I’m Still Only In Saigon…

The policy core of John Kerry’s victory speech tonight:

My campaign is about replacing doubt with hope, and replacing fear with security.

Together we will build a strong foundation for growth by repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to cut the deficit in half in four years and invest in health care and education.

We will repeal every tax break and every loophole that rewards any corporation for gaming the tax code to go overseas and avoid their responsibilities to America.

We will provide new incentives for manufacturing that reward good companies for creating and keeping good jobs here at home.

We will fight for worker and environmental protections in the core of every trade agreement – and we will raise the minimum wage because no one who works 40 hours a week should have to live in poverty in America.

And we will meet one of the historic challenges of our generation with a bold new plan for energy independence that will invest in technologies of the future and create 500,000 new jobs, so young Americans in uniform will never be held hostage to Mideast oil.

We will stand up for the fundamental fairness of health care as a right and not a privilege.

For an America where Medicare and Social Security are protected; health care costs are held down; and your family’s health is just as important as any politician’s in Washington.

We will rejoin the community of nations and renew our alliances because that is essential to final victory in the war on terror.

The Bush Administration has run the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in modern history.

This President wants to run on national security. Well, if George Bush wants to make national security the central issue in 2004, I have three simple words for him I know he understands: Bring it on.

Boy. The last election choice that sucked this badly was Davis vs. Simon for CA Governor. I was depressed for a week before that election, just at the notion that those two losers were the best that our political system could toss up.

I think I’ll be blue (not like blue-state blue) for at least month or so leading up to November. We could be surprised, maybe one of the candidates moight show us something unexpected. But I’d say sending me chocolates, Calvados, or one of these is definitely something you all ought to consider…

Gay Marriage, Before God?

Interesting article on the history of gay Christian marriage (yes, you read correctly) in the Irish Times.

Is the icon suggesting that a homosexual “marriage” is one sanctified by Christ? The very idea initially seems shocking. The full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St Serge and St Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that “we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life”. More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St Serge is openly described as the “sweet companion and lover” of St Bacchus.

(hat tip to Cynical Nation)

Whose Vote Is It, Anyway?

Today is election day, and before I talk about who I’m voting for, I thought I’d point out what is, to me, a far more serious issue – the growing use of electronic voting machines in spite of the demonstrated insecurity of these machines as they exist today.

Imagine the 2000 election with claims that Bush or Gore had hacked the Florida voting machines and caused untraceable changes in votes. Think about the challenges to Bush’s legitimacy today, and imagine what they’d be like in the event we were confronted with a series of news reports waking up – finally – to the insecurity of these systems.

On Declan McCullogh’s Politech list, this email went out today (it’s not up on his site yet, so I’m posting the entire thing):

—– Forwarded message ——

Declan and Dave,

Please (please!) remove my e-mail address if you decide to post this.

I’m an undergraduate in a large Georgia university, which also happens to be the place I vote at election time. Although I have been a casual follower of the voting security debate, I now find myself in a unique position. A sitting position. More precisely, sitting 10 feet away from a stack of 10 unguarded electronic voting machines. Despite having been here for for 120 minutes (and taking a conspicuous number of photos), I have yet to see any security presence, or anyone associated with these machines at all.

First thing: this terrifies me. Because although I have no reason to suspect these machines have been tampered with, I really have no way of knowing for sure. Even though it would be difficult for someone to tamper with these machines on-site without being noticed, there is a huge potential for a machine to be stolen (at which point it could either be tampered with, and then (in theory) returned, or just analyzed to locate problems with the voting software). It’s one thing to debate how secure the software is, especially when being used within sight of elections officials. It’s another thing entirely when anyone who wants to can take the machine home to play with.

Even more alarming than the lack of security around these machines is the response I have received from anyone I have tried to point this out to. The friend who initially directed me to this problem has called a half dozen different groups, ranging (in order) from the state voting commission, the local paper, the local news, campus security, and even the campus newspaper. The voting commission assured us the machines were locked. As someone standing next to the machines, I can assure you that they are not, unless a zip tie now qualifies as a lock. The press brushed us off entirely. Campus security told us it was “not their problem”.

If someone could tell me that this is somehow okay, that I’m overanalyzing the problem, and that this is in fact not dangerous behavior, it would reassure me a great deal. But if this is in any way representative of the way electronic voting systems are being deployed around the rest of the country, I fear for tomorrow’s election.

Now, descriptions of the machines. I have about 70 pictures of these, should anyone require them (but I’m holding on to them for now, in the interest of remaining anonymous until I feel these machines are secured). I have removed information that identifies directly which county these machines belong to; I am happy to reveal it later, once these machines are set up and under active surveillance.

