Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ooooo, dinosaurs!

China finds major dinosaur site.

Zhucheng in Shandong province is known locally as "dinosaur city" and has been the scene of several important finds since the 1960s.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Snow! Snow! Snow!

I always love the first snow of the season, and here it is! Yaaaaaay!

The flakes are huge now, and falling softly. I am reminded of many moments in various Japanese anime where cherry blossoms, etc., are obeying gravity, and then don't, falling upwards instead.[*] These flakes look so light I could see them do the same if I just looked away at the right moment and then sneaked a glance back out of the corner of my eye.

[*] As an art form, I love many of the liberties anime takes with, oh, everything.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

From the puff pastry department

The slogan of this blog goes back and from between "from politics to programming, paramecia to puff pastries" and "things that keep you, things that kill you," when I've got the skeletons up in the fall.

Time for an alert from the puff pastries department: There is a new mexican restaurant in Boston, near the corner of Tremont and Stuart, just a block downhill from Boylston station. Don't cross Stuart as if you're walking to the Wang Theatre, that's too far.

Maria's Taqueira: It's a hole in the wall, with walls painted orange and blue, a small coat of armor (yep! you read that right), over by the tables, and half the people in there when I stopped by to check it out were speaking spanish. Always a good sign.

The menu is straightforward - tacos, burritos, tortas. The carnitas (that's pork) tacos were excellent. I wanted to go right back after work and try something else off the menu.


Thought for the Day

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. -- Samuel Beckett.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Make Pomegranate Juice, Not Drug War

(with the sudden rush of posts today, all five of you reading my blog can tell that I'm playing catchup, right? And I'm playing to win.)

Want to Win the War in Afghanistan? Forget Guns - Think Pomegranates

In 2007, [James] Brett was invited to Kabul to talk to farmers from various regions of Afghanistan about growing pomegranates. He flew to Peshawar and drove through the Khyber Pass heading to Kabul While driving through the Nangarhar Province, he noticed a farmer in a field of opium poppies. After the seminar in Kabul, Brett bought a large piece of card and a blue marker pen, and wrote 'Pomegranate is the Answer'. On his return drive back to Peshawar, he saw the same farmer again in the field, jumped out of the car and ran toward the farmer with his makeshift sign. His horrified translator chased after this mad ginger-haired Brit, yelling, 'Don't go in there, you could be shot!' Undetered, Brett talked to the bewildered farmer through his translator, about the farmer's life, his family, his children, how he lived and why he grew opium, about Brett's own addiction to drugs. Brett explained that pomegranate was not only the best option as an alternative crop to opium poppies, but was the only feasible one for the Afghan climate and growing conditions, and promised to return to the farmer's land a couple months later with pomegranate saplings. He went home and set up a charity called Pom354.

Brett followed through on his promise, returning a few months later to find the farmer had discussed this idea with sixteen other families with land around his own; all of them wanted to become involved. From there, the plan snowballed – in January, 2008, Afghanistan Television interviewed him, and other farmers asked him for help in changing their fields from poppies to pomegranates. The local member of Parliament and a respected Elder in the Tribal system wanted to know more. A tribal meeting covering the entire Nangarhar Province was called, and 200 Tribal elders invited.

Passion. Persistence. Pomegranates. I'm all for it. Put Afghanistan pomegranates and pom juice on the market, and I'll buy them, happily.

"Man in the Middle" Attacks - in WWII

This is just fascinating, a man-in-the-middle attack performed in World War II.

Aspidistra is described over at Schneier on Security, a blog everyone should keep an eye on.

Aspidistra was a World War II man-in-the-middle attack. The vulnerability that made it possible was that German broadcast stations were mostly broadcasting the same content from a central source; but during air raids, transmitters in the target area were switched off to prevent them being used for radio direction-finding of the target.

The exploit involved the very powerful (500KW) Aspidistra transmitter, coupled to a directional antenna farm. With that power, they could make it sound like a local station in the target area.

With a staff of fake announcers, a fake German band, and recordings of recent speeches from high-ranking Nazis, they would smoothly switch from merely relaying the German network to emulating it with their own staff. They could then make modifications to news broadcasts, occasionally creating panic and confusion.

Honestly, some days I think there really is nothing new under the sun.

In other news...

I've been awash in work this week but am feeling pretty good about it.

Planets outside our solar system!

Hubble Directly Observes a Planet Orbiting Another Star


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Using MMOGs to Test 'Costs' of Environmental Laws

How nifty!

MMOGs as Social Experiments: the Case of Environmental Laws
Authors: Joost Broekens
(Submitted on 5 Nov 2008)

Abstract: In this paper we argue that Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs), also known as Large Games are an interesting research tool for policy experimentation. One of the major problems with lawmaking is that testing the laws is a difficult enterprise. Here we show that the concept of an MMOG can be used to experiment with environmental laws on a large scale, provided that the MMOG is a real game, i.e., it is fun, addictive, presents challenges that last, etc.. We present a detailed game concept as an initial step.

Subjects: Computers and Society (cs.CY)
Cite as: arXiv:0811.0709v1 [cs.CY]

Full paper:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted and hope you did, too.

I've been so thrilled to see so many people coming out to exercise their sacred duty and their true power. This has been an amazing election. Let us all promise ourselves, and those who come after us, that it is not a fluke, and let us promise ourselves and the world, that we will relight the torch of the true American dream: equality, opportunity, and justice. We are Americans, together.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Awesome title of this legal reference

Nomothetes, the Interpreter, Containing the Genuine Signification of Such Obscure Words and Terms Used Either in the Common or Statute Lawes of This Realm, First Compiled by the Learned Dr. Cowel, and Now Enlarged from the Collections of All Others Who Have Written in This Kind with an Addition of Many Words Omitted by All Former Writers, and Pertinent to This Matter, with Their Etymologies as Often as They Occur, as also Tenures Whether Jocular, or Others Statues and Records, Wherein the Alterations Are Expressed, and Their Agreement or Dissonancy, with the Law at Present Declared: Whereto Is Subjoyned an Appendix, Containing the Ancient Names of Places Here in England, Very Necessary for the Use of All Young Students, Who Intend to Converse with Old Records, Deeds or Charters

1 v. London: Printed by the assigns of Richard Atkins and Sir Edward Atkins for H. Twyford, Tho. Basset, J. Place, and H. Sawbridge, 1684.
Cowel, John
Manley, Thomas (Editor)

Dang. The things you find when looking for something on HeinOnline.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Am in a state of crogglement

They actually convicted Senator Ted Stevens.

