not confirmed but a key mechanism of animal cell division appears to not so much evolved as arisen from a symbiosis in the very dim and remote past. I was quite stirred by the back story of a major biology research insight worthy of a PNAS paper clawing its way back to life through the dozens of generous acts of fellow scientists and the dedication and vision that it took to reconstitute the research using literally the kitchen sink if that could be spared to make a little progress.

Science Daily is not on my blogroll but maybe it should be.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Summary of Primary election outcomes.

This is my blog so I can play news anchor if I want. But this is your browser so you can wince and go elsewhere if you want. This is a wrap up of the May 6th I happen to see them.

10 oclock news: the margins of victory have shrunken for both candidates vs earlier counts. That is interesting since that means a 2% flip in the count would make Obama the winner in Indiana. Lake county has not reported at this time and we know it has problems.

2 AM: Lake county, saying the delay was to count absentee ballots comes in. I am relieved it was nothing worse. Hillary gave a speech at 11 PM that sounded like it was written as her victory speech for Denver in August, but the margin is now 49/51, far slimmer than her lead in the polls of only two weeks ago. ...Maybe her last chance to deliver that speech.

This morning's papers generally treat yesterday's voting as a modest win for Obama and critical reality check for the seeming success of Clinton's recently more negative tack. The Huffington Post front page was brutal, dismissing Clinton by showing Obama vs McCain as all that's left. But the story under the headline is a well written summary by a name brand journalism professor. Not so heralded, Obama actually is moving on to the bigger fight. It may not literally be over for Clinton at this point but for Obama, reports were that he was already working to focus on repairing the demographic rifts that were aggravated by the recent desperate campaigning tactics.

Was I too harsh on Hillary? Not as harsh as Arianna Huffington who appears to have a grudge against dishonesty and stupidity. How on earth is that Arianna going to write about politics with that attitude?
The coverage of the so called "Limbaugh effect" [yes, we do call this a democracy!] in Huffington Post graphically pairs HRC with worse company than even McCain:
But Limbaugh aside, what does a woman have to do to get elected? I do not know how her campaign determined that dumbed down petro-populism would give her an edge. I am sure she is smarter than that but she also has the stomach to strike any pose that will get her the nomination, which is pretty similar to the spinning compass of the explosive Capt. Windsock. It sure isn't working with me. Anyone can stand on the bed of a pickup truck at a gas station and milk the anxiety over gas prices with unworkable promises. The bed of a pickup truck is not much of an altitude from which to talk down to voters but talking down is what she is doing. Not all voters are that dumb. Not everyone is unaware that the gas mileage of pickup trucks is part of the problem. At least 49 percent of them in Indiana are not that dumb. Campaigning with a new-found and shallow populism that underestimates voters maturity, even if it properly assesses their pain, is more elitist than anything Obama has pulled. After three weeks of helping McCain by directly and indirectly raising every doubt and rumor, Clinton is as tarnished as her target.
More voters blamed Hillary for negative campaigning -- 63% of Indiana voters and 67 % of North Carolina voters thought Clinton attacked Obama unfairly. Only 43 % in Indiana and 40% in North Carolina thought the reverse.

Note that when republicans were given a choice between McCain and political corpses, 20% voted for corpses. I don't think that particular 20% would provide any help for Obama except by staying home in November...but Ron Paul supporters are strange creatures to me.

The economy is reported to dominate the choice voters make. What about the war? Two good signs I found:
  1. A down ticket election where the anti-war republican overcame all expectations
  2. NC counties where the military is a big employer STILL went for Obama over Clinton
Have we reached the point beyond which Clinton can only do damage? Definitely!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

the headlines alone make my head asplode!

Key Findings From Early Exit Polls
The economy is the major driving issue, with 65% In Indiana saying it was the most important issue, and 60% saying the same in North Carolina.

Exit Polls: Indiana, North Carolina Latest Information

The economy was on voters' minds in Democratic primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. Two-thirds of Democratic primary voters in Indiana and nearly as many in North Carolina said the economy is the most important issue facing the nation. That's more than have said so in 28 previous competitive Democratic primaries with exit polls this year.

