Saturday, October 28, 2006


Vote on a paper ballot!

My own polling place in San Diego will be using electronic touchscreen voting machines, with no paper trail. This is a huge step backwards; we had (optically scanned) paper ballots in the last election, so a recount was at least theoretically possible. It has been thoroughly documented that touchscreen voting machines are easily hacked. Even if they were 100% reliable, there would be no way to prove that they're reliable. In the best case, they seriously damage the perceived legitimacy of the electoral process.

The following information is specific to California, and some of it to San Diego County.

You can still vote on paper. You can ask for an absentee ballot; if you like, you can turn it in at the polling place on election day. The request must be received by 5pm on October 31. Or, according to some accounts, you can request a paper ballot on election day, but I haven't been able to find an official confirmation of this. You may also be able to vote early; the link on the Secretary of State's web site is broken. (I've notified them; it may be fixed by the time you read this.)

Personally, I'm planning to fax an absentee ballot application today (it may be too late to mail it), and turn in the absentee ballot at my local polling place on election day.

Unfortunately, if the electronic machines are hacked, a few of us voting on paper isn't likely to help much. I want my own vote to be counted, of course, but the important point is that everyone's vote must be counted; if they only need to steal a few votes, they don't need to steal mine. But by voting on paper and making someone count it by hand, I can send a message, and I can make the electronic machines just a bit less convenient.

For San Diego County, here's the application form for an absentee ballot; the fax number is 858-694-2955.

UPDATE: The California Secretary of State's office has fixed the link on its web page. It now points to a PDF document with summary of early voting systems in each county. Under San Diego County, for "Early Voting System" it lists "Diebold AccuVote-TSX". Looks like we'll be using absentee ballots, then.

UPDATE 2: We got our absentee ballots the other day. But it turns out that they're photocopies. They're supposed to be on card stock. Election officials will have to manually copy our votes from the photocopies to official absentee ballots before scanning them. (Thanks to DK at Talking Points Memo for mentioning this.

Friday, October 27, 2006


More on Brian Bilbray

It appears that Brian Bilbray may be under grand jury investigation for fraud

Here's the article, in the North County Times (via Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo).

Bilbray is the current representative for CA-50; he replaced the disgraced Duke Cunningham in a special election. Francine Busby is running for the seat.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Google Bomb The Elections

Thanks to Chris Bowers of MyDD, here's a collection of links to articles about candidates in the upcoming election.

Here's the article that explains what this is about.

The story about Brian Bilbray in CA-50 is of particular interest to me, since I live in that district -- though it's not clear that he does.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Friday Hawk Blogging

I looked out and saw this critter perched on our back fence a couple of weeks ago. Not a great picture, since the window through which I took it was none too clean at the time. I went outside for a closer look but, not surprisingly, it flew away before I could get another shot.

(All these photos link to larger versions.)


More Friday Cat Blogging

And this is Boudreaux, sometimes known as Loud Boy. The photo is cropped, but not otherwise retouched. We've been trying to figure out what planet he's from, but every time we look into his eyes, we just ... suddenly ... um, what was I talking about?


Friday Cat Blogging

Buddy is obviously a very intelligent cat.

Thanks to Kevin Drum for pioneering the concept of Friday Cat Blogging. (Friday Viking Blogging, on the other hand, appears to be my own invention.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


How may political campaign money be spent?

Here's a question that's been extremely relevant to a number of news stories we've seen recently, but that I don't think I've ever seen anyone explicitly address.

Under current law, how may campaign contributions be spent? I suppose House and/or Senate ethics rules might also apply.

There have been cases where a campaign has received money from what turned out to be a questionable source, and in response has donated the money to charity. While donating money to charity can be a wonderful thing, I'm sure it's not what the donor had in mind when he wrote a check to the campaign.

More recently, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has gotten into some controversy because of how he's spent some of his campaign funds [*]. Reporters talk about this, but none of them seem to have bothered to look up what the law actually says.

And neither have I (partly because I don't know where to look, and even if I did I likely wouldn't understand the legalese anyway -- but then I'm not a reporter).

So, does anyone out there have any real answers on this? My readership is not vast, but maybe after I'm famous someone will dig back into my archives and post a response. Hello, future readers!

