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Me: Frank Lynch

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Saturday, May 8, 2004:

Can someone please explain this to me? It really doesn't make much sense. You know the Bee Gees' song New York Mining Disaster, 1941? The one that goes, "Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones"? I don't understand: the mine has collapsed, right? And so oxygen is in short supply, right? And they're singing! No way to conserve air.
Link 5:44 PM


Today is Thomas Pynchon's birthday. Think I'll take my copy of Gravity's Rainbow in with me on the train...
Link 2:22 PM

Friday, May 7, 2004:

Level Abu Ghraib prison? The idea came up a number of times in congressional hearings today, due to its notorious history. I suppose it's thought of as a way of eradicating another vestige of Saddam Hussein's reign. Some even talked about how it had become even more disgraceful as a result of its recent history. But how come no one (to my knowledge) has pointed out that this history belongs to the Iraqi people, that it's their country, and maybe the decision should be up to them? I can't speak for them, but if what went on its walls was really that horrific, maybe they want to preserve it as a museum or memorial of some kind?

UPDATE: In Senate hearings, Rumsfeld said it was up to the Iraqi people:

Second, there are people who are talking about the Abu Ghraib prison and tearing it down. And certainly that's something that the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council and the Iraqi government, the transitional government, the interim government that will take over by June 30th, will be addressing and deciding.

I think it's -- frankly, from my standpoint, I think it's not a bad idea. But I think it's really up to the Iraqis.


Link 6:40 PM

I guess personal responsibility is a squishy concept. Apply as needed, only. By and large, most liberals and conservatives are condemning the abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. But, you may have heard about Rush Limbaugh's infamous characterization of them already:

This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?

And you may be aware that some people in the accused abusers' hometown are arguing for lenience and understanding:

POINTING crudely at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi, the petite brunette with a cigarette hanging from her lips epitomised America's shame over revelations US soldiers routinely tortured inmates at Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.

Lynndie England, 21, a rail worker's daughter, comes from a trailer park in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, which locals proudly call "a backwoods world".

She faces a court martial, but at home she is toasted as a hero.

At the dingy Corner Club Saloon they think she has done nothing wrong.

"A lot of people here think they ought to just blow up the whole of Iraq," Colleen Kesner said.

"To the country boys here, if you're a different nationality, a different race, you're sub-human. That's the way girls like Lynndie are raised.

"Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you're hunting something. Over there, they're hunting Iraqis."

And, while one should never look at a usenet posting and say it's indicative of a trend, alt.quotations was treated with a post that argued that the proper context for understanding the torture is that of an undertrained, under-supported military:

Let's put the reports of "torture" into some kind of context and perspective. The Iraqi war is primarily being fought by 19 & 20 yr. old young men with little combat experience at the beginning, as most of the war-experienced men from Iraqi War #1 in 1991 have retired or been discharged.

The realities of war are not pretty and not civilized. It is easy to condemn those in charge of the prisoners in Iraq, but until one has stood in the shoes of a person in war, there is no way one should judge the actions of those under that kind of pressure.

(snip)

We send minimally trained youngsters into a volatile, unexpected situation and then we want to punish them when they fail to live up to some utopian morality dream. In the field of war, the individual psyche changes, and the group psyche changes even more. Please be aware of this and cast stones only if you are totally perfect in your own life. Imagine your friend being disemboweled by a rusty knife, beaten and then burned, then publicly hanged off a busy bridge for all to mock and scream epithets at, and then ask yourself how respectfully you would regard the perpetrators?

Instead of prosecuting these people, I believe we should welcome them home with open arms as the heroes they actually are, possibly in tandem with the help they will need to overcome those changes of psyche I've already talked about that are the inevitable result of war. What gives me the right to be sympathetic? I've led young men in war, and I'm still leading young men and women into life-threatening circumstances. If you haven't, try to examine the context of your anger, and decide if it might be inappropriately directed at the wrong persons. (My emphasis.)

Running through all these comments, of course, is the thought that the alleged perpetrators are not responsible for their actions. Limbaugh doesn't even seem to feel there's anything wrong, much less assign responsibility.