Clinton Gas Tax Holiday: Hillary Attacks Economists

When asked this morning by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos if she could name a single economist who backs her call for a gas tax holiday this summer, HRC said "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists."

2 + 2 = 0, apparently. Perhaps Clinton plans to have none of those rascally economists appointed into her administration. That makes her as similar to Bush as the hazardous old Capt Windsock. Repeat after me and the newspapers: "The economy is the big issue" and then say "Economists are the wrong people to ask about taxes" . Either you will come to understand one of our candidates or you have a stroke.

You call that a democracy? Cowboys and Indianans

I lifted this straight out of the newsfromunderground google group posting. And that in turn was content supplied by
Over and above the internecine negative campaigning Clinton introduced into the Democratic primaries, we now have a catalog of voting irregularities in Indiana...most of which involve disenfranchised voters in districts that were expected to go for Obama. What a surprise that is! Please note the plea for support to that appears at the bottom of this material. If you appreciate the access to the broken guts of your democracy that these people provide you then show it. You are not going to get this info on your foxxing cable news channel. In their words "We are supported ENTIRELY through small citizen donations". Do I have to tell you, mere citizen, that you are getting smaller every day?

There are voting machine problems, tens of thousands of voters who will be disqualified for reasons no officials have made clear yet...lots of dirt here and some tools you can use to obtain information and digest results. If Obama is going to be hit as only Rove used to be able to hit opponents, its going down today in IN. Is this what Hillary was talking about when she claimed greater electability?

In April 2008 when Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita announced the release of "record high" voter registration rolls, with 4.3 million voters set to vote in the Tuesday May 6 primary, he didn't mention that a whopping 1,134,427 voter registrations have been cancelled.

Now, the voter rolls are supposed to be tidied up prior to each election. Indiana's last general election was in Nov. 2006, and they have had a slew of special and general elections since then. So how have 1.1 million voters -- 26 percent of the current statewide list -- escaped the voter registration cleanup squad? Who are these million voters and where do they come from?

One quarter-million of them come from just two northwestern Indiana counties: Lake and Porter. Lake County reports purging 137,164 voters and neighboring Porter County cancelled out 124,958 voters.

Lake County, the home of Gary, Indiana, has spawned the Jackson Five and a great old musical (The Music Man) and has been referred to as "the second most liberal county in America." Lake County also has one of the heaviest concentrations of African-American voters that you'll find anywhere in the USA.

Nearby Porter County, the home of Valparaiso, is 95% white and went solidly for Bush in the 2004 election. It's also got a lot of college students.

For whatever reason, these two counties had ... what ... massive data entry problems? Exceptionally messy records? Lots of dead people who climbed back into their graves? I truly hope we aren't going to see a lot of disappointed voters on Tuesday, when they perhaps learn that they were among the lucky million people who got purged.


Lake 137,164 48% (Gary)
Porter 124,958 115% (Valparaiso)
Marion 68,12010% (Indianapolis)
Monroe66,00985% (Bloomington)
Madison42,95247% (Anderson)

Here's a picture map with the numbers and percentages for the whole state:

The percentage represents the ratio of the number of purges to the current voter list. Example: If a location currently has 100,000 voters on its rolls, and purged 53,000 along the way, we assign a ratio of 53% to the purge vs. current list.

It would be nice to have the original quantities, it would make for a cleaner number, but this is not available on the Secretary of State's Web site, so I haven't got a tidier statistic for you, wish I did. I also wish the time period for these purges was clearly indicated, but it is not indicated -- nor can it be derived -- from available information at Indiana's official election Web site.


It's always interesting to look for impossible numbers on election night, like the "more votes than voters" situation that sometimes crops up. It speeds things up to have a place to plug the information in. Here is a spreadsheet -- quick and not too fancy, I'm sure you can improve on it. It has every Indiana county, along with their official registered voter statistics for the 2008 primary, and some historical data from 1992 to the present, along with links for the source documents from the secretary of state:
(Excel file, 71 KB)

Here are links that may be very good to provide additional statistical information which you can plug in:

And here is a link to the source document containing the cancelled registration information used for this article:

Here's a quick spreadsheet with the Indiana voting machines by county -- you can get that on the Sec. State's Web site too, but it's not in a database format. You can cut and paste these into your analysis sheets if you'd like to get comparisons of results by county.