Holy fucking cow*.

Ted Stevens' conviction the crowning blow in bad year for GOP senators

Dang. I mean, I never, NEVER, thought he'd be convicted. Hell, I was surprised there was a trial. There's this dichotomy in Alaska, see? Two belief systems, two mythos, chafing at one another. Pro-development and pure-frontier are probably the most straightforward labels. Palin is pro-development with an evangelical twist, for the record. Stevens, like most in politics in Alaska, just made sure everyone knew the state was open for business.

[*] Bear in mind, I try to restrict dropping the f-bomb these days, as its considered unlawyerly and all that. I shrieked out loud when I saw the headline.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Don't think of it as voting, think of it as hiring if you must

So, here's the deal:

The company's down the shitter. People have lost jobs, and we've become seen as the assholes of the industry.

You've been interviewing these guys for the CEO slot for a while, now it's time to make a hiring decision.

Now, last time, we hired a schlub - or maybe the board of directors made us - who, sure, is fun at a barbecue, but has a mean sense of humor and is not really qualified for the job. Super-nice wife, though. I mean, dang, she is just *nice*. Real sweetheart.

Anyway, this time, there's this really bright guy applying, who has a good track record. Might even be overqualified. Plus? Genuinely nice guy. Helps people out wherever he can. Walks the talk, when you get down to it. Family man.

And then there's this guy who had a rep about 20 years ago, but has been sitting on his laurels in a lot of ways ever since. Plus, he's been sick, and during an interview you really wonder did he just have a transient ischemic attack right in front of you, and you think to yourself that this job could kill him --

He's got a bad temper. And, he's been saying some really nasty shit. Really nasty.

And so has his hanger-on, who seems to think if you're smart you can't be trusted with things that require brains. Who made that rule up? It makes no sense, really.

Now, the bright guy is at the top of his game. Seriously. This might be a once-in-a-lifetime moment when the right man for the job shows up, at the right time. And you actually know it. When's the last time that happened? Never?

Yeah, probably never.

So which guy do you hire?

I know which one I want to hire.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Connecticut Recognizes Same-Sex Marriages

Connecticut Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage

What pisses me off is the constant misunderstanding of a court's role evidenced in the following remark of Connecticut Governor Rell:

The Supreme Court has spoken. I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision – either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution – will not meet with success. I will therefore abide by the ruling.”

The job of a court is not to speak "with the voice of the majority." The job of a court is to interpret the law.

Legislatures pass laws, Executives execute them, and Judiciaries interpret them. Got it? Good.

Taxes, Palin, and Oil Dependency

Palin’s Kind of Patriotism

I only wish she had been asked: “Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? If it isn’t from tax revenues, there are only two ways to pay for those big projects — printing more money or borrowing more money. Do you think borrowing money from China is more patriotic than raising it in taxes from Americans?” That is not putting America first. That is selling America first.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Truth from Alaska

Sarah Palin: The view from Alaska @ Salon.

Affectations aside, there’s plenty about Palin we Alaskans do recognize, and all too well. She’s already proven to us that her promises of transparent government, attendant to the will of the people, are bear pucky. We know about her private e-mail accounts and her systematic obstruction of the Alaska Legislature’s investigation of the so-called Troopergate scandal. But let’s turn to her environmental record, where a similar pattern of obfuscation continues.

This is too familiar. The folks who call her George W. Palin are right.

First, Palin pushed hard, along with sport hunting and guiding interests, to help defeat a ballot initiative that would have stopped the state’s current aerial wolf control program, which had been criticized by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council for flawed science. Now her administration has pointedly refused to respond to repeated public information requests (I’m one of the petitioners, and a potential litigant), regarding the apparently illegal killing of 14 wolf pups at their dens on the Alaska Peninsula this spring by state personnel, including two high-level Department of Fish and Game administrators. A biologist at the scene admitted to an independent wolf scientist that the 6-week-old pups were held down and shot in the head, one by one. This inhumane practice, known as “denning,” has been illegal for 40 years. But a simple request for information on the details of this operation, including to what extent the governor was involved in the decision, has resulted in a typical Palinesque roadblock and a string of untruths.

Our I-love-Alaska governor was also instrumental in defeating a ballot initiative to stop development of a gargantuan open-pit mine incongruously known as Pebble near the headwaters of the most productive salmon watershed in the state, Bristol Bay. The current mine design calls for building the world’s largest earthen dam to hold back an enormous lake of toxic waste — this in a known earthquake zone. Crazy stuff, yet Palin openly opposed the initiative, in lock step with international mining corporations that invested millions of dollars in a misinformation campaign.

But Palin’s certified anti-environmental whopper is her lawsuit against the Bush administration (of all outfits) for listing polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. She claimed Alaska’s own experts had completed a review of the federal data and concluded that the listing was uncalled for. The truth was, state biologists had come to the opposite conclusion. But that report was never released, and her researchers had a gag clamped on them. Palin simply didn’t want anything to get in the way of offshore oil drilling in moving pack ice — where there is no way to contain, let alone clean up, catastrophic spills.

Oh, and look, lying about what the experts say. That's familiar too.

And then there's the dead lake -- all style and no substance:

Sarah Palin’s dead lake

Every morning she’s at home here, Sarah Palin wakes up to a postcard view from her lakeside home. Out the windows of her two-story wood-framed house stretch the serene, birch-lined waters of Lake Lucille. Ducks go gliding by the red-and-white Piper Cub floatplane docked outside. With the snow-frosted Chugach and Talkeetna mountains looming in the distance, the scene seems to define the Alaska that Palin celebrates: rugged, majestic, unspoiled.

And, yet, the lake Sarah Palin lives on is dead.

“Lake Lucille is basically a dead lake — it can’t support a fish population,” said Michelle Church, a Mat-Su Valley borough assembly member and environmentalist. “It’s a runway for floatplanes.”

Palin recently told the New Yorker magazine that Alaskans “have such a love, a respect for our environment, for our lands, for our wildlife, for our clean water and our clean air. We know what we’ve got up here and we want to protect that, so we’re gonna make sure that our developments up here do not adversely affect that environment at all. I don’t want development if there’s going to be that threat to harming our environment.”