Each container is roughly 2 feet by 2 feet square, by 1 foot deep, with collapsable legs. These containers are stacked in two piles of 5 machines each, with a larger box and a briefcase resting nearby. The small boxes have wheels on the bottom and a suitcase style handle and clasps. They appear identical to the system displayed on http://www.diebold.com/dieboldes/ . One such machine has the following information on the front, near the handle: A barcode with a green and a yellow sticker attached. The barcode reads “123678” A barcode labeled “[county name] County – Ga Purchase”. The barcode reads, “265345893” A half-removed label with the following word fragments: [bottom portion of a large word] Election S[unintelligible] 4.3.14 UPGRA[unintelligible] This text appears consistent with the Diebold Election Systems logo, as seen at the above Diebold Election Systems website.

Also, written on the top, where the legs are collapsed: “P/N 663-1141 REV–4

Model/Revision AVTS–BOOTH.1.01.004″ Next to that, a yellow sticker with the text, “A-H 6-12-02″

The boxes are sealed with a large plastic zip tie (some are pulled tight; others only about halfway tight), and with a red tag with a serial number. One such tag is labeled, “SEALED 0144481″

One machine also has a label attached to the side opposite the wheels. The label is attached with a zip tie, and enclosed in a plastic container. The label reads, “02X 2 [scribbled out numeral 4] of [scribbled out numeral 4] 9″. [It is probably worth reiterating that there are, in fact, 10 machines stacked here].

The larger box is roughly 1.5 feet by 2 feet, and 1.5 feet tall, with the text, “Property of [county name] County Government, Registration, and Elections” embossed in the side.

The briefcase is blue, 3 inches deep, 2 feet wide, 1.5 feet tall, and has a handwritten label attached with the words “Provisional Voting” written on it.

I will be monitoring both Politech and Interesting People for responses, should this get posted.

—– End forwarded message —–

I’ve been reading Bruce Schnier’s great book on security (review to follow) and the reality is that all the high-tech, intrusive, civil-rights violating security measures in the world don’t mean a damn thing if you leave the hardware unattended and unsecured.


Andrew Northrop’s question:

Here it is again: how are Corrine Brown’s comments (calling Condi Rice, Mr. Noreiga, and Colin Powell, among others of assorted genders, races, and ethnicities, “a bunch of white men” who “all look the same to her”) in any way as offensive as celebrating the segregated South or trafficking in Jewish conspiracy theories?

I’d unpack this into two questions:

1) Are there ‘lesser’ and ‘greater’ levels of racism; i.e. do we treat slights differently than we do active discrimination differently than we do genocidal violence? I’m taking this from the implication that her remarks, while offensive, didn’t rise to the level of action.

2) Are racially-charged comments fundamentally different when they come from someone on the receiving end of racial discrimination? Fundamentally, because Rep. Brown is black, and thus assumed to be among those who have suffered from white oppression, do we look at her comments by a different standard than we would someone who is white?From going through the thread and Andrew’s responses to me and others in it, I’m a bit confused, because when I asked:

So, Andrew, you’re suggesting that only ‘advantaged’ groups – empowered groups as it were – can be racist, while the oppressed – the ‘disadvantaged’ can’t be, or if they are, are excused?

he replied:

Interestingly, no, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m actually saying what I said. Why can’t you give a straight answer? Here it is again: how are Corrine Brown’s comments (calling Condi Rice, Mr. Noreiga, and Colin Powell, among others of assorted genders, races, and ethnicities, “a bunch of white men” who “all look the same to her”) in any way as offensive as celebrating the segregated South or trafficking in Jewish conspiracy theories?

which leads me to guess that while his remarks can be interpreted as 2) (and need to be looked at in that light), the explicit meaning he intended was 1).

Let me start out with two disqualifiers, and explanation, and a backflip with a quarter-twist.

First, that it is virtually impossible for liberals to meaningfully talk about race right now, which is a truly Bad Thing. It is one of the subjects where disagreement and emotion run so deep that raising the issue is in fact a discussion-ender.

Next, let me point out that race is a deep subject, and that this is a blog – a conversation – not an essay or book. I won’t claim to cover the issue in the breadth or depth it deserves and requires.

But as usual, none of those will stop me from jumping in…

Andrew seems to claim in the comments thread that he’s asking 1; but I’ll suggest both from Andrew’s own comments and from any kind of reasonable view, that you can’t pull the two questions apart (at least not in this discussion).