Another press release on the Indiana Secretary of State's Web site deals with the $360,000 penalty he's hitting Microvote with for failing to follow the law. Oh yes, and the Microvote Infinity voting machine, which will be very widely used in the Tuesday May 6 primary, has been DECERTIFIED!

That's not going to stop anyone in Indiana from using it, however. The decision was that anyone who already bought these things gets to use them -- despite the fact that these machines have been embroiled in lawsuits in at least three places, one in Pennsylvania for machines that just didn't work, and two in Tennessee where candidates have asked to redo elections due to bizarre anomalies -- like vote totals that wandered away in the wee hours of the night.

Microvote's insurance company declined to cover the firm, according to yet another lawsuit, because the insurance company alleged that Microvote was selling defective products. The judge ruled against the insurance company, saying the product wasn't defective, it just didn't work.

I haven't plugged this in yet, but those of you who are comfortable with spreadsheets can quickly add the voting machines by county to your voter registration spreadsheet, using that voting machine spreadsheet I linked above, to see how many votes all together will be subjected to Microvote.

Ah, but we aren't done with Indiana voting machines yet. Indiana is also fond of the ES&S paperless iVotronic touch-screens, the ones that lost 18,000 votes in Sarasota County Florida and were the subject of a blistering report by Dan Rather. In Rather's report, he showed shocking footage of the touch-screens being manufactured in a sweat shop in the Philippines. Their quality control test was to shake the machine and if it didn't rattle, it passed the test.


1. Do some public records requests to either the state or the counties, and ask for their VRG-5 form, which is the NVRA tracking form on which the number of voters purged must be reported.

For tips on how to do the records requests, here's our tool kit, scroll down to the section on public records:

Post the documents and ask for any advice you need here, and report your front-lines information for both Indiana and North Carolina here:

I'm pushing hard right now to get TOOL KIT 2008 done -- it's a stripped-down model with emergency measures for the fall election. Unless you tell me not to, I'll let you know as soon as it's ready for download.

2. Another useful form you can request: The CEB-9 form, which is the Indiana County Election Report that must be turned in after the election. Here's one, take a look at the information it contains:

3. If you are a number-cruncher, grab the spreadsheets here and wail on 'em during Election night. You can get additional historical information from this site:
(Choose the drop-down menu "general by state" and select Indiana, then choose the year you want. Confusion factor -- this site color-codes Republican as blue and Democrat as Red. Has lots of good stuff).

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: People usually catch things like "more votes than voters" weeks after the election. The dang Indiana information doesn't break voter registrations out by party which makes crunching the primary numbers a little harder. But you may still get the jump on some red flags if you track this stuff as it's coming in on spreadsheets that tell you what the stats are going in.


You'll notice that those projections often change -- sometimes dramatically -- just an hour or so later. That's because we have learned that they are paying elections officials (through their associations or otherwise) to call and fax them the results off the voting machine poll tape.

In fact, the National Election Pool (used to be Voter News Service) is getting this stuff BEFORE the election officials and way before the secretary of state.

The first number they quote is the adjusted exit poll number, and it comes from asking people about who they voted for. The point here is, when what you thought was "exit polls" suddenly changes, that is the impact of those called-in poll tape results. Yep. That's the voting machines talking, and when they say something different than the people answering the exit pollers' questions, we should be looking at the programming on the machine, not the exit pollers, for answers. I expect to see early projections altered significantly as soon as those poll tape numbers are called in to NEP.