How very different this is from the calls that are made to accept responsibility for our actions in everyday life. Conservatives often complain about abuses in the court system with people suing someone else for their own mistakes, and use personal responsibility as a wedge in arguing against abortion. I am not commenting on the validity of their arguments, only pointing out the contrast we see when the principle of personal responsibility is applied to a cause which many conservatives support. (Also, for the nitpickers, yes, I have read condemnations from conservatives.)

The other interesting point is that this layering of "context" is often dismissed by conservatives as "nuance" when liberals search for understanding. For instance, following 9/11, Thomas Sowell wrote:

A former ambassador from the weak-kneed Carter administration says that we should look at the "root causes" behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We should understand the "alienation" and "sense of grievance" against us by various people in the Middle East.

It is astonishing to see the 1960s phrase "root causes" resurrected at this late date and in this context. It was precisely this kind of thinking, which sought the "root causes of crime" during that decade, creating soft policies toward criminals, which led to skyrocketing crime rates. Moreover, these soaring crime rates came right after a period when crime rates were lower than they had been in decades.

So far, Sowell's only comment on the Abu Ghraib abuses is to take the moral high ground that at least our culture doesn't rejoice over them:

Under the terrible stresses of war, there are some in every country who commit atrocities. The difference is that Americans are upset, ashamed, or angry when their troops do it, while people in some Middle Eastern countries danced in the streets on 9/11 and when the bodies of dead American civilians were dragged through the streets in Iraq.

Somewhere, there has to be an objective standard about what constitutes personal responsibility and when it's required. And I hope that Sowell will have more to say than what he's said so far.
Link 11:08 AM


Uh oh, they want to reproduce.
Link 8:24 AM

Thursday, May 6, 2004:

Some movie studios are surely hurting over the departure of Elvis Mitchell from the reviewing staff of the New York Times. Why? Well, the paper's web site's Movies home page lists "Critics Picks" for the remaining reviewers A. O. Scott (whose promotion to crew chief supposedly led to Mitchell's indignant exit) and Stephen Holden; but all those movies which would have been shown next to a picture of Elvis Mitchell are now orphaned and don't appear here. Run a search on "Elvis Mitchell" and you'll get a good 618 reviews, so it won't be easy for anyone to compensate for the lack. A movie like the current Hellboy (which he reviewed very positively) has an unforeseen handicap. Too bad the Times hasn't figured out a way around their unfortunate personnel changes.
Link 8:54 PM


Attentions are limited, not so much in terms of how long you can attend to any one thing, but more in terms of how many things you can attend to at once. While we've all been paying deserved attention to the abuses in Abu Ghraib prison, there was other news out of Iraq this week which could well have escaped your notice. It was announced on Tuesday that the Pentagon now figures it will need to have 138,000 troops in Iraq through the end of 2005. That's the same number as are there now. (You can see why they weren't specific about the length of the occupation in advance now, I bet.) Had you heard that? If not, I'm sure the administration was glad you didn't, although they might have preferred you were distracted by more positive news than the Abu Ghraib scandal, you know, maybe an announcement from Alan Greenspan that the federal deficit is of no concern. Wait? That's not what he said? The deficit is actually a problem? Gee, who had any idea that passing a Medicare program where the government can't negotiate to control costs would have had financial impact! Or, that all those tax cuts (which have never been shown to increase tax revenues) would have hurt the balance sheet! Who'd a thunk it?

There is a lot to pay attention to, so don't get too focused on any one story. It's that old Samuel Johnson line about looking at a mite through a magnifying glass: you get a great view of the mite only.
Link 8:24 PM


This is just too much: on September 11, flight controllers who dealt with hijacked flights taped statements about the day's events; there was no transcript made of the tapes, and some supervisor destroyed the cassette, scattering it in waste baskets in diverse parts of the building to prevent its reconstruction. Why?

The quality-assurance manager told investigators that he had destroyed the tape because he thought making it was contrary to F.A.A. policy, which calls for written statements, and because he felt that the controllers "were not in the correct frame of mind to have properly consented to the taping" because of the stress of the day.

