Saturday, February 18, 2006

Diebold comes to California...and more...

re-lighting the political lamp....

I am so glad that others, like Stefan, are able to post about an interesting project - like an article about city transportation - and get surges of helpful suggestions from you all.. This isn’t just my blog. It’s yours, too. SO continue the public transportation line of thought here, too, if you like.

(Personally, I despise how crude the format for discussion has remained, on the web, with abysmal threading and outlining protocols that have never matched what I once used on a Caltech experimental “hyperforum” years ago. True, blogs aren’t set up that way, but even the best fora that I’ve seen do not take best advantage of threading possibilities. My Holocene software would have. But there are no VCs with imagination, anymore. Sigh.)

Anyway, I’ve been trying to limit postings to twice a week, but a piece of news seems urgent. This item from the Daily Kos is especially frightening to anyone who loves the State of California, which is today the biggest obstacle to complete domination od our civilization by the kleptocheater cabal.

”Our Republican Secretary of State Bruce McPherson--appointed by our Governator--has, according to the email sent out by Secretary of State candidate Debra Bowen, conditionally certified problem-plagued Diebold machines for use in our 2006 elections. It's also no coincidence that Bruce decided to take the Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend to announce this controversial decision--he's hoping it won't get very much play. Well, I'm hoping it will, and I'm asking you to do something about it.

What can you do? First, no matter where you live: flood their switchboard. Call the California Secretary of State’s office (916) 653-6814 and let them know that Diebold voting machines are not welcome in the Golden State.

In better news. The New York Times appears to be recovering some spine. See a devastating editorial that lists some of the unbelievable facts behind the “Trust Gap” --  The bizarre thing is all the millions who took it as “wellknown” that Clinton was untrustworthy... yet were reduced finally to clutching one proved lie, just one, having nothing to do with official duties, but nookie on the side. Yet, a relentless tsunami of lies that are proved for this admin, just don’t seem to matter.

All are excused as “necessary in wartime.” Ah, but a few people have started to ask... um... what war?

We are engaged in a voluntary police action in Iraq. Yes, a violent one that is using up half of our military. We can argue endlessly over the correctness of the decision to go there, or the inanity of the plan (created in secrect by men with a proved record of delusion) ot (in)competence of its execution. But again, that is a separate matter. (As you know, I am exceptional among critics of this war, in that I have long agitated FOR assertive removal of Saddam from power! I just find it hard to trust in that job the very hypocrites who deliberately fostered and then left him in power, in 1991.)

All of which is beside the point at issue here. Which is that this is not wartime! This was never an emergency action. It is at best elective surgery. Not the kind of urgency that could even remotely excuse the behaviors we’ve seen. There is absolutely no excuse for using “war” as a rationalization for quashing morality, accountability and democracy, especially at levels that exceed anything that Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan asked for, when the republic was under genuine threat and dire jeopardy.

Finally, Russ Daggatt has shared some items with us:

Check out this routine on Bush by Frank Caliendo: Letterman.wmv

It’s still hard to beat the real thing:

Also. this MoveOn ad with Nixon morphing into Bush is great.

Now... about the budget. Let’s look back in time for a credibility check. In 2003 the BushAdmin looked ahead and forecast of a three-year cumulative SURPLUS of more than $133 BILLION turned into a cumulative DEFICIT of over $1.45 TRILLION. For just three years. It appears Bush learned accounting from his buddies at Enron.

But hold on. His 2002 budget (written in 2001) made his 2003 budget look honest by comparison. For example, Bush’s 2002 budget forecast a SURPLUS of $262 billion in 2004. In fact, the DEFICIT was $412 billion -- off by OVER $670 BILLION! For just ONE year. Why such a big error? At the time of Bush’s 2002 budget he was still insisting that his then-proposed $2 trillion in tax cuts wouldn't cause deficits. As soon as he got those tax cuts through Congress -- mere weeks later (and before 9/11) -- those forecasts were revised to show ... SURPRISE! ... deficits. ( But that seriously understates the deficit because it nets out the surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund.)

The result of Bush’s tax cuts and other fiscal profligacy has been a massive increase in the federal debt. Total federal debt has increased by $2.3 TRILLION under Bush (from $5.6 trillion to $7.9 trillion). It took from 1776 to 1987 – 211 years -- for the United States to run up its first $2.3 trillion of debt – Bush managed to add that much in just FIVE YEARS.

