Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Little Lady's In Towns 

So I'll be taking a couple days off. Most likely. Time for us to eat barbecue and whisper sweet nothings.



Tuesday, May 25, 2004

No Pun Necessary 

Virginia, the place Ashcroft chose to try the Washington snipers in because they can execute kids there, is taking a brave step to protect its residents against the evils of gay marriage. I think Gods lives in Arlington.
The new law is an amendment to the state's 1997 Affirmation of Marriage Act, which prohibits gay marriages. The amendment extends that ban to civil unions, partnership contracts and other "arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage."

Virginia's attorney general and other supporters say the law provides a needed safeguard for the institution of marriage.

But some legal experts say the law is so vague that it could interfere with powers of attorney, wills, medical directives, child custody and property arrangements, and joint bank accounts.

"For the Virginia Legislature to go as far as they did, knowing that this is probably unconstitutional, to me it is a political statement," said Henry Fradella, a law professor at the College of New Jersey who specializes in gay rights law. "I have not seen anything quite so radical."

The bill's sponsor, Delegate Robert Marshall, a Republican, said the law is aimed at preventing same-sex couples from acquiring the benefits of marriage through other means.

Again, I take a deep breath and think, we're just weathering the storm here. This too shall pass. It's desperation, a last thrust against the inevitable, and, like other noble civil rights struggles, it is darkest before dawn. As they say.


Cleaning Out the Dirty 

First of all, remember how the president struggled with pronouncing Abu Ghraib prison during his speech last night? I think this was extremely indicative of how the Admin is handling the whole thing. As if they want to forget it, as if its existence is difficult for them to get their teeth around, as if it were a foreign place both alien and uncomfortable for us Americans.

And second, Abu Ghraib has nothing at all to do with the Pentagon's decision to get rid of General Ricardo Sanchez as Head Guy In Charge of the Iraq Mess.
Gen. George Casey, Army vice chief of staff, has emerged as the top candidate to replace Sanchez in Baghdad in June or July, said the officials, who asked not to be identified.

"There has been no final decision on a replacement, but Gen. Casey is a top candidate," one official said.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with Abu Ghraib," added another defense official. "The secretary (Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) is very mindful that the perception (of punishment) might arise. But it simply is not the case."

President Bush praised Sanchez.

"Rick Sanchez has done a fabulous job. He's been there for a long time. His service has been exemplary," Bush said in response to a question from reporters at the White House.

But defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, who has close connections to the Pentagon, said, "You'd have to be pretty naive to think that the problems with abuse of detainees had no impact at all on this decision.

I love how W. throws the word FABULOUS around so liberally, as if he were a specialist on Queer Eye. Rumsfeld is doing a fabulous job. Bremer is doing a fabulous job. Ricky Martin is fabulous!

The bottom line is that heads are starting to roll. Even if we destroy that prison and replace it with a bigger, better one, with a stirct No-Rape rule (I found that odd that the most hearty applause W. got during his speech was for his promise to build a big honkin' prison in Iraq. Although I suppose this is to be expected, given the number of prisons and prisoners in the US, Iraq's womb of freedom) it will hardly fade the shame and rage that stems from the abuses there.

In reading about General Zinni, who called for an immediate pullout from Iraq, an idea occured to me. Perhaps what America needs is a coup. I don't necessarily mean that we need a physical coup, but the military can also be quite politically forceful. We find that many of them come out and criticize once their service is over. If the climat were to change, as it seems to be now, to the point that it became acceptable -- nay, necessary! -- to speak against the President and his dangerous war, in order to preserve their precious military and, indeed, the safety and good of the country. If there could be some degree of consensus among generals, and they could storm the retribution, then they should come out in a special news conference, and announce that they are taking over control of Iraq. They would come out and, while congratulating Bush for ousting Saddam, announce that the war is dangerous, that our Armed Forces are stretched to the maximum, disillusioned and exhausted, and call for an immediate withdrawal. The diplomacy would be left to the State Department, and Bush could get credit for getting rid of Saddam, but the military is taking over the military again.

If there's one thing these lifelong soldier-generals hate, it's pencil-pushers like Paul Wolfowitz at Defense calling the shots. (Man, I feel like I'm in a Tom Clancy novel). And one thing we know is that civilians have been making the decisions with their army. There must be angst over the way this war was initiated, and I'm sure they're pissed about how it's been executed. If they care for anything, if they have any pride in their military, the real leaders must stand up and resist. Who knows better how to fight a war? Rumsfeld? Perle?

Generals, take the lead of other benign military leaders of the past, who have stood up to danger, on the battlefield and in the capitol, and take control of this war. Because right now, I trust you more.


Sunday, May 23, 2004

A Perfect E-Mess 

It is ironic these days whenever the US faults another country for democratic abuses, and doubly humorous, I think, when its monitors cast aspersions on foreign elections. Ha, ha! Given the debacle of 2000 (I know, Bush won and I should simply get over it, conceding an abortion of justice, sure), the below-the-board disenfranchisement of Florida voters, and the Supreme Court's partisan decision, this is beyond hilarious. But fear not, for this year all our worries will be put to rest when the election is carried out in the Ether of the Information Age.

