Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Absentee voting - Thursday morning

While I wish I had more time, I'll be sending out my absentee ballot on Thursday morning, to make sure it gets where it needs to go in plenty of time. Consider this your 36-hour timer for convincing me to vote differently. :-)

Even after I send out my absentee ballot, I hope to keep monitoring and posting as long as is relevant (likely at least through November 10th or so, but I'm open to longer).

6 ways I would love to improve this blog

1) Really dive deep into each ballot item. While I'm happy with the discussions and progress that got started, I still don't feel like I'm on a foundation that's taken all considerations into account in making my best decisions.

2) Engage the candidates directly, both on their candidacy and on their stances on each propositions. Post the transcripts here for discussion. To cover even just the key candidates in my region though, would take a few extra trustworthy "feet on the street."

3) Collect real-time data on candidates and propositions. Based on current data, who holds the lead in each race, and by how much? How are each of the propositions tallying up so far? Real-time monitoring so you can watch trends etc. I don't need to host them here, but I wish I knew of those resources to add to my "Voter Tools" section.

4) Expand to the "real world." I think maybe 40% of people out there have even really given a hard look at the candidates and propositions yet, and of those, maybe 40% of them (16% of total) have searched online to investigate further. Now the likelihood of finding this blog... how best to increase awareness to folks that hold significant sway but are currently several steps away from this site.

5) Get more online visibility and community contribution. This is techy - just optimizing our presence in search engines, blog searches, articles, etc.

6) Make this a group blog. This is too much work for me to do alone, and I think a few rational voices would not only round out the site, it would also make many hands for lighter work. (This means you, Norkizzle :-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Scary: How to steal an election


Over the course of almost eight years of reporting for Ars Technica, I've followed the merging of the areas of election security and information security, a merging that was accelerated much too rapidly in the wake of the 2000 presidential election. In all this time, I've yet to find a good way to convey to the non-technical public how well and truly screwed up we presently are, six years after the Florida recount. So now it's time to hit the panic button: In this article, I'm going to show you how to steal an election.

Now, I won't be giving you the kind of "push this, pull here" instructions for cracking specific machines that you can find scattered all over the Internet, in alarmingly lengthy PDF reports that detail vulnerability after vulnerability and exploit after exploit. (See the bibliography at the end of this article for that kind of information.) And I certainly won't be linking to any of the leaked Diebold source code, which is available in various corners of the online world. What I'll show you instead is a road map to the brave new world of electronic election manipulation, with just enough nuts-and-bolts detail to help you understand why things work the way they do.

Along the way, I'll also show you just how many different hands touch these electronic voting machines before and after a vote is cast, and I'll lay out just how vulnerable a DRE-based elections system is to what e-voting researchers have dubbed "wholesale fraud," i.e., the ability of an individual or a very small group to steal an entire election by making subtle changes in the right places.

So let's get right down to business and meet the tools that we're going to use to flip a race in favor of our preferred candidate.

Let's throw some flamebait on the grill, a little from each side

Perspective 1:
Perspective 2: Ten Good Reasons to Vote GOP

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Changing my Treasurer vote: Mehul M. Thakker

Based on the information here and here, I decided to change my vote for Treasurer to Mehul M. Thakker.

Create your own voter guide

I chose to structure the "Improve The Vote" site the way I did because I wanted to give people a forum for each individual issue or candidate. However, if you'd like a lower-maintenance way of creating your own voter guide out and pointing people to it, I'd encourage you to try out this site:

http://theballot.org/ (thanks Steve at gokubi.com!)

Here's one I put together for this Improve The Vote site, and I'll maintain it with the latest and greatest choices and reasons, summarized from the rolling blog postings here.

Here's someone's California voter guide they put together - more than a couple significant differences from my choices, but hopefully the different perspectives will lead to the best choices come November 7th.

Two more great video sites about the candidates

Video Voter: 2006 Statewide Candidate Statements

Cable's Free Airtime project

Benchmarks for Iraq

Here is the full transcript of Bush's Iraq press conference. I had apparently missed this part:

Q: In the past, Democrats and other critics of the war who talked about benchmarks and timetables were labeled as defeatists, Defeatocrats, or people who wanted to cut and run.So why shouldn't the American people conclude that this is nothing from you other than semantic, rhetoric games and all politics two weeks before an election?

BUSH: There is a significant difference between benchmarks for a government to achieve and a timetable for withdrawal.You're talking about _ when you're talking about the benchmarks, he's talking about the fact that we're working with the Iraqi government to have certain benchmarks to meet as a way to determine whether or not they're making the hard decisions necessary to achieve peace.I believe that's what you're referring to. And we're working with the Iraqi government to come up with benchmarks.Listen, this is a sovereign government. It was elected by the people of Iraq. What we're asking them to do is, When do you think you're going to get this done? When can you get this done? _ so the people themselves in Iraq can see that the government is moving forward with a reconciliation plan and plans necessary to unify this government.

He was so close to a good answer - if he had just been able to give an example or two to give confidence in the benchmarks that might be set...

Cheney: Hillary Could Win In '08, Obama Is 'Attractive,' But Inexperienced

Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday he thinks Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton could win the presidency. He said voters might view Sen. Barack Obama as too inexperienced.

Full article here.

Bush: Timetable Means Defeat

President Bush said Wednesday that mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq are a "serious concern," but again refused to set a timetable for pulling out American troops.

Video here.

Bush's Iraq press conference

Just got done watching President Bush's press conference on Iraq - see some tidbits here (bias warning) and here.

I find myself at distinct odds with both the President and the Democrats on this issue, and I wonder if it's just me or not. From my personal experience in the corporate world, I have yet to see a project that doesn't have the potential to be managed well, but neither option I'm seeing considered at our highest levels is even close to ideal.

I completely disagree with the mass abandonment of Iraq that lots of Democrats seem to push for, but I also distrust Bush's refusal to put together a timeline, or at least the key deliverable gates that will determine when we shift into a next phase. And go one step further - detail how those deliverable gates fit into our overarching goals of stability and a phased withdrawal from Iraq, so that if an approach starts not to work well, we can consider adapting a different approach/timeline while driving in measurable ways toward the same consistent goal.

We deal with situations that are either decently structured or lead to dissatisfaction every day in the business world, and while that structuring does take work, it's not rocket science. If either party were to put forward a clear project plan on Iraq that meets our goals and shows how we'll measure success, they'd have my vote and the vote of everyone in my circle of influence.

On a related note, I think the members of the press that were there deserve some big kudos - I don't think I heard a single soft question. It was a refreshing alternative to other "correspondents" in the media.

Senate could be evenly split once again


Expected Democratic gains in the election raise the possibility that the Senate, for the second time in six years, will end up in a 50-50 tie.

Great web videos of debates

I love this video series, thanks to CBS5 and the Chronicle for putting this together. A few things in particular were of note:

1) Arnold didn't show up to debate against Phil Angelides. Probably figures he doesn't need to.

2) I know Republicans are supposed to get punished for the current situation and all, but Steve Poizner (R) completely destroys Cruz Bustamante (D) the entire interview, it's amazing to see. He's positive, he's organized, he's tough - if he's normally this good, I'd vote for him twice if I could. Who'd have thought the race that would get me the most jazzed about candidates is for Insurance Commissioner.

3) The attorney general one is impassioned, but it really made me not want to vote for either one of these guys.

My voting intentions weren't changed much viewing these, but my choices were reconfirmed and I do have a better feel for each candidate.

Lt. Governor Candidates Debate On CBS5.com
(CBS 5) SAN FRANCISCO On Monday, California's lieutenant governor candidates, Democrat John Garamendi and Republican Tom McClintock, debated before the San Francisco Chronicle's Editorial board at the CBS 5 studios in San Francisco.The meeting was the last in a series of webcasted forums here on CBS5.com that the Chronicle's editorial board has held with various candidates for state office.

Previous Debates/Candidate Appearances:
Secretary of State candidates Debra Bowen and Bruce McPherson
Gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides
Insurance Commissioner Candidates Bustamante, Poizner
Controller Candidates Chiang, Strickland
Attorney General Candidates Brown, Poochigian

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

And since I'm already not giving the love tonight...

Here's a Joe Lieberman update.


Put Cruz out of business

Just wanted to provide at least one reason for my disgust toward Cruz:


Interactive Senate game

Okay, you can do the House too but that's just way too much time investment.

This could be a great tool for figuring out where to focus your get-out-the-vote efforts though. My questions is, why are there some seats that don't have Democratic contenders? Are they ineligible, or were those seats just basically handed to Republicans without a fight? Seems like that would be a really stupid strategic blunder.

Below are my guesses, with the detail card at the bottom left as the most obvious Dem one that I think will actually go to the Republicans. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Here's the thing though - even in my little simulation, who's the one selfish person who screws it up for everyone, again? The guy in the top left - Joe Lieberman. There's a handful of politicians for whom this seems to be becoming habit, damaging your own side's efforts (I'm looking at you too, Ralph Nader).

Play for yourself, but don't expect to submit unless you fill out all the House seats too: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/interactives/madness/

More perspective...

From this fellow.

Proposition 84: Water Quality, Safety and Supply. Flood Control. Natural Resource Protection. Park Improvements. Bonds. Initiative Statute.

NO. Unfortunately a wasteful bond. It seems only 15% would go toward flood control, while millions will go toward the special interest groups who put this prop on the ballot. The measure exempts itself from the Administrative Procedures Act, bypassing the competitive bidding system, and it prevents audits by the State Controller, State Auditor, and the Legislative Analyst. This initiative would spend billions without effective oversight. See similar prop, 1E.

I get where he's coming from on Prop 85 too, but just can't back it against the damage I think it would bring in reality.

He brings up a good point on Prop 86 too:

Hospitals would receive a special exemption from antitrust laws, giving them legal protection to divvy up and limit many medical services, as well as raise prices on those services without worrying about competition - putting no limits on what hospitals can bill taxpayers for emergency services for the uninsured.

Not only that, but does that mean the emergency services could be exorbitant for anything that might qualify as smoking-related? And where would that line be drawn if so?

Another interesting perspective

I like this fellow's analyses for consideration, too.

Well, it looks like it's coming up on election time, again, so I'm going to try for a third striaght election season to blog on the Props. Yes, I read through the 119 page Voter's Guide, so YOU DON'T HAVE TO!

I'm going to try to prepare my own thoughts on each of the Props, at least one every day or so. My format, so's you know, is that everything I write down to "My Take" is an effort to be non-partisan. Some of the background is taken from the Legislative Analyst's report, but as much as possible, the analysis of what the Prop actually does is taken from the text of the bill itself.

Everything below "My Take" is blatantly partisan, biased, and purely my reaction and opinion. Read it as you would any other political position.

Prop 1A-Transportation Funding Protection.

Prop 1B-Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006

Prop 1C - Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006

Prop 1D - Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Act of 2006

Prop 1E - Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006

Google Earth voter guide

Very cool.

If you’ve already turned on the guide as a layer in Google Earth, you might already have noticed the patriotic stars now adorning the U.S. map. There’s one for every congressional district. Click on the star and it opens a set of links to useful voter tools.

Interesting summary post similar to this site's compartments

I've listed out who I'm going to vote for and why, as well as how I'm going to vote on the various propositions. I'm not that thrilled about my choices for the state wide offices. Democrats keep nominating the same few people for state-wide office, and those people don't do a good job at representing my interests even though I'm a fairly liberal individual. At the same time, I don't agree at all with the Republicans, and none of the third party candidates will win.

Read his full post here.

I agreed with lots of this fellow's assessments, and liked the work Kevin Shelley did while in office on providing clearer voting clarity. Unless I hear any active counter-endorsements for Bruce McPherson, I'll follow Grant's lead on voting for Debra Bowen for Secretary of State. I think he's off a little on Prop1A (you can take a two-prong approach) and others, but if I were to post all of them this would get very long, very quickly.

Maybe he or others will participate on an item by item basis on this site?

Prop 86 perspective: Paying for other people's problems?

David of "The Good Human" blog has an interesting No on Proposition 86 perspective (hefty cigarette tax):

Sure, smoking is bad for you. But should a smoker have to subsidize helping people lose weight, the research of assorted other ailments, and help hospitals become exempt from antitrust laws? Thats just not right. And you that will vote yes on it because its about smoking, your vice might be next years proposition 86. Like fast food? That Big Mac might cost you $7.00 to fund Weight Watchers for others that cant stop eating.
I think lots of taxes (including gas) are already structured this way, but I could be wrong. Would I be willing to pay $7.00 for an extra-taxed Big Mac to help fund programs for out-of-control fast food eaters? I think maybe so, yeah - will have to chew on it (ha!) more.

Maybe I can swing him on Prop 87 in the meantime. ;-)

And GreenLAGirl disagrees - here's her "Yes on 86" perspective.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

State Senator, District 10: Ellen Corbett

Lou Filipovich, Republican
Ellen Corbett, Democratic

U.S. Rep, District 11 (Pleasanton): Jerry McNerney

United States Representative; District 11 Voter Information

United States Senator: Dianne Feinstein (D)

United States Senator Voter Information

Measure P (Pleasanton Bernal Park Phase 2): Yes

  • MEASURE P: Bernal Property Phase II Land Use Plan -- City of Pleasanton (Initiative Ordinance)
    City of Pleasanton Bernal Property Phase II Land Use Plan Initiative Ordinance. Shall the