Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Monday, April 21, 2008

  Election insanity, and other unpopular causes

I've tried all day to not hit reload on google news regarding Pennsylvania's election.

I've tried to forget that 90% of the votes cast will be on unaccountable electronic voting machines... and the tests by Princeton showing how easy they were to compromise.

I thought about voting security for a while, and finally understood the contrarian view point - that paper trails were the wrong framing of the question, and that it seems impossible to retain anonymity and security.

I've tried not to remember the dead unanimously voting for the Daley machine.


I spent an hour trying to figure out what truths exist in Venezuela from an obviously biased source, and realizing, that I probably had to go there, too, to really figure it out, after I spoke the language. I might be ready in five years, after learning ten new words a day, but that would be just the dictionary meanings.


I've tried not to boggle at the prospect of hundreds of kids forced to submit to a DNA test that their parents can legally refuse, nor at a government worker calling a cotton swab inside the mouth "non-invasive".

I've tried to hope that all the forces in the world lined up against each other would cancel out, and democracy would be preserved, truths found, and justice win out.

I've tried hope, and failed at that, too. I keep hitting reload, instead.

The answer to the voting machine problem is entirely open hardware and software, and the chances of seeing that happen are slim, at least this year.

As to the state's invasion of the FLDS church's settlement, the term "clusterf*ck" applies. How can a dragnet haul in 500+ people with a single search warrant, an entire community, who by every independent account, are no trouble to outsiders, and live and let live, based on a single phone call, from a single informant, who may never have existed? The further injustices in - parents separated from their children, children separated from each other, kept in gym, lawyers leaping over each other to defend and prosecute - make me despair. The raid is probably the best thing to happen to the legal industry in Texas since Enron's collapse. Not to mention: all the reporters reporting on it have no chance to investigate other, perhaps more pertinent, events there....

Perhaps admirable in an earlier age - the settlement was self-sufficient in food and manufacturing, there's no evidence of social disorder, mass drunkenness, drug abuse, or sales thereof. By every standard save one they appear to have been model citizens, worthy of emulation.

Perhaps that was their real crime - to try and live independently of the State. The state got lonely for lack of worship.

I'd found some random amusement in today's reloads. One headline, written by someone no doubt pressed for space: "DNA tests for polygamy begin". Tests for that may work in cats, but not humans.


Closing arguments were heard in the Hans Reiser case. Oh, Reiser is certainly guilty. Guilty of not attending church on sundays, guilty of brilliance, and arrogance, guilty of being a geek, guilty of being unloved, and of being unlovable - guilty of murder? I don't know. An independent prosecutor thinks so. Reiser's verbose indictment of the system - the judge told him he'd made a mockery of the court, and threatened to remove him from the stand, repeatedly - may well outlive him, guilty or innocent.


The one bright spot in my day: Percy schmeiser finally beat Monsanto in his long battle regarding licensing of his crop.

Still the fundamental issues around genetic engineering and patenting lifeforms for fun and profit remain unchallenged.

I've always wondered what happened to the termination seed patent that Monsanto tried to buy back in 1998.

I'm afraid to find out.


On the plane ride home I almost finished re-reading John Brunner's classic book of ecological and social disaster, The sheep look up. I couldn't finish. It was too depressing. I looked out the window, into darkness, instead, thinking about the irony of PETA pursuing an Xprize for artificial meat.


China is selling cheap cars by the freighterload into South America, selling crappy hardware to people glad to get anything, to a people that hasn't ever heard of "Unsafe at any speed", nor capable of reading it, without translation.

I'd put "The sheep look up" down, just after the part where a defective microwave fried Josie's baby in her womb, after most of the other good characters had died.

As much as I try to close my ears and my eyes and yell neener neener neener neener, like a rat conditioned to get electric shocks and food pellets, I keep hitting reload on the prolefeed, hoping for a different result.

    Opening the door to the visiting doctor, all set to apologize for the flour on her hands - she had been baking - Mrs Byrne sniffed. Smoke! And if she could smell it with her heavy head cold, it must be a tremendous fire! "We ought to call the brigade!", she exclaimed. "Is it a hayrick?".

    "The brigade would have a long way to go," the doctor told her curtly. "It's from America. The wind's blowing that way."

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