[*] Footnote: In my opinion, the whole Harry Reid thing is a lame attempt to dig up some dirt on a prominent Democrat, giving the false impression that there' s some kind of parity between Republican corruption and Democratic corruption. There really isn't. Most of the major scandals in the last few years have been Republican scandals, with the Republicans and the media pushing whatever minor issues they can find to imply that it's "bipartisan". It's not just that Republicans are inherently more corrupt than Democrats; who would bother to bribe a Democrat these days?

UPDATE: Atrios has part of the answer (money for federal races can be passed to other federal races). And Democratic representatives with no Republican opposition are being encouraged to make better use of their money, by turning it over to campaigns that can actually use it. But there must be more to it than that. The Miami Herald is saying that Mark Foley may be able to use campaign funds to pay his own legal bills.

Gosh, do you think maybe the folks who wrote the current campaign finance laws thought they might need to be able to use their own campaign funds to pay their lawyers?


Friday, October 13, 2006


Yet More Friday Viking Blogging

This is a scan of a drawing of me done by the late Frank Kelly Freas about 10 years ago. (The bushiness of the beard is considerably exaggerated.)


More Friday Viking Blogging

I am Viking, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.

(Warning: the full-sized image is just over a megabyte.)


Friday Viking Blogging

I recently attended the 64th World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim, CA.

When I arrived, there was a photographer from Wired taking pictures of the strange people. She took several of me, and one of them was actually on the front page of for a few days.

And here it is. After following the link, click on the photo for a larger version, if you dare.

Originally the page had a comment section, in which I pointed out that the helmet isn't actually handmade; I bought it in Seattle several years ago, but the propeller was a later addition. The button says, "My ancestors discovered America, and all I got was this lousy helmet."

Oh, and the other photos are pretty cool too, even though I'm not in them.

Monday, October 09, 2006


North Korean nuke test a dud?

Judging by the seismic data, it looks like the North Korean nuclear test was probably a failure. The yield was less than one kiloton; you'd expect around 20 kilotons for an initial test like this.

More speculation from Kevin Drum and at Arms Control Wonk.

Of course, the North Korean government won't admit this. It's probably in the best interests of the Bush administration to make us think the test was successful, but US government agencies have this nasty habit of telling the truth in their initial reports.

Now here's an amusing thought about this terribly non-amusing situation. North Korea got some of its nuclear technology from A.Q. Khan of Pakistan. (This is a Wikipedia link, so take it with a grain of salt, but the link between Khan the North Korean nuclear program is well known.)

Wouldn't it be hilarious if it turned out that A.Q. Khan had deliberately given bad information to the North Koreans?

This is pure speculation on my part.

UPDATE: There are reports of a new earthquake, indicating a possible second test, but the USGS still only shows the initial 4.2 quake.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


What was James Carville thinking?

Ok, this is disturbing.

According to page 344 of Bob Woodward's new book, in the aftermath of the 2004 election, James Carville contacted his wife, Mary Matalin, at the White house and passed on inside information about Kerry's strategy:
Carville told her he had some inside news. The Kerry campaign was going to challenge the provisional ballots in Ohio -- perhaps up to 250,000 of them. "I don't agree with it, Carville said. I'm just telling you that's what they're talking about."

Matalin went to Cheney to report...You better tell the President Cheney told her.
The White House passed this information on to Republican operative, er, I mean Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

Of course, we don't know how things would have turned out if Carville hadn't called Matalin with this information. For that matter, we can't be sure the account in Woodward's book is accurate.

To state the obvious, somebody needs to ask Carville about this and get a straight answer.

From M.J. Rosenberg at TPMCafe, via Avedon Carol at The Sideshow and Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars.

UPDATE: More here.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Edward R. Olbermann

With all due respect, I have to say that Keith Olbermann is wrong.

In a recent Special Comment , he said:
Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble
tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary
journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I
come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier
generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they
(and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed:
"confused" or "immoral".
Nobody is really "the next" anybody else, but Keith Olbermann is, in my humble opinion, a worthy successor to Edward R. Murrow. Murrow bravely spoke out against McCarthyism; Olbermann today is bravely speaking out against George W. Bushism. Murrow was before my time. I'm glad to see that our current situation can still inspire at least some journalists of similar caliber.

Keith Olbermann's "Special Comments" can, and certainly should, be seen on his show countdown on MSNBC. The transcript of his latest commentary is here, along with links to previous ones.

Good night, and good luck to us all.

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