But as mayor of her hometown, say many local critics, Palin showed no such stewardship.

Proof's in the pudding, folks.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ambien, Amnesia, and a McCain Presidency

Holy crap.

An Ambien amnesia presidency

So why does McCain taking Ambien matter? Lots of people take sleeping medication. It's prescribed by a doctor, so it must be okay.

Sure, but lots of people don't have to worry about being drugged up on Ambien and getting a call at 3AM that affects the lives of 300+ million people.

. . . .

More disturbingly, in a crisis, how is the White House staff supposed to know if the President is truly aware of what's going on or not? Whether he's under an Ambien haze or truly himself? I've had a couple of experiences with people in exactly this situation, under the influence of sleeping pills, and the reality is you can't tell that they're under the influence. I've had a face-to-face conversation with someone who had taken Ambien and not fallen asleep - the next day they didn't remember any of the hour long discussion. The scary part? I had no idea that I was speaking to someone who wasn't fully conscious. To me, it was like having a regular conversation and I had no idea the person across from me was completely out of it. The prospect of a President "sleep-driving" the country on Ambien is terrifying.

So let's not elect him.

Sympathetic but Miffed

You know, I understand how it can be on the IT side when customer's email or some other service doesn't work. I've been there, staring at a computer program (more often than not, in my area, rather than a server) that steadfastly refuses to work FOR NO REASON. Literally. You're standing there saying to yourself, "well, sh**, it worked yesterday. What changed?"

But. My personal email has been out for 2? 3? days? Possibly since Monday. My work accounts are fine, but that's not where I get the bulk of my email. What this means is my personal interaction is being reduced to near-zero, and I can't tell anyone except by posting on this blog.[*]

It's strange, too, realizing I've moved from one "firefighting" profession to another. in IT, you put out fires, and, if you're really lucky, maybe prevent some. Lawyers, yeah, it's mostly fires. IT people mostly get ignored until something breaks. And they get pizza, sometimes. Lawyers? Well, we get to be the butts of jokes about how it would be great if we were all dead. This is not a step up.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

I do have to say, about this election

There is the fun of shocking the unwary with "Sarah Palin is from my hometown."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy Birthday to Us!

To: Twin (aka "Baby A")
From: Other Twin (aka "Baby B")
Re: Our Birthday
Date: 9/27/08

Happy Birthday to Us!
Happy Birthday to Us!
Happy BIRTHday, dear Us!
Happy Birthday to Us!

May we have many more.

Paul Newman, 1925-2008

Bye, Butch.

Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Dies

Monday, September 22, 2008

Biggest Political Rally in History of State - Women Rejecting Palin

"Alaska Women Reject Palin" Rally & 'Alaska Women Reject Palin’ Rally is HUGE!

1400 hundred women showed up, where, normally, "if you can get 25 people to show up at an event, it's a success."

"This just doesn't happen here."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Making Rape Victims Pay for Rape Kits?

New Evidence: Palin Had Direct Role In Charging Rape Victims For Exams

Why not make victims of other crimes pay to have the perp's fingerprints taken so he can be run through the FBI database?

Anna Quindlen Speaks Some Truth

Can You Say ‘Sexist’?: If you're a Republican, you'd better learn. The right wing that trashed the women's movement suddenly finds its inner feminist.

Amid the drumbeat of female Amazonian competence occasioned by the Palin nomination ran one deeply discordant assumption, the assumption that women are strong and smart and sure and yet neither sentient nor moral enough to decide what to do if they are pregnant under difficult circumstances.


Rosenbergs Innocent?

Rosenberg transcripts raise possibility of perjury.

Newly released grand jury transcripts add strong evidence to the argument that the conviction and execution of Ethel Rosenberg in the Cold War's biggest espionage case were based on perjured testimony.

In recent years, one of the two key witnesses against Rosenberg recanted his testimony. It now appears that the other witness made up her testimony. too. The witnesses were Ethel's brother and sister-in-law, David and Ruth Greenglass.

Thanks to the work of a team of lawyers and historians, the government released the grand jury testimony that formed the basis for the charges against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Holy Crap!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

About John Bush's - er, McCain's - VP Pick

Sarah Palin is the Governor of Alaska, and the former mayor of my hometown, Wasilla Alaska. (That's Wasilla, not Wassilla or Wassila. Thank you.)

Here's what I have to say: Once I learned that she's a creationist and thinks that humans don't contribute to global warming, I figured she's just Johnny's attempt to keep the Evangelical vote in his pocket. She plays to the GOP base, and tries to claim the mantle 'reformer' for herself and for him. That's the critical point that must be debunked, since Miss Earmarks and Firings is just as much of a party hack, corrupt and self-centered, as all the rest of the GOP. McCain ain't no maverick, and neither is Palin.

That anyone, in today's economy, can claim "this election isn't about issues" boggles the mind.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

POW Experience Doesn't Qualify One for Presidency

"I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate."

I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.

It is also disappointing to see him take on and support Bush's war in Iraq, even stating we might be there for another 100 years. For me John represents the entrenched and bankrupt policies of Washington-as-usual. The past 7 years have proven to be disastrous for our country. And I believe John's views on war, foreign policy, economics, environment, health care, education, national infrastructure and other important areas are much the same as those of the Bush administration.

I'm disappointed to see John represent himself politically in ways that are not accurate. He is not a moderate Republican.

NO MORE HOTHEADS! NO MORE IDIOTS. I want a smart, articulate, thinking human being in the White House! No more Fox News Presidents!

The Era of the American Peso

Well, it was nice being number one for a while until the Republicans took over and now we've been turned into yet another cheap vacation spot where foreigners come to take advantage of the insanely weak local currency. The era of the American Peso has arrived, and you can thank George Bush, John McCain and all the Republicans for guaranteeing America's second place status in the world for the 21st century. This is an issue that Obama should be talking about. How John McCain and the Republicans have failed to invest in our future, how the world keeps advancing ahead while America keeps falling behind.

H/T to Americablog

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan is still doing their work, to help the women of Afghanistan. They've been battling since 1977, and still going strong. Help them today.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Writing and the Military

An ode to clear writing, in Proceedings Magazine.