Incredible.
Link 3:02 PM

Wednesday, May 5, 2004:

What to link? Why do some people link "printer friendly" article versions? Especially bloggers who have ads running on their pages? If ad revenue is good for the blogger, why send their readers to page versions which don't have ads? I just don't get it.
Link 10:30 PM


This is how you get lied to, Part 2. So you're wondering what to make of the group of Vietnam Vets and such that calls themselves "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth"? And whether or not their complaints about John Kerry are valid? Well, would you believe that they ignore every positive thing that's ever been said about Kerry? (Shocked, shocked...) Here's the take down. (Link seen via Atrios.) UPDATE: More from the Daily Howler.
Link 8:42 PM


This is how you get lied to. Deception on the Wall Street Journal editorial page: they want you to think more of a Kerry critic than he is. Talk about sleaze! If there were licenses, they should lose theirs.
Link 2:38 PM


You can't stonewall a scandal. Trying to do so only makes matters worse, and can be counterproductive to gathering the truth (it's more work, which distracts you from getting to the bottom, and pits you against the Press, who also want the truth). Bush? Not this time: it's the UN.
Link 9:52 AM


Among Bush's accomplishments would have to be numbered getting prescription drugs for seniors. He was very clear that he intended to do this, and in a 2000 presidential debate chided the Clinton administration for failing to do so:

Well, here's what I've said: I've said, Jim, I've said that eight years ago they campaigned on prescription drugs for seniors, and four years ago they campaigned on getting prescription drugs for seniors, and now they're campaigning on getting prescription drugs for seniors. It seems like they can't get it done. Now they may blame other folks, but it's time to get somebody in Washington who's going to work with both Republicans and Democrats to get some positive things done when it comes to our seniors.

Well, what kind of an accomplishment? Not only does the Medicare program tie the government's hands — it's expressly forbidden from negotiating drug prices with drug companies (can you imagine any company not being allowed to negotiate with its suppliers?) — under the new plan most senior citizens will pay more for most popular medicines. The Center for American Progress reports...

According to a study by the House Government Reform Committee, most seniors will pay more using a Medicare drug card than they could buying retail with no card at all. The study found that a month's supply of the ten most popular brand-name drugs cost more using three Medicare drug cards — the Pharmacy Care Alliance Card, the RxSavings Card and the Walgreen's Card — than purchasing the drugs at Drugstore.com. For that privilege, seniors will be required to pay up to $30 per year to enroll.

Now, you may have also heard that during the legislative process, a Medicare actuary was forbidden by his boss from revealing their best estimate of the full cost of the program. This was against the law.

The Congressional Research Service says the Bush administration apparently violated federal law by ordering the chief Medicare actuary to withhold information from Congress indicating that the new Medicare law could cost far more than White House officials had said.

In a report on Monday, the research service said that Congress's "right to receive truthful information from federal agencies to assist in its legislative functions is clear and unassailable." Since 1912, it said, federal laws have protected the rights of federal employees to communicate with Congress, and recent laws have "reaffirmed and strengthened" those protections.

Some accomplishment!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention all of how unusual the legislative process was. The vote was held open for three hours...

The bill won final congressional approval in November, after a close vote in the House that GOP leaders held open for an unprecedented three hours while they worked to persuade reluctant Republicans to vote for the centerpiece of the president's domestic agenda.

...AND there are allegations that bribery was involved.
Link 8:34 AM


That liberal media is at it again... This time it's a major movie studio, refusing to allow one of its subsidiaries to distribute an anti-Bush movie. Is it pure politics? Perhaps not — Florida tax breaks may be at stake, although the larger corporation denies it.

Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.

"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him," Mr. Emanuel said. "He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn't want a Disney company involved."

Business is business, I guess.
Link 8:01 AM


Taking risks and invading Iraq. Without a doubt (I think) my least favorite Samuel Johnson quotation is a very famous one from Rasselas: "Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome." It's one of those inspirational type things your boss might put up on the bulletin board. What's wrong with it? Well, the guy who spouts it is an inventor who is working on flight, and after putting on man-made wings, takes a belly-flop into a lake. Now, Johnson doesn't believe in shirking well-judged opportunities, and he has essays that talk about the advantages of taking them when appropriate. But when inappropriate, there are problems.

Take this example from Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, for instance... Regarding CIA Director George Tenet (pages 139-140):

The new factor was the absence of doubt at the top. Bush displayed no hesitation or uncertainty. It might be prudent to overrule an earlier decision, step back and debate the merits, but Bush was not that way. Tenet was finding that you paid the greatest price by doubting. There were often a hundred reasons not to act. Some people got overwhelmed by problems and did 50 permutations about why it was insoluble, ending up nowhere. But if you were not afraid of what you had to do, then you would work your way through the problems.