Companies like Diebold and Election Systems and Software promise to take all the controversy out of voting. Except that they are ruining everything. Thanks to the warnings of advocates and analysts, more and more states are demanding -- gasp! -- a paper trail for every vote cast on one of the newfangled machines. Not that I fully understand how this would be carried out: do the voters take their slip home with them, like a receipt for coffee? do the election boards collect them and tabulate them on their own? does the machine do a scecond count of printed votes? Still, it's a sign that at least some of our leaders and a goodly number of our citizens refuse to parade blindly into totalitarianism.
Following the problems of the 2000 election in Florida, a number of states and hundreds of counties rushed to dump their punch card ballot systems and to buy the electronic touch screens. Election Data Services, a consulting firm that specializes in election administration, estimates that this November 50 million Americans - about 29 percent of the electorate - may be voting on touch screens, up from 12 percent in 2000.

But in the last year election analysts have documented so many malfunctions, including the disappearance of names from the ballot, and computer experts have shown that the machines are so vulnerable to hackers, that critics have organized to counter the rush toward touch screens with a move to require paper trails.

California is requiring voter-verified paper trails for any electronic machines that counties in the state buy after November; for this November, it has banned touch-screen machines unless counties meet certain security standards. Three counties are suing the state to overturn the ban and a fourth has said it plans to use the touch screens anyway.

It looks as though, no matter what happens, 2004 could be a bigger mess than the last election. With a hodge podge of state rules and counter decisions by localities, and no overarching federal regulations, this whole fiasco could turn into a, well, a fiasco. Imagine the ire if, after the final tally has been made, it comes out that a portion of the machines malfunctioned? Or if one county in Florida refuses to have paper trails, while the next one over demands them, and the results are lopsided? Or if Kerry wins?! What outrage would follow then? Of if this happens:
During the primaries this spring, groups like the Campaign for Verifiable Voting urged thousands of voters in various states to cast paper ballots rather than use touch screens without paper trails.

Unfortunately for voters in Maryland who followed that suggestion, though, local officials ruled that those paper ballots were invalid and did not count them.

But it gets worse.

Ohio is widely regarded as the most important state in November, and they are locked in a kind of deadly dance over this new technology.
Earlier this month, Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, signed legislation requiring all counties to have paper trails with their touch-screen machines by November 2006. But the law also allows counties to use the machines this November without paper trails.

Some officials, like state Senator Teresa Fedor, Democrat of Toledo, said this made no sense. If a paper trail is so important, she asked, why should voters go through even one election without them - especially in a state where the presidential vote could be close. She successfully argued to the Legislature that Ohio counties should be able to postpone buying the machines. "There are too many concerns for us to keep a blind eye," she said.

As a result, elections boards in 31 counties are debating whether to postpone their purchases. Since Governor Taft signed the bill, 18 have voted to wait.

"Ohio is the big struggle state right now," said Will Doherty, executive director of VerifiedVoting.org, a group advocating for paper trails.

You can say that again, Will. As we know, the chief executive of Diebold, the Big Daddy of voter machines, is one Mr. Wally O'Dell. Wally and George W. Bush get a long fairly well, and Mr. O'Dell is from Ohio. Not only that, he has promised the Buckeye state to the Republicans.
For years, O'Dell has given generously to Republican candidates. Last September, he held a packed $1,000-per-head GOP fundraiser at his 10,800-square-foot mansion. He has been feted as a guest at President Bush's Texas ranch, joining a cadre of "Pioneers and Rangers" who have pledged to raise more than $100,000 for the Bush reelection campaign. Most memorably, O'Dell last fall penned a letter pledging his commitment "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President."

O'Dell has defended his actions, telling the Cleveland Plain Dealer "I'm not doing anything wrong or complicated." But he also promised to lower his political profile and "try to be more sensitive." But the Diebold boss' partisan cards are squarely on the table. And, when it comes to the Diebold board room, O'Dell is hardly alone in his generous support of the GOP. One of the longest-serving Diebold directors is W.R. "Tim" Timken. Like O'Dell, Timken is a Republican loyalist and a major contributor to GOP candidates. Since 1991 the Timken Company and members of the Timken family have contributed more than a million dollars to the Republican Party and to GOP presidential candidates such as George W. Bush. Between 2000 and 2002 alone, Timken's Canton-based bearing and steel company gave more than $350,000 to Republican causes, while Timken himself gave more than $120,000. This year, he is one of George W. Bush's campaign Pioneers, and has already pulled in more than $350,000 for the president's reelection bid.

So things are looking pretty darn good for Democracy, wouldn't you say? I will make a small prediction that no matter the outcome in November, half the country will be upset. And I believe the lack of integrity in the election system will lead to widespread protest -- even though Will & Grace is on. About the only good thing we have going for us right now, is that teenage hackers are three-thousand times more clever than these programmers, and they tend to hate George W. Bush.


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