I'll leave it to you to read the article, including the great translation at the very beginning and the Orwell quote, and instead zero in on this:

[B]ad writing handicaps DOD and the services in their communication with important external audiences like Congress, other federal agencies, and the general public. Jargon is especially problematic. Overly formal, technical language alienates the audience whose support the Defense Department seeks.

This is why, no matter how lawyerly I become (I hope), my instinct to continuously rephrase things in simple, straightforward language, will pay off. Why? Because who wants a lawyer who can't explain stuff to them unless they're already a lawyer themselves?

Yes, you should speak precisely, but there is a difference between jargon and precise language.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Great quote

Snagged from Will Shetterly's blog:

“It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.” —Thomas Paine

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Peruvian Glaciers Melting

Peru mountain glaciers 'receding rapidly'

"At present, there are more melting glaciers and therefore there is a relative increase in flows in rivers and streams", Nelson Santillan, a researcher at the INRENA glaciology unit, told SciDev.Net.

Santillan says that, while this currently does not have any significant negative effects, people must be warned about the correlation of this with the increased glacier melting and the future halt in water flow. INRENA estimates this could be as soon as 2020.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Powerful Stuff

The Conquest and Theft of América, Pt. 13

“You all do and undo,” he said. “So you can do whatever you want with me.” To him we were part of the system keeping him from being deported back to his country, where his children, wife, mother, and sister depended on him. He was their sole support and did not know how they were going to make it with him in jail for 5 months. None of the “options” really mattered to him. Caught between despair and hopelessness, he just wept. He had failed his family, and was devastated. I went for some napkins, but he refused them. I offered him a cup of soda, which he superstitiously declined, saying it could be “poisoned.” His Native American spirit was broken and he could no longer think. He stared for a while at the signature page pretending to read it, although I knew he was actually praying for guidance and protection. Before he signed with a scribble, he said: “God knows you are just doing your job to support your families, and that job is to keep me from supporting mine.”

There was my conflict of interest, well put by a weeping, illiterate man.

Friday, July 18, 2008

EPA: Climate Change Puts US Way of Life at Risk

Interesting framing. I mean, you could say, 'climate change opportunity facing America', instead, and it would be the same, wouldn't it?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dr. Horrible Rocks!

Watch Act I & II now (and III on Saturday), then buy the DVD/download when it comes out!

Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog. It's a supervillain musical! Hooray!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lysistrata, Anyone?

I mean, honestly, if we all closed our legs until these yahoos grew a brain, it might improve things.

HHS Moves to Define Contraception as Abortion

Sunday, July 13, 2008

We Must Put Things Right

War Crimes? Yes. To our great shame. There is only one way to cleanse this stain from our dishonor, and that's to put the perpetrators on trial. Which is more than detainees got.

A Blind Eye to Guantanamo?

A CIA analyst warned the Bush administration in 2002 that up to a third of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake, but White House officials ignored the finding and insisted that all were “enemy combatants” subject to indefinite incarceration, according to a new book critical of the administration’s terrorism policies.

The CIA assessment directly challenged the administration’s claim that the detainees were all hardened terrorists — the “worst of the worst,” as then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at the time. But a top aide to Vice President Cheney shrugged off the report and squashed proposals for a quick review of the detainees’ cases, author Jane Mayer writes in “The Dark Side,” scheduled for release next week.

“There will be no review,” the book quotes Cheney staff director David Addington as saying. “The president has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it.”
(H/T The Agitator)

The rest of the world knows the truth. American military deserters may have an asylum claim in Canada now. Read it here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cool! Real-Time Tracking of Intl Space Station

Real-time satellite and space station tracking. You can watch the International Space Station move. Cool.

Saturday, June 21, 2008



"CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: In this campaign, we are being asked to accept three things simultaneously, the first woman with a credible chance of being president, the first African-American with the chance to being president and, whoever Michelle Obama is going to be styled, the angry black woman, first lady? This is an awful lot."

I'm sorry, what?

What was that? What was that? What was that?

This isn't an awful lot to be asked to accept. You idiots just need to stop pining for your rose-tinted-glasses version of the 1950s. Michelle Obama is a modern black woman, thank god.

(HT to angry black woman.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Latest Story Rejection

Weird Tales rejected The Red Sea, which definitely qualifies as a weird tale, and the thought has cross my mind that it's really an excerpt, or spinoff, of something quite a bit longer in a universe that's been evolving in some dank corner of my brain.

In other news, my apartment is hot and that does not make me happy. Fortunately, in New England, summer is one of MANY seasons. Unlike Southern California.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Prison Ships

US accused of holding terror suspects on prison ships

You know what's so shameful? The title of the article may say "US accused," but there's no question in my mind.

How can we recover from this?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pro Bono Advocate Award

I received a pro bono advocate award last night at Alternatives for Community & Environment's annual fundraiser and award ceremony. More info: here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Personal Excitement!

Hm. That sounded like the title of a message from an email spammer, didn't it? Well, of course it's not. No, friends, yours truly interrogated people today. By which, I mean, cross-examined expert witnesses in an administrative proceeding. But "interrogated" just sounds so much more Guantanamo Bay, don't you think?

So, my maiden voyage as an attorney, cross-examining on some dry technical stuff. Well, it was fun/educational for me...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Time to Weigh on the current White Feminist Debate

I'm conflict-avoidant, and really busy, and, let's face it, a beneficiary of white privilege so I am "free" to ignore it, otherwise I would have said something sooner. I should have anyway.

First, to nutshell if I can: white feminist Amanda Marcotte didn't give proper intellectual props to Brownfemipower, a big cheese in the feminist blogosphere, when she should have. You can get plugged in here, here and here. To make matters worse, at about the same time, Amanda's publisher, Seal Press, said some privileged shit about how she "wants" to publish women of color but just can't seem to find them. That sounds just like the "where are the women bloggers" meme that goes around constantly, doesn't it? And then Seal Press put into Amanda's feminist "survival" book a bunch of imagery of, shall we say, questionable merit from a race-conscious perspective. (h/t to Angry Black Woman for most of this.)