And Bush continues to propose more tax cuts (about $2 TRILLION over ten years), which will increase even further the “Bush Tax” on future generations. (A little aside on tax equity: Estimates based on data from the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center show that if Bush’s tax cuts are made permanent, the top 1 percent of households will gain an average of $71,420 a year when the tax cuts are fully in effect, reflecting a 6.5 percent change in their after-tax income. By contrast, people in the middle of the income spectrum would secure just a 2.1 percent increase in their after-tax income, with average tax cuts of $870.) There is simply NO credible economic theory that would justify massive tax cuts four years into an economic expansion at a time of record structural budget deficits with even bigger bills coming due a little way down the road. Bush's tax cut fixation is pure ideology and massively irresponsible -- it's right-wing economic nihilism.

...Another hazard is losing what Robert E. Rubin, Summers' predecessor as treasury secretary and my guru on this subject, calls "resilience." A deficit of 3.2 percent of GDP, which is what Bush predicts for this year, curtails the ability of policy-makers to respond effectively to the unforeseen and unforeseeable. The U.S. economy was able to absorb the shock of Sept. 11 without falling into recession in part because of Washington's use of fiscal as well as monetary policy in response. But when the budget is already deeply in the red, the "break glass in case of fire" box comes pre-smashed. In the event of another major terrorist attack or natural disaster, such Keynesian tools as tax cuts and stimulus spending will be much harder to deploy than they were in 2001, when the budget was still in surplus.


Woozle said...

DB: I've updated my GWB page with the budget stuff you posted:


...or... case html links make your machine go all crashy (I'm not entirely clear on what the issue was with that).

I agree completely about the one-dimensionality of the blog format. My use of a wiki for Issuepedia was intended as a tiny step towards more threaded discussions, but there's really so much more that could be done.

I see someone has beat me to the punch in putting forth the question of open-sourcing your holocene software; if you got as far as some detailed design documents, even making those available could be a significant step towards making the software happen. I've also been pursuing (in my near-total-lack of spare time) a related idea (largely inspired by David's Sling, back in 1988), and just coming up with a clear idea of how the blinkin' thing should work seems to be at least half the battle.

(Is there any more information extant about the Caltech hyperforum demo? Any information on "what works and what doesn't" could help eliminate a lot of unknowns.)

Tony Fisk said...

Oh! The things cockroaches do in the shade of a long weekend. Maybe you should become a Diebold shareholder, and vote for honest board members...?

Clinton? Wasn't that the chappy who was mercilessly depicted as a despicable mangy cur of a president, rifling the treasury and the interns' knickers?

Read this 'Age' article on how Clinton is regarded these days: ('The Clinton Magic Show'. At $2400 a pop, I'm afraid I won't be attending, having used up my proxy power for the moment!;-)

In particular, read what it says about what Bush says about Clinton:

"Despite all this, President Bush has figuratively - and if the opportunity arose he would undoubtedly do it literally - embraced Clinton. In his State of the Union address a couple of weeks ago, he referred to Clinton as "my father's favourite son", which earnt him his biggest bipartisan round of applause.

One White House official said Bush has genuine affection for Clinton, who "is part of a small club of people who understand the pressure any president has to cope with".

When you consider the way the Clintons had their marriage relentlessly and mercilessly analysed and criticised in public, when you consider how low rent was Clinton's entanglement with Monica Lewinsky, when you remember how despised Hillary Clinton was by most Republicans, their resurrection as a couple and as individual politicians is remarkable."

Methinks the president is hoping that some of the glow will rub off on him. I doubt that the mange will rub off on Clinton.

I agree with Michael and Woozle wrt HC and open source. But how to separate the speech from the beer?

We've been round this mulberry bush before (ie: it comes down to time pressures), but a wiki might provide a more flexible forum environment (things aren't necessarily ordered by time): and you wouldn't have to keep repeating things to get them noticed.

Anonymous said...

Just a suggestion as far as forums software goes - a friend put together his own threaded conversation board that we're quite happy with based on the Zope engine over at

The software is open source, so it's useable by anybody, but is currently lacking documentation. A new version has been "in the works" for some time - but I have no idea of when it's coming out.

Woozle said...

[Tony Fisk]: But how to separate the speech from the beer?

Community monitoring seems to work well for Wikipedia and the wiki format in general. Traditional fora don't allow this, which (I think) is part of why the useful content ratio tends to be so low.

[Tony Fisk]: wiki might provide a more flexible forum environment (things aren't necessarily ordered by time): and you wouldn't have to keep repeating things to get them noticed.

Exactly! Part of why I chose wiki for my "first pass" at an issue resolution tool.

[Michael "Sotek" Ralston]: Wiki are crap for discussions. ... They're great for producing a "finished product", but for the actual discussion... they're lacking.