When he took problems to Bush, the president asked, Well, what's a solution? How do you fix it? How do you take the next step? How do you get around this? It was a new ethos for the intelligence business. Suddenly there seemed to be no penalty for taking risks and making mistakes.

So he was going to give it a whack.

No penalty for making mistakes, going to give it a whack. Kind of reminds me of the language I used in high school algebra when I raised my hand in class (I only remember this because my friend Dave Ackerman highlighted it to me many years ago), "Sure, Mr. Bornhorst, I'll take a crack at it." Well, the bad news for Mr. Tenet, of course, is that decisions to invade countries have considerably more weight than solving a high school algebra problem. I am similarly dismayed by Mr. Tenet's esprit-de-gung-ho when, later in the book, he strong-arms Bush's questions regarding a questionable WMD case by brushing it off as "It's a slam dunk, Mr. President." Pretty much the inventor donning his man-made wings and taking that belly-flop into the lake, doncha think?

Now, I'm not trying to beat up on George Tenet here. I'm trying to beat up on George Tenet and everyone like him who has a big bowl of hubris in the morning and says 'full steam ahead' without assessing the risks.

Again, getting back to Johnson, he was not against taking risks, but he was against foolishness.
Link 12:34 AM

Tuesday, May 4, 2004:

How NOT to write a headline? A headline in a Washington Post article reads, "Federal Deficit Likely to Narrow by $100 Billion." It really does, and it would be good news. But you read down, "likely" may be too strong. Because deeper in, the article reads:

Democratic and Republican budget aides in the House warned yesterday that it was too early to reach conclusions. Spending could still take an unexpected jump because of surging hostilities in Iraq. The improving federal borrowing picture, they said, may just be bringing the administration's $521 billion deficit forecast more into line with the $477 billion deficit predicted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill's official budget scorekeeper. (Emphasis added.)

So last week Rumsfeld chided the LA Times for one of its headlines; who in the administration will call the Washington Post on the carpet for this one?
Link 4:17 PM


I know it's still early in the Abu Ghraib prison investigations, but the New York Times is reporting only reprimands so far. Even though they will likely end careers, they don't imply anything like jail time:

The officers and noncommissioned officers received penalties that most likely will end their military careers, although they were not demoted or discharged. They have not been charged with crimes; six subordinates accused of carrying out the abuse already face criminal charges.

"They did not know or participate in any crimes," a senior American officer in Baghdad said of the officers who received the reprimands, issued by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior American commander in Iraq. "Their responsibility is to set the standards in the organization. They should have known, but they did not."

"They should have known, but they did not." Question: does anyone here know the meaning of criminal negligence? I certainly don't... But at minimum this is dereliction of duty, and I'm surprised it doesn't seem to rise to the level of criminality. Next question: when the President and everyone talks about human rights abuses in Iraq, what kind of punishment would you expect to be meted out to Iraqi supervisors in the same situation? A discharge?
Link 8:54 AM

Monday, May 3, 2004:

When I was a kid, and heard about the My Lai massacre, I didn't want to believe: of course I did believe it, but I wanted to think the best of my country, and the idea of what Lt. Calley did was so contrary to my innocent love for the US. I still have a similar reaction today, even though my love is far less innocent. The abuses which took place in Abu Ghraib prison are within the comprehension of someone my age, but they are just as disgusting. Bush has called for severe penalties for those who were involved, but that doesn't seem enough. I can't help but imagine that these abuses occurred because the participants lost touch with their mores; isolated from the broader population, I imagine that group reinforcement developed where extreme behaviors were demonstrated in order to win approval... Kind of like the dialog you see in odd corners of the Internet (like freerepublic.com, for instance) where people put on masks before participating in dialogs and egg each other on with the norm for "acceptable behavior" getting so warped that it's no longer recognizable by the broader population.

If that phenomenon was at work here, it won't be enough to punish the individual soldiers. The system will need to be transformed: soldiers who work the prisons will need not only greater supervision, but also more temporary assignments, so that their perspectives don't become so distorted. I don't think all the army is a bunch of beasts; to the contrary, I'm guessing our soldiers do fine work, largely, with or without considering the stresses which are involved. And I don't think this means we are unfit to be where we are; but I do think we need to do it differently.