So, here's the thing, and I want to give proper thanks to Twisty Faster at I Blame the Patriarchy for schooling white feminists, including me: my benefiting from white privilege makes it easy for me to wave off or ignore as "ironic" or "ignorant" or "but that's not the message they were trying to send!" instead of recognizing that if a member of a minority group calls something out, you should listen to their assessment, since they're the ones who can't wave this shit off or ignore it. To quote Twisty: "That this was unintentional is of no consequence; it was perceived by many, and rightly so." This is exactly what feminists get stuck saying to men all the time: what you thought you were saying, buster, ain't what I heard, and you need to care about my point of view. The fact that someone is having a different experience does not mean they are shrill harpies, or otherwise invalidated. It means they are having a different experience. If you have an expert in the house, listen to what they have to say.

Just so. And white feminists need to listen, and care about the point of view of women of color, and minority voices. This does not, I believe, dilute the feminist movement or its goal of equality for women - and I don't think it requires that women put our advancement as women on the backburner while we "fix" some "other problem" - but rather that understanding the complex experience of different women can help all of us learn new tools and strategies for the advancement of all women. Because different areas of the fight may need different tools. And because one size, does not, as they say, fit all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Executive Branch Cranks PR Machine For War, Torture, Etc.

Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the [military] analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I'm a White Chick Who Cares About Racism - Ask Me How!

If you stop and think about it, racism doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Of course, a lot of “isms” are that way, particularly those that let you say you are somehow magically “better” than that person over there. I mean really, if you’re going to be better than someone, why not have a good reason?

Why should white people be “better” than black people? Or men better than women? Or rich better than poor, straight better than gay, etc. We’re all just people, together, you know. None of us asked to be born different colors.

Today, many people, especially if you’re American, reading this post will find it merely of passing interest that left-handers like myself have historically been discriminated against. Because left-handedness is a sign of the devil. Catholic schools a short generation ago, and other cultures (and here I’m thinking of a specific former colleague, a second generation Japanese-American) forced their children to write right-handed. Some still may today. Physical force. And people used to discriminate against the Irish, here, in America. Wacky, huh?

Now, for everyone who just chuckled at the insanity of such notions, I want to ask you a question. What if you brought for just a moment that same laughter, that same skepticism and sense of amusement to some of your own beliefs? That same “wow, that’s pretty wacky, huh?” to your own table.

Consider the idea that the guy on the corner is a gangbanger who’s gonna put a cap in your ass just because he’s a guy standing on the corner who happens to be black. Or that that black woman over there with the stroller, the one getting on the bus, is on welfare and happy to be so. ‘Cuz welfare’s so much fun. Do the vast majority of poor people, white and black, choose to be poor? Of course not. That’s just silly. Like a lot of things, it doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, once you stop and think about it.

So, what I’d like to do today is encourage you to stop and think, instead of just assuming. What’s that thing you might’ve learned as a kid? When you assume you make an ass out of ‘u’ and me?

Yeah, well. So, how about a few less assumptions?

No one chooses to be discriminated against. That would be silly.

Now, black people in this country have been climbing out of a hole that the slave trade dug, and they’ve been climbing for years and not out yet. It’s a big goddamn hole. The fact that white people dug this hole doesn’t mean that you (if you’re reading this and are a white American) are a bad person. But what is bad, and what all of us, especially white Americans, help perpetuate when we make assumptions based on color, is the idea that black people belonged in that hole, or that there’s something wrong with them today because they’re not all the way out, or that the hole doesn't even exist because, slavery's, like, over, right? It’s a BIG goddamn hole that got dug partly thanks to the idea that whites were doing Africans a favor by bringing them to the Americas and converting them to Christianity. Well, if you put it that way, that’s a bit much, don’t you think? That’s pretty disrespectful of someone else’s culture and beliefs. That’s assuming that they’re “less” because they’re not like you. And on top of that, there was the idea that because they were “heathen” “savages”, they weren’t real people anyway.

Because you could never treat real people like that, turn them into *slaves*, whip them like animals, and live with yourself, could you?

And you know what? In all the ways that count, “they” ARE “like you”.

We all are born, play as children, love our moms, want to marry Mr./Ms. Right, read comic books, call the plumber, save loose change in a jar, ride the bus to school, get a “C”, are tongue-tied by that Perfect Boy/Girl in school and later, alas, at work, eat things that are bad for us, say stupid stuff and regret it later, want things we can’t afford, and want to give our children better lives than our own.

None of that changes because of color. Look back at that guy on the corner, giving in and having a cigarette even though he knows he shouldn’t. Look at that woman on the bus, the one with the folded up stroller and the baby in her lap. She’s just like you, just schlepping along, raising her kid, thinking about tonight’s dinner.

Skin color’s got nothing to do with it.

So, if black people are still in that hole, how are they climbing, and how deep is that f****er? I’m not sure I know the whole answer. Racism, like other isms, is pervasive. It’s not just about the act of enslaving someone physically. It’s everything else, it’s all the ideas that led to slavery in the first place and still operate to keep black people from climbing. It’s *hard* to identify ALL the ways racism has affected our lives, from loans under the federal housing act denied to blacks but granted to whites and black people not being served in restaurants and excluded from unions to boot, to sentencing guidelines that punish users of crack (more likely to be black) more harshly than users of cocaine (more likely to be white), to advertisements that say white features are the most attractive. I mean, shit, man. WTF?

And if it’s so pervasive, how do we fight it?

We fight it day by day, event by event, bit by bit. We fight it by saying to someone making a stupid assumption, or a dumb joke, “hey, that’s not cool.” We fight it whether or not we’re being discriminated against ourselves. We fight it because you could just as easily have been born black instead of white, and would you want someone to discriminate against you? Hell, no.

No one chooses to be discriminated against. That would be silly. But you and I, regardless of our skin color, can choose to fight against assumptions that hold people down rather than lifting all of us up.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Puncturing Buchanan's "Blacks Should be Grateful" Screed

Where's The Gratitude?

I can't imagine anyone being grateful to be subject to institutionalized slavery, and Jim Crow laws. Reading through the list of things in the above article that were done as federal policy to consciously exclude blacks makes my blood boil.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

There's a Conversation on Race

In the comments of Angry Black Woman's "Thank You, White People", over Pat Buchanan's racism (among others).