First, per Andrew’s own comments:

No, I’m explicitly saying that painting bizarre and elliptical possible expressions of racism (I’m still trying to see how calling Condi Rice a “white man” is an example of racism, as opposed to an example of mental illness, but it’s possible, I suppose) as equally worthy of attention as serious examples of blatant racism tied to a long history of genocidal violence in order to score points on your political opponents does most certainly demean the more serious events. AL’s post is not condemning Corrine Brown’s racism; it’s condemning other people for not treating it as equally deserving of condemnation as Trent Lott’s. Much as everyone would like me to be saying that some racism is okay, it is quite certainly not what I’m saying. (One of the first clues that this is so is that I never said it, and never implied it.) I’m saying that there are clearly instances of racism which are far, far worse than others. Weird tirades about how a group of whites, Hispanics and black people “all look the same”, while highly bizarre (and possibly racist, although someone will have to draw me a picture), just aren’t as worthy of note as wishing Strom Thurmond had won the Presidency on a platform of enforcing racial segregation. Pretending they are is silly, and insulting to everyone’s intelligence.

That pretty much maps to my comment about advantaged groups, in my mind.

The issue isn’t necessarily that her comments were relatively offensive or inoffensive, it’s that they must fundamentally be judged on a different standard because she is African American, and hence her racial offenses can’t be tied to the historic racial offences of Dixiecrat whites, or ‘examples of blatant racism tied to a long history of genocidal violence‘.

Boy, that presents a lot of problems to me.

The first problem is one based in the simple fact that if I dig back far enough, I can find catastrophic treatment of most groups by someone else. At what point in the past do we draw the bright line and say ‘ollie ollie oxen free‘? This isn’t to suggest that moral burdens simply evaporate – they don’t – but that they begin to get lost in the noise of all the other conflicting moral burdens.

So how do we judge what our social response to these burdens should be?

The project, as I see it, is to remedy past inequity by making sure of two things: a) that it won’t happen again; and b) that the current populations we live as part of aren’t trapped by that inequity.

And that leads me to the second problem.

By tolerating – and one might say, even encouraging – a racist worldview (let’s define: the The ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) defines racism as follows: “Any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life.“; The ADL defines it as: “Racism is prejudice or discrimination based on the belief that race is the primary factor determining human traits and abilities. Racism includes the belief that genetic or inherited differences produce the inherent superiority or inferiority of one race over another. In the name of protecting their race from “contamination,” some racists justify the domination and destruction of races they consider to be either superior or inferior. Institutional racism is racial prejudice supported by institutional power and authority used to the advantage of one race over others.” On either count, I believe Rep. Brown’s comments were racist. Her comments were explicitly meant to devalue the position of, and discourage the participation in dialog by, someone who she challenged based on their actual ethnicity or on their ‘ethnic loyalty.’) we damage society as a whole, and further, I’ll argue that we damage the least-advantaged more than anyone.

Look, four decades of racial politics in the US have brought great progress in a number of fronts. There is serious discussion of a black woman as a Vice-Presidential candidate, fer Chrissakes. How would that have sat with Strom, who apparently saw black women as sexual playthings?

But there’s a certain – stuckness – to African American politics today. I’ll argue that it’s caused by three things: demographics (the Latino and Asian influxes, and relative success), politics (the capture of African-American interest groups by poverty pimps like Jesse Jackson and Al “Four Seasons” Sharpton), and philosophy (hey, it’s me we’re talking about here, of course there’s philosophy involved – as the internalized philosophy of victimization Dickerson talks about deprives parts of African American culture of the philosophical basis for success).

So to get back to Andrew, I’ll certainly agree that there are lesser and greater sins when it comes to race; I’ll gladly grant him that. But I’ve gotta say that his statements sure seems to leave the door wide open to direct interpretation that part of how we judge the severity of the sin is based on the color of the skin of the person who commits it.

And I just don’t buy it. I think that the position is morally weak, and worse, counterproductive if the goal is to figure out how to minimize the racial victimization of our country’s children. Commenter Senior Administration Official said:

…one could argue that A.L.’s side is the one being relativist here because he’s pushing a sort of equality between all racist acts, regardless of their real consequences.

I’m arguing that in fact tolerating Rep. Brown’s display has far more real consequences than a misty-eyed rendition of ‘Dixie’ and nostalgia for a South that probably never really existed. She was attempting to shut someone out of a policy debate that effects millions of people today. Lott was in fact just supporting Thurmond as he got misty-eyed over his sexual abuse of his black mistress sixty years ago.