Yet we are all shamed by these events, they are an embarrassment. Johnson wrote once about the way the English colonists behaved in America, and the shameful way they treated the Native Americans: "No people can be great who have ceased to be virtuous." We need to try to be great again.
Link 10:50 PM


Coming soon to a Republican National Convention near you: Billionaires for Bush:

Resplendent in their finest evening wear, they will greet President Bush and the Republican National Convention here this summer not with a bang but a toast.

They will defend tax loopholes for corporations and celebrate defense contracts that have gone to companies with ties to the White House.

While tens of thousands of Republican Party delegates and media representatives flock to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 for the GOP's nominating convention, Billionaires for Bush will be the president's only champagne-sipping, cigar-chomping champions on the streets, where between 500,000 and a million people are expected to demonstrate.

This summer will be special; obviously the Republicans were thinking 9/11 associations when they chose New York for their convention, but how could they have been so myopic? New York is full of people who disagree with them even before you consider what a magnet a convention is.
Link 8:46 PM


Those interested in American politics should add Media Matters for America to their bookmarks. It's run by David Brock, the recovering Conservative who lambasted Anita Hill and later repented.
Link 5:20 PM


I was joking, of course, in the post below where I recommended deflecting criticism about the growth in poverty by making an apples to oranges comparison. (Uh oh, now someone's going to email me about the association between the Dutch and oranges...) But if you go to that Census Bureau PDF I linked, and look at the figures in the back, you can see a quick trend line for the percentage in the US who live in poverty. (Look at the bottom line on Figure 1 — the upper line tracks raw numbers, which are impacted by overall population growth, too. Actual numbers for the trend line can be found in Appendix Table A-1.) If you count back the years on the lower line, you'll see how the prosperity which we had during the Clinton years reduced poverty: Clinton took office in 1993, and there's a peak there the year he took office (15.1%), but it goes down from that. The line is at its minimum in his last year, 2000 (11.3%). From there the line starts to increase in 2001 (11.7%) — no doubt the recession had an impact — to the 2002 figure of 12.1%. Households without wage earners increased from 2001 to 2002 also, from 10% to 10.3% (see Figure 3).

Poverty, obviously, is just one measure that speaks to a broad-based economic recovery, vs. one where the growth is concentrated among the already rich. I think that those liberals who focus on job growth rather than overall economy growth are fully justified in doing so; pointing merely to overall economic growth is overly simplistic, kind of like citing what the "average family" received in terms of a tax cut.
Link 4:33 PM


The next round of reports on the US poverty level may not be out until September. They seem to come out annually and the last one, this PDF from September 2003 reports that the percentage of US families living below the poverty level went up to 12.1% in 2002, up from 11.7% the year before. Now, not to discount the importance of this figure, but if some leftist tries to complain that 12% of Americans live below poverty level, point out that 60% of the Dutch people live below sea level. That's five times as many. People have trouble keeping their heads above water the world round.
Link 3:34 PM


Homosexuality will make your boat capsize. You thought you knew all the dangers, huh? Well, a barge party capsized when they all went to one side to look at nude sunbathers at an event hosted by a Texas Gay/Lesbian bar association. In all seriousness, this is another case where the problem is due to society's reactions, not the stimulus.
Link 11:12 AM


It's one of those numbers that you don't know what to do with: in 2003 the US government asked for many more warrants for surveillance than it did in 2002, by about a half (1727 in 2003, more than 500 more than in 2002). It's not surprising that 2003's figure is twice 2001, given that the Patriot Act was passed in late 2001. Naturally, civil liberties experts are concerned that it represents an erosion in our freedoms, and without any details on the cases their concerns can't be ruled out. (The only flag shirt I bought post 9/11, by the way, doesn't mention the event at all: across the top it reads "Conceived in liberty," from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. And yes, you can read it in Dutch.)

There's much room for concern of course, given that the Patriot Act has been used in requests that have nothing to do with terrorism. I wish we knew more: the FBI said it's less hesitant now to request a warrant, but how much have the standards changed? And in another disquieting development, the American Civil Liberties Union was barred from discussing a challenge it had filed against the Patriot Act. How fragile our liberties have become! How ridiculous we must look, to impose our ideas of democracy through invasion of another country, while letting it erode at home.
Link 8:36 AM

Sunday, May 2, 2004:

When Bob Woodward's latest book was released, Aaron Brown described it as having the advantage of leaving the reader flexibility:

The guy writes a book that everyone is talking about. And to make things even more perfect, everyone sees in it exactly what they want to see in it.