If you're not reading ABW, now is a great time to start. I'd specifically like to refer readers to Angry Black Woman's Required Reading.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Krugman on Financial Crisis

Taming the Beast

America came out of the Great Depression with a pretty effective financial safety net, based on a fundamental quid pro quo: the government stood ready to rescue banks if they got in trouble, but only on the condition that those banks accept regulation of the risks they were allowed to take.

Over time, however, many of the roles traditionally filled by regulated banks were taken over by unregulated institutions — the “shadow banking system,” which relied on complex financial arrangements to bypass those safety regulations.

Now, the shadow banking system is facing the 21st-century equivalent of the wave of bank runs that swept America in the early 1930s. And the government is rushing in to help, with hundreds of billions from the Federal Reserve, and hundreds of billions more from government-sponsored institutions like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks.

Given the risks to the economy if the financial system melts down, this rescue mission is justified. But you don’t have to be an economic radical, or even a vocal reformer like Representative Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, to see that what’s happening now is the quid without the quo.

Last week Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary, declared that Mr. Frank is right about the need for expanded regulation. Mr. Rubin put it clearly: If Wall Street companies can count on being rescued like banks, then they need to be regulated like banks.

Makes sense to me.

There's something that doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and hasn't for a long time. Government regulates in order to protect the public, in large part because companies make decisions to improve their profit margin, not to "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." That's the job of (the people as) government. The job of a corporation is to make money. As long as corporations have no social conscience, which is a rant for a different day, as long as corporations are tasked in this world with obligations other than providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, etc., they *need* to be regulated by the government.

So, whenever someone comes along and says we should deregulate some market somewhere, I think a) that's asking the government to abdicate its responsibility, and b) deregulation never seems to accomplish the goal my typical deregulation afficionado touts, which is something along the lines of better lives for all of us if only we'd let "the market" work. Well, "the market" never behaves the way they taught us in high school economics (yes, we used to have econ classes in high school. And civics in junior high. How 'bout that?) because "the market" is never, ever, the "perfect" market that you use in economics class hypotheticals.

I want environmental regulation of companies (hi, EPA). I want regulations that ensure I get paid overtime when I work overtime. I want regulations that protect my pension. I want regulation that protects my person (hi, OSHA!) from harm and I want regulations that protect my human dignity as well. Business is the business of America, but the real business of America is protecting the common good and promoting the general welfare. *That* is the mission statement of America, friends and neighbors.

In the broader social sense, the corporation is just a tool to achieve that goal. When properly regulated.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Global Warming Killing Antarctica

Cracking up: the ice shelf as big as Northern Ireland

"In this case things are happening more rapidly than we thought. We didn't really understand how sensitive these ice shelves are to climate change," said Dr Vaughan, who predicted in the 1990s that it would take 30 years for the ice shelf to break up.

Ice shelves form along the coasts and, because the ice is already floating on water, their disintegration does not affect sea levels. However, scientists believe that their rapid disappearance could lead to the faster movement into the ocean of the massive, land-based ice sheets and glaciers – which do raise sea levels.

The Wilkins ice shelf covers an area of about 5,282 square miles and satellite images taken at the end of February revealed that the rapid disintegration began after an iceberg the size of the Isle of Man broke away from its western edge.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Record for Most Distant Object in Sky Visible to Naked Eye

Naked-Eye Gamma Ray Burst.

A powerful gamma ray burst detected March 19th by NASA's Swift satellite has shattered the record for the most distant object that could be seen with the naked eye.

One summer when I was in undergrad I did astrophysics research, specifically, working with data on high-energy particles emitted by black hole candidates. A high energy particle triggers a shower of lesser-energy particles when it hits the atmosphere and interacts with the particles that make up the atmosphere, and it all cascades farther and farther (if energetic enough) until the shower eventually propagates down to the ground. In general, the higher the energy of the incoming particle, the higher the energy of the particles in the shower hitting your detector on the ground. Plus, the more atmosphere the shower is propagating through, the more energy is used up.

So, the highest energy particles that come in almost horizontally have cascaded through the most atmosphere to get to you, and thus were really REALLY high energy before they started, and thus might be from a black hole.

I worked on processing those data measurements calculating the incident angle of the initial particle, to then determine if it was from a black hole candidate. Fun stuff. I love science.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wanted: Good Biography of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek

After reading this intro to On Soong Mei-ling, who later became Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, at IntlLawGrrls, I need a good biography of her that really gets into the history of Taiwan, too.

Internet, recommend!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Choosing to do...

From Crooks and Liars, from The Daily Show:

Jon Stewart and Senior White House Correspondent John Oliver discuss Bush’s recent trip to Africa.

STEWART: It’s hard for you to accept that the President has done something admirable?

OLIVER: Well, it’s just [stammers] What’s his angle? He’s not running for reelection. There’s no ulterior military objective. He’s got no chance of becoming King of Africa. What the HELL is going on?

STEWART: Maybe he’s just trying to do something good in a difficult part of the world.

OLIVER: No! No! That makes it worse! Over the past seven excruciating years I’ve come to terms with the President being incompetent. The fact that we now know that he’s capable of doing good all along and has simply chosen not to, that really burns!

Yeah, it does.

This year's Dem race

I love it, we got a real live horse race, people. Now, that's reality TV worth watching. (I suppose if I had TV reception I'd feel otherwise, knowing me, and the crass, superficial reporting the U.S. seems so prone to broadcast.)

The news on the radio just mentioned something about folks in Rhode Island being thrilled to actually be relevant. That's how elections should be, neighbors. Every vote, in every state. Relevant.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Here's Something I Don't Get

Don't all you people with iPods jammed in your ears want to know what's going on behind you?

I'm quite sure that if I can hear someone's iPod music as they walk past me, it's drowning out quite a bit of the ambient sound. What does that mean? It means you don't hear the car engine behind you. Or someone on a bicycle trying to get past you and saying "excuse me". Repeatedly. Or the serial killer skulking in the shadows, muttering to himself about the blue angels with bloody hooks for hands, as he waits for his chance. (Made you look!)

I don't know about everybody else, but when I'm walking around Boston, one of the walkingest towns around, I'm pretty keen on my safety, as a general rule, and that requires paying attention to sounds, as well as to sights.

I just don't get this urge people seem to have block off one of their senses as they run their errands.