So to recap, good things to do Tuesday:
1. Public records
2. Number crunching
3. Pray

Good luck to us, all,

Bev Harris
Founder - Black Box Voting

Please help us protect 2008, muster up the "Dream Teams" for field
work, print the Tool Kits...
We are supported ENTIRELY through small citizen donations.

to mail:
Black Box Voting
330 SW 43rd St Suite K
PMB 547
Renton WA 98057

Hair of the dog

It is not too far fetched to say that America is a high risk debtor. Long before the sheriff comes to evict a man who has habitually borrowed more than he can pay and squandered it on luxuries, his borrowing habits show a pattern. It is essentially the pattern of addiction. Among people addicted to alcohol, the expression hair off the dog that bit you is a junk rationalization that has turned into an accepted bad practice: having a drink in order to dull the pain of a hang over. That practice looks like the only line our nation's money mavens can recite.

Here is an article from Asia Times that is quite clear about the world's disdain for Fed policy. I don't think highly of it myself.
We have been a vocal critic of interest rate cuts in the US because, in our assessment, they do much more harm than good: subprime borrowers or holders of illiquid debt instruments are shunned from the markets in the current environment because of general risk aversion, not because of the level of interest rates. Lower interest rates, however, may cause inflationary pressures to build further and may cause further downward pressure on the dollar.

I don't have that informed an opinion but if the current mess in bank liquidity is largely the blowback of Greenspan's shortsighted means of putting off the credit drought caused by a trillion dollar republican borrowing spree, how on earth is enabling yet more dubious borrowing a solution? I suspect the certainty of inflation has been accepted as a collateral damage if it comes. The current administration can blame inflation on oil prices and, in any case, it will fall more heavily on the next administration. That overdue and oft forestalled recession would hit soon if not expensively repelled and dent McCains Same Talk express.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thomas Friedman Gets It

He says he gets it from you and me: Ordinary people are finally asking why is the US fighting the world when it should be fixing its own tattered house? Friedman knows and claims many of the people he has talked to around the country are aware as well: we can't afford to do both and, surge hype be damned, the fighting is not doing us any good. Whence hope when leaders treat you like a dope? Well, Thomas has his preference.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I got the wrong Wright

I have been reluctant to say a word about the Wright imbroglio. I knew from his autobiographical Dreams from my Father that Obama had been recruited to the church by Wright more than the other way round .... and that was all so long ago. While I have said little because I knew little and don't put much stock in the religious associations of people who wear their faith lightly, I was still lapping up opinions that painted the angry Reverend as his own worst enemy. But Shokai over at his resumed blog has done more home work than many an editor or news anchor. Its good to get the whole picture. I would not hang McCain for Hagee's sake and I won't hang Obama for the anger of Rev. Wright...who is a more complex man than your TV news or even most editorials can communicate.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Immigrants: "may day! may day!"

Yes, the crowds are smaller this year than they were last year. But so are the remittances to struggling relatives that the immigrant workers send back to Brazil and Mexico. What a brilliant solution America has devised for its impasse over immigration! Become as third-worldly as the places immigrants fled ...and back they will go!

Time travel policy: I am at a Bat Mitzvah on the 3rd, you wouldn't want me typing in the middle of the drash now would you? So the third comes a little early

Friday, May 02, 2008

Upside down

Maybe these guys prop us up because, dumb and brawny as we are, the US is  the hired cop, the tough but not too dangerous guy who will make the world safe for business even if you have to fool him into it by not correcting him when he says he is making it safe for democracy.  It is an inversion of the relationship we used to have with minor satellite nations: proxyhood.  We use to ship money and arms and the occasional adviser to places like Afghanistan and Israel and the actual fighting and dying to advance our interests would be done by our proxies.  Now we spend far more money and send OUR brigades and fleets.  Who's interest is served?  The business-as-usual flow of oil from the middle east and money to the oil producers is clearly being protected. And it is breaking our bank to do the dying that enables the Saudis to make a living.  If I look at it that way, then what are normally poor choices by financial criteria are still taken by oil billionaires because, geopolitically, they prop up a proxy in a fight that affects them.  The terms of this relationship are not even so different from foreign aid in the form of loans that we used to hold over the heads of countries whose Marxist guerrillas we did not want to tangle with personally.   We gave military aid to our proxies.  The sheiks LOAN money via investments, a bargain compared to the deals we struck with our proxies.  When its all over, if it ever is over, the sheiks will own us lock stock and 6 million barrels per day.