Critics of the president see it as proof the president decided on war long before he said he had. That he was -- that he was never even briefed on the possible post-war security problems in Iraq; he wasn't even curious about it. And that all of this was driven by an almost obsessive vice president.

The president's supporters see in it a man who is an idealist, a man who answers to a higher power than conventional political calculation. They see in the book a president who is thoughtful and careful and torn by the prospects of war, tears in his eyes, the moment he made the decision to launch war with Iraq.

When I heard Brown say this — as a regular viewer, I really did hear this, I didn't just look this up in order to include a hyperlink — I thought he meant that people, in general, interpret things as they will. As I read Woodward now, though, I see that Woodward doesn't include the wisdom that would lead a reader to an interpretation. Click here to read more...
Link 11:15 PM


How widespread was the US abuse of Iraqi prisoners? An attorney for an accused officer says it was encouraged:

"The 372nd's abuse of prisoners seemed almost routine—a fact of Army life that the soldiers felt no need to hide."

And, later in the same article,

Myers, who was one of the military defense attorneys in the My Lai prosecutions of the nineteen-seventies, told me that his client's defense will be that he was carrying out the orders of his superiors and, in particular, the directions of military intelligence. He said, "Do you really think a group of kids from rural Virginia decided to do this on their own? Decided that the best way to embarrass Arabs and make them talk was to have them walk around nude?"

But those speaking for the Pentagon say it was limited:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers said "categorically" that "there is no evidence of systematic abuse" in the U.S. detention operations in the region, and that the actions of "just a handful" of U.S. troops at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad have unfairly tainted all American forces.

What tells me this is going to look uglier?
Link 2:57 PM


Gone, but not forgotten? Well, maybe they were forgotten first, since they all were highlighted at Forgotten NY. Now the web master says they're not only forgotten, but they're gone.
Link 10:02 AM

Saturday, May 1, 2004:

The hidden politics of religion? Take your time reading it, but Atrios has a very thought-provoking examination of the religious standards some politicians — and voters — in America are being held to. Sometimes it's subtle, but one NPR reporter's condemnation of others is there.
Link 12:12 PM


California, thankfully, says "no thanks." You know there's much I love about our Constitution, and voting is one of them. In order to protect the vote, California's Attorney General has decided to ban electronic voting until such times as new security criteria are met. While the head of Diebold, who is a Bush supporter, did say he'd do everything he could to support the President's election, I don't think that's the issue; I think a profit motive would prevent him from twisting election results. Rather, with my experience in survey research, I'm really bothered by the lack of a paper trail (as are others). Well-meaning, scrupulous people make mistakes in ways you can't imagine (I've reviewed surveys on screen as well as in their program code, and the possibilities are tremendous). And I can't begin to tell you how many times we were happy to have paper surveys where you could learn more about the unanticipated logic of respondents. Paper records are really valuable. As much as everyone hates having had to go through Florida 2000, chads have valuable information in them, because they can reflect the intention of the voter.

While the stupid remark of the Diebold head is one issue — and an important one for many — the fervor with which Diebold has worked to seal a deal in California is hugely problematic because it is seen by some as fruadulent.

In his announcement Friday, Shelley reserved his harshest words for Diebold, which he said lied to his staff while obtaining conditional approval for its machines earlier this year.

The company, the state's leading manufacturer of touch-screen voting machines, had told the state it was nearing federal approval for AccuVote-TSx when it was nowhere close to gaining that approval, Shelley said. The secretary of state said that action amounted to fraud, and he sent a letter Friday asking Lockyer to open a criminal and civil probe of the company.

"They broke the law. Their conduct was absolutely reprehensible. Their conduct should never be tolerated from anyone doing business again with the state of California," Shelley said.

The company, which last week apologized for using software for its machines in Alameda County that had not been approved by the state, issued a statement contending that it had been "open and forthcoming in its dealings with the office of the secretary of state, as well as with local California elections officials, and disputes the secretary of state's accusations."

There's more in an article originally published in Wired.
Link 11:00 AM

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