Next thing you know, all the cool kids will be wearing blinders or something, and blocking off their peripheral vision. Why bother?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Got a Great Piece of Male Privilege A Couple Weeks Ago

Being a feminist and having worked on sites like The 3rd WWWave (, I get vitriol poured in my ear now and then (just like Hamlet's dad, only I'm not dead, although, on the Internet, can you really tell?).

A few weeks back, it was an email message addressed to "c*nts", describing all the ways in which women rule the world, topped off with the reminder that the author doesn't hate all women, just those women who think he's wrong.

Well, I'm one of those women. This person in his missive made a great many inaccurate assertions, broad sweeping statements to a one, and none of them substantiated:

1. A woman will be given a much lighter sentence than a man convicted of the same crime.

Not that I'm aware of. The federal sentencing guidelines (USSG), for example, do not distinguish by gender. Provide your data.

2. A woman can falsely accuse a man of rape or spousal abuse, and he'll be instantly presumed guilty; the law will by default take her side.

Alas, no, as first- and second-year law students get to learn. On the contrary, the woman is often unofficially placed on trial. If deemed "a slut", or otherwise "asking for it", and what c*nt isn't, you know, her attacker will go free and her life is ruined.

3. Women get everything in divorce settlements. Always.

Anything with "always" or "invariably" in a remark about the law is almost surely wrong. It's not at all uncommon these days for divorcing parties to sell the house and split the proceeds. That said, yes, women are more likely to be presumptively the proper parent for primary custody of children (and the attendant child support - and where do you think child support goes, for Mom's trips to Tahiti? No, to support the child), even though, as women, we earn between 70 and 80 cents to you masculine dollar. Both of those facts can be connected to sexist assumptions about proper child-rearing roles and a woman's "place".

4. Women are overcompensated in sexual harrassment lawsuits-an immature joke or gesture does not entitle you to a ten million dollar settlement.

Provide your data. And while you're at it, how many women don't report harrassment (or worse) because they know the system is against them?

Consider this: Rapists in the ranks: Sexual assaults are frequent, and frequently ignored, in the armed services.

5. Girls get more attention in school than boys do.

Bullshit. Boys are so used to getting the bulk of the attention, that when teachers start actually treating boys and girls equally, boys perceive the situation incorrectly, and see that equal time as unequal. See, e.g., Tanenbaum, L. (1994, July 28). Hey, Teach! The Nation, 280-284.

6. TV sitcoms stereotype men as idiots.

Yes, they do seem to. You, as a man, should do something about it. Don't expect me to clean things up for you, that's just pandering to the stereotype if you do that, isn't it? How about starting by asking yourself why the childlike male and mommy-like female is such an enduring icon. Is your mother the only woman in the world, ever? Why?

7. Violence perpetuated by women against men is seen as acceptable.

Provide your data.

If women ran the world, would we have less representation in government, less money, be told we have to hide ourselves at night to be safe, be demonized by various religions, and all the other crap we alternately fight and put up with daily?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Waterboarding is Officially Torture

As if anyone but a Bush toady had doubts: U.N. says waterboarding should be prosecuted as torture

"I would have no problems with describing this practice as falling under the prohibition of torture," the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, told a news conference in Mexico City.

Arbour made her comment in response to a question about whether U.S. officials could be tried for the use of waterboarding that referred to CIA director Michael Hayden telling Congress on Tuesday his agency had used waterboarding on three detainees captured after the September 11 attacks.

Violators of the U.N. Convention against Torture should be prosecuted under the principle of 'universal jurisdiction' which allows countries to try accused war criminals from other nations, Arbour said.

We're right up there with Latin American dictatorships in the 70s and 80s. Yes, dictatorships. "Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s were known to use waterboarding on political prisoners."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Meaning of Feminism

M. LeBlanc over at Bitch Ph.D's blog writes about an epiphany from her own sense of surprise over arriving at a band's show and finding out the band is all female:

But in all this trying, all this thinking and learning and analyzing, I never understood something the way I had that night. I looked at these women of the band, these forceful, beautiful, human beings, and I cried. I cried, because seeing them shocked me. The scale of thousands of years of the oppression of women flashed before my eyes, like I was dying.

I thought of the billions of women who have lived and are living. I thought of women raped and forced into slavery, sold for money, held in subjugation. I thought of the sheer numbers of women, which is to say, nearly all of them, who were told explicitly or implicitly that they couldn't do something they wanted to do, because of their sex. Told that they were less smart, less capable, less strong, less worthy, less important than their brothers. Women who didn't go to school because resources were limited and funds were saved for their brothers' education. Women who dropped out of school to care for their siblings. Women who were beaten by their husbands or fathers, women fired for being too sexy or not sexy enough. Women ignored or silenced, women whose writings disappeared because they never existed or never mattered. Women who died trying to terminate a pregnancy. Women, all of them, who feel that they are not worth loving because they do not conform to impossible ideals of beauty, women who hate their bodies, women who starve themselves to death, women who refuse to live their lives the way they want for fear of being scorned because they are not acceptable. Women insulted, abused, downtrodden, scared. Women, all of them, limited by the forces outside them that keep them small and quiet.

If there is anything I can do with my life and my career, to lift women out of poverty and shame, to help them live as full human beings, to take away the shackles of oppression and free them, to exercise their power to live complete, unafraid, glorious lives, I will do it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bush: Lies: War

Study: Falsehoods Preceded Iraq War

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top Administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and Administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaeda or both. "It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaeda," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews. "The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Just to Prove How Bizarre I Can Be

I was on the subway the other day, and nosyparker that I am, I always look to see what other people are reading. A woman was reading a book titled "God's Footprints", and the image on the cover was sort of a more modern-looking version (though I can't tell you how) of an Irish trinity symbol, done in black and white.

Being a sick, sick creature, myself, MY first thought was that this image looked like the footprint of ED-209 from Robocop. See!? Look at ED's feet!

So, there you have it. Life's mysteries revealed: God is ED-209.

Monday, January 21, 2008

WWWomen Moves to New URL

The Web, by Women, for Women website is moving to Please adjust your view of the universe accordingly.

While both the WWWomen and 3rd WWWave web projects are predominantly in maintenance mode, I remain stunned by and proud of what 6 pissed-off women can do with just words. We still get email today from

  • emerging feminists, with a happy cry of recognition
  • angry men or women trying to use the Bible to make us feel bad
  • angry men or women trying to use the Koran to make us feel bad (quite a bit rarer)
  • average Jills happy to see a group of women with a casual attitude toward discussing women's bodies out in front of everybody. We're not dirty, and we resent like hell anyone who tries to make us feel that way.
  • scholars & editors wanting reprints of specific articles for books, magazines, or other projects

I'm damn proud. I was a pissed-off feminist in my 20s with an actual Real Woman's Body(tm), and I'm a pissed-off feminist in my 30s with an actual Real Woman's Body(tm) today.

Both projects I think of as a product of the 90s, though 3rd WWWave was more of a millennial work, and while each of us six contributors have moved on to various and sundry things (renewed study, both formal and informal, writing in other venues, life, etc.) none of us have lost our connection with or support of each other in our chosen endeavors.

Web, by Women, for Women, and The 3rd WWWave of Feminism, I salute you, and stand by my younger self's words. And I'll add some new ones, today:

Women are real people, with real body parts.
Women have sex, and sexual desire.
Sometimes women get pregnant.
Mystery about women's bodies isn't some spiffy "mystique". Ignorance kills.
Patriarchy sucks. Hard.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Cat That Controls New Hampshire Voting Machine Programming

Reprinted by permission.


Please distribute widely, Digg, Blog, reprints, get this to the media, etc.

A YouTube video from Black Box Voting that you won't soon forget:


John Silvestro and his small private business, LHS Associates, has exclusive programming contracts for ALL New Hampshire voting machines, which combined will count about 81 percent of the vote in the primary. And as to Super Tuesday and beyond: Silvestro also has the programming contracts for the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

Silvestro IS the New Hampshire chain of custody in New England -- Or at least, a very large component in it.

Last fall, with the help of citizens like you, Black Box Voting began working on "Chain of Custody" projects, in which we identified some of the areas of concern that might affect many jurisdictions at once. First on the list for the Northeast U.S. is LHS Associates, a vendor with inside access to every memory card, as well as to the chips containing the "brain" of the Diebold optical scan machines.


In an unusual confluence of available video, we obtained footage of Silvestro grappling with Harri Hursti, the master hacker who had his way with the Diebold optical scans in Leon County, Florida in the famous exploit that was showcased in the film Hacking Democracy.

The exact same make, model and version hacked in the Black Box Voting project in Leon County is used throughout New Hampshire, where about 45 percent of elections administrators hand count paper ballots at the polling place, with the remaining locations all using the Diebold version 1.94w optical scan machine. Because the voting machine locations tend to be urban, this represents about 81 percent of the New Hampshire voters.

The video shows Harri Hursti testifying on Sept. 19 before the New Hampshire legislature, attempting to explain significant vulnerabilities requiring urgent mitigations; throughout his testimony, Silvestro inserted his own comments, opinions, misstatements and speculations.


One area of disagreement between Hursti and Silvestro was the amount of expertise needed to exploit the Diebold 1.94w optical scan system. Silvestro claimed (in a strange contortion of reasoning) that he doesn't hire very skilled programmers, implying that this makes New Hampshire elections more secure.

Hursti pointed out that hiring programmers with a lack of knowledge is generally not considered a security feature, and also that an average high schooler can learn to exploit the system in two days to two weeks.


Black Box Voting purchased a Diebold optical scan with 1.94w firmware, and chose a computer repair shop out of the phone book, took it in, grabbed the first available technician. It took him less than 10 minutes to zero in on the memory card as a point of critical vulnerability -- and oh my, did he point out some other intersting things!


Silvestro tries to claim that the security problems have been fixed in newer editions. Whether or not they have been, it's a moot point in New Hampshire where the upgrade is not made unless the Ballot Law Commission meets, and they have not met for ages.

Silvestro then points to extraordinary measures taken by other states to enact special procedural safeguards, but of course none of those were implemented in New Hampshire either, because the Ballot Law Commission has not bothered to meet since March 2006.


Not only that, they have turned all the programming over to a sole source private company, taking vote counting for 81 percent of New Hampshire citizens out of the public domain.

LHS is not subject to public records requirements, as the government is, at least, not in New Hampshire. The control over memory card contents is absolute; when cards malfunction or get lost, LHS brings the replacements.


Since LHS maintains the machines, repairs the machines, and replaces the machines -- often on Election Day -- when they malfunction, they have intimate access to the chips, sockets, ports, communications devices and other electronic components.

Silvestro stated that the chip has "read only memory" and cannot be reprogrammed without frying it under ultraviolet light overnight.

Hursti never had a chance to examine the hardware, nor have most of the recent university studies had access. But our friendly neighborhood computer repair guy differed with Silvestro on the point of plug & play reprogramming of the guts of the machine.

After I push the button to send this message out to the media and the citizenry, I'll work on getting a short YouTube video of the Accuvote checkup by our local computer repairman. And before you say, "But wait! He's not a world class expert!" -- That's just the point.

Our local computer repairman may hit or miss on some of his analyses. You'll all be able to try your hand at second guessing him as soon as the next video is up. But if he hits even one of his ideas for how to exploit the machine to steal votes, that's all it takes. From someone who is not, certainly, a world class hacker or even a hacker at all.

I'll post the link to that in a follow up here: , and invite you techs to weigh in.

Please feel free to distribute, reprint or excerpt, with link to Black Box Voting and the video link above.

Bev Harris
Black Box Voting

* * * * *

This is the year to support Election protection actions:
or mail to:
Black Box Voting
330 SW 43rd St Suite K
PMB 547
Renton WA 98057

Donations over $45 receive the "Hacking Democracy" DVD as a gift.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Friday, January 04, 2008

"Helicopter Parents" -- Those Meddling Adults

Wow. This is insane.
The curse of the meddling parent: "Helicopter parents" who "hyperactively intervene" in the lives of their offspring could damage their children's job prospects

I agree with the article - as an employer or manager, you bet I want someone self-reliant.

I'm so glad I grew up before this trend. I've called it "styrofoaming" in the past, in conversations with friends, meaning the relentless insulation by parents of their children from every possible danger, and thus, quite a bit of life. But I think I like "helicopter parents" better.

Or, maybe here in the US it's better considered a form of isolationism, with parent as the border fence, border guards, searches, seizures, security theater, etc., and child as the protected territory. Hm.