I wouldn't go so far as to say "crap", but... yeah, they're not designed for back-and-forth discussions. (There are the "talk" pages, which allow asynchronous sequential posting... but the format is apparently unfamiliar enough to many users that it is effectively a barrier to contribution.)

However, I wouldn't say that wiki is only good for a "finished product"; quite the opposite.

I'd very much like to see something like a forum but which allows posts to be more easily referenced and categorized. (Currently investigating Drupal, but having technical difficulties with it.)

[Michael "Sotek" Ralston]: ...I mean, the best protocol for "realtime" chat is STILL IRC...

Having used IRC for serious discussions on many occasions, I can say the following:

1. It is possible to have a productive conversation in IRC, even on complicated and sensitive issues (example)

2. It is, however, frustrating and tedious -- better than regular conversation by a long shot, but knowing a little bit about computers and having an imagination... one can't help but wish for more.

And... oh!... is the same as...?

David Brin said...


1. I have tried to put the MACRO problems of internet-based "discussion" in perspective at:

Another place where a billionaire could make a huge difference... and wind up making money.

2. Re Holocene see:

We are currently stymied. For the fourth time, a new investorhas taken up half a year of time financing a departure from the central paradigm, getting all excited (this time putting the whole thing into 3-D, with avatars)... only to flake out at the last minute.

I am exhausted, having poured many thousands and hundreds of hours into this innovation which should have been "obvious" ten years ago.

Hence, while I am friendly to open source implementation, I am also continuing my patent application, which may encompass VAST areas of future representation space. I don't want to be evil, I just want to have a moment in the sun to say "I told you all so."

Rob Perkins said...

In the hope that a good idea can come from anyplace, what about the interaction capabilites found in current 3D-Avatar environments, such as Everquest II or World of Warcraft.

Silly games they might be, they still afford opportunities to socialize with some of the same paramaters as in that FAQ on You can ignore people, you can form groups which have their own minor heirarchies and discussion areas, you can chat quietly with another, and in concert with a third-party piece of software you can make those group chats into conference calls.

There is also a mode in which conversation extends only for a certain range around you, and other variations like that. The only thing it really lacks is sophisticated logging of the conversations, which don't exist at all for the voice components.

While it's true that such an environment is mostly in the hands of teenagers, is there anything about it which dovetails with holocenechat?

Anonymous said...

There's an article up on WorldChanging about "Virtual Worlds as Social-Business Networks:"

Anonymous said...


Could you describe the "Hyperforum" format please? Also, have you ever used Usenet? That was IME far superior (for an NT or a ST anyway) to any web board I've ever found (before it was spammed to near-irrelevance).

jomama said...

Expecting anything intelligent from the Halls of Power is ludicrous.

Last I heard, reason and power sleep in separate beds.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Mix a chat system with 3D avatars, throw in a common activity that everyone can share... and you get World of Warcraft, which seems to be filling the gap for a self-moderated chat club.

An oft-overlooked problem, when people discuss ways of "harnessing the power of the internet" is the quality of the participants. Bluntly: the internets are full of Eric Cartmans. It wasn't a lack of thoughtful or skilled debate that killed Usenet.

The other arenas that Dr. Brin cited in his essay, science, courts, markets, each have barriers to entry that weed out (most of) these Eric Cartmans before they drown their respective discourses in shouting matches and viagra advertisements.

The problem with barriers to entry is that you inevitably end up throwing some grain out with the chaff. OTOH, who wants to spend a lot of time sifting through flame wars and viagra ads?

I don't have a magical answer that solves that problem, but I am reminded of the pamphleteers from those heady days when printing was still something of a novelty. Some of the best political thinking of the 17th and 18th centuries came in the form of anonymously published pamphlets. These same pamphlets also had the flame-wars and viagra ads of their time, it's the principal reason there are so many libel laws on the books.

But the important ideas that surfaced in those pamphlets floated up to the top and persisted in the public consciousness. The rest was lost and forgotten and not mourned.

This gives me cause to be optimistic that the best ideas floating around on the internets are not destined to be lost. But... a better mechanism to separate them out would be welcome.

Rob Perkins said...

World of Warcraft is not self-moderated, though the game-masters there exercise an extremely light touch, only banning harrassers who carry their harrassment into the very public chatting areas, like the "yelling" channel or the "general" channels.

There is also a filter which blanks out the most profane words in the English language (and presumably in the other languages where it is localized), which a user can turn on or off at his discretion to soften the experience a bit.

Rob Perkins said...

Yup, as well as an explicit ignore list, which will prevent private messages from reaching you from a person.