Relationships based on power, the uneasy dance where one party has a greater ability to dictate behavior, do not flip unless the relative power of the parties that underly their relationship also reverses.  We still sell arms to the Saudis but they also buy Bentleys and Lamborghinis and they aren't getting those scratched up either.  Wouldn't our lives be so much simpler if we didn't give a shit about oil?  We are not completely upside down yet but all signals point to our continuing to borrow until someone else cuts us off.  The prime is 2% today and the fed is auctioning to make life easier for the banks...debt will just keep going up.  When you borrow money, you lend power.  If you are wondering what mechanism will turn the dollars held by oil sheiks into an ability to dictate behavior, it might go something like this. I had heard rumblings of oil producers decoupling from the US dollar but I had no understanding of what the consequences would be.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Be all that you can be

And when that is not enough to win our stupid war, kill yourself. This country doesn't want to deal with psychologically damaged veterans. It doesn't want to face the fact that it owes something to vets who have gotten seriously messed up being told they are the good guys and the fight is a good fight and then finding they have to go berserk or park their conscience while they pretty much shoot anything that moves. As a nation, the US, not just some hippies or some liberals, but the whole damn lot of us, wanted to forget the war in Viet Nam by forgetting the men who came back. Its clear we are set to do it turn our backs on the long tail of consequences of our dumb decision to invade Iraq And we are starting with the immediate worst consequence: tens of thousands of wounded and PTSD cases on the doorstep of a negligent Veterans Administration. Now Iraq vets will start to replace the Viet Nam vets in shelters for homeless, haunted men who could never fit back in to society. The VA makes a good political football to throw at the heads of the most hypocritical hawks that ever ran a country. Are there actually enough voters pressing for effective and fair rehab for vets to get us beyond mere finger pointing? How do you feel about the veterans you run into? Did any of them come home to the welcome John McCain recieved? Do you ask them how welcomed they feel?

McCain felt vindicated for his enduring. Even now, even I have to admire his toughness and courage as a POW in sticking to what he thought was right. But I have to wonder at the selective way he deploys that courage and what, if anything these days, he holds to be true. Before he was against lobbying, he was a lobbyist.

To do right by these men and women would require admitting that the real cost of the war dwarfs the minor expenses and hardships portrayed to us by a lying president and Secretary of Defense. To take full responsibility for our obligation would require noting the broken men in our midst, their lost ability to control rage and their confusion in returning from the harrowing mayhem and daily uncertainties to a Disneyesque PR blitz that passes as our understanding of that war by the average American. How uncomfortable when news of these vet suicides intrudes on our practiced unawareness of the one reality of that war that is in our face: its victims among us? And how soon can we change the channel, pick up the funnies, go back to worrying about our credit card balance?

I say this from time to time, but looks like not often enough: Don't go numb to the soldier. Don't let your silence be taken as blaming them for a loss that our own stupidity and the arrogance of our leaders doomed us to endure. I recognize that there could come a time when we do need to send men to fight some real enemy. But I also recognize there is no glory in the deed but our talking otherwise is a vital salve to our consciences. I recognize that to have to risk death and to kill not only are unnatural conditions. Some of us can survive messed up childhoods and go on to great success. Some of us are unaffected by stress and others made mad by it. War could bake the given rationales for fighting to a diamond hardness or it could turn them all to gray areas and nuances such as plagued a mind like John Kerry's. That ideological side of PTSD is what puts some men in the VFW halls and Veterans day parades and other in Veterans for Peace.

The numbers who have ideological PTSD are large but less than the total number of vets. For Iraq, the numbers with actual PTSD are estimated between 1 out of 5 and 2 out of 3. That is staggering. And the longer tours and duty forced on national guardsmen who never expected to effectively be used like regular combat units all add to the stress. And now, we find that the numbers who are driven to kill themselves have been hidden from us.

UPDATE: Jude points to a crisis hot line that has been set up for veterans.