Tony Fisk said...

No time for such fun as WoW. It probably dates me that my Fantasy Role Playing days involved rolling lots of dice! (SJ's: The Fantasy Trip, which didn't require lots of strange looking platonic solids. Interesting bit of trivia: the first Brillouin zone* of a body centered cubic crystal lattice is a 'rhombic dodecahedron'. I always thought it would make a pretty cool d12!)

Still, I'm not so old that I can't appreciate the alternate, and I like this piece of fiction over at WC:
'The Unplugged' by Vinay Gupta.

I can just see this lifestyle being embraced by neocons worldwide! (it mentions emperors).
The same way I can see pink elephants gambolling across the sky sometimes.

*For those not exposed to solid state physics, a Body Centered Cubic lattice is arranged so that there is an atom at each corner of a cube plus one in the centre.
Imagine soap bubbles expanding out from each atom until they meet and press against each other, flattening out. When these bubbles fill all the space available, they form the first Brillouin zone, and the basis of conductivity theory.
And interesting dice shapes. Here endeth the lesson...

gg said...

Amen, there is no war. The only reason this clod was reelected is due to the establishment of him being a 'war' president.

I knew it was all over when, a few days after 9/11, he said the attackers hated us because of our freedom. Boom, they go to war mode and he's guaranteed to be elected again no matter how bad he screws up. War presidents win elections. Pretty briliant move, really.

Anonymous said...

Called it David.
There is no war.
If there was a war, there would be a call to arms. There would be shared sacrifice, raised taxes, cheesy propaganda posters, factories switching to war production, movies television radio fiction about the war, rationing...
Bush and Co. want all the benefits of being a wartime leader without calling for any of the sacrifices...
We have a enemy, in Al Queda, worthy of the effort... Saddam and Iraq is a sideshow, something to be put off until later. Iraq is our Sicily... the Spartans are at the walls and we've sent the troops to deal with something that Does Not Matter Right Now.
Rant over.

David Brin said...

Actually, Bush Sr did have a war... and lost re-election. His problem? It was handled efficiently, swiftly and wound up actually making a profit.

The lesson learned by Rummy-Cheney? Make it last. Don't end the war too soon. In fact, don't end it ever.

Can anyone confirem this snippet someone sent me? On October 19th, 2001, former Halliburton CEO and now current sitting Vice President, Dick Cheney, christened a new term. Describing the curtailment of civil rights taken for granted by American citizens as the "New Normalcy," Mr. Cheney was notifying Americans that constant surveillance, arrest without charge, secret trials and military tribunals, were the order of the day. Moreover, according to Cheney, "Many of the steps we have now been forced to take will become permanent in American life."

Tony Fisk said...

Confirmed! From the horses mouth, even:

Kagehi said...

On a side subject, there are these lunatics:

One person on PZ's site suggested, "I can only hope that there are scientifically literate people just waiting for the opportunity to lead "similar" tours through the various Creationist museums."

Sounds about right to me.

Tony Fisk said...

Quippeth Brin:
Actually, Bush Sr did have a war... and lost re-election. His problem? It was handled efficiently, swiftly and wound up actually making a profit.

The lesson learned by Rummy-Cheney? Make it last. Don't end the war too soon. In fact, don't end it ever.

Actually, that's precisely what Bush Snr did... left unfinished business and put the dogs back on the leash, with consequences you well know.

It's an interesting thought to pursue, though: how much damage did stopping the war at the Iraqi border do to Bush Snr's election campaign?
I've done my ferret dash. Anyone else care to comment?

Anonymous said...

Bush Sr. lost reelection for two main reasons:

1. In his first campaign, he said, "Read my lips. No new taxes." Then he raised taxes.

2. He posed for a photo-op at a grocery checkout counter and discovered that the receipt listed not merely the prices but the name of the item, e.g., "Bananas .85".

Item 1 ticked off the people who were counting on no new taxes. (Bush Jr. solved that by not raising taxes, spending like a shopaholic, losing the receipts, and letting the deficit go sky high -- currently the deficit has passed beyond the solar system and is heading for Andromeda.)

Item 2 showed that the President hadn't been inside a grocery store for about 5 years, which is how long those annotated receipts had been in use. Therefore, he had no idea what things cost and how ordinary Americans lived. He was out of touch with the voters, and thanks to that photo-op, everybody now knew it.

(Bush Jr., despite television, e-mail, cell phones, communications satellites, newspapers, radio, and a large staff, was unaware of Hurricane Katrina. And most recently, he was still unaware of the port contracts with the UAE even after millions of ordinary Americans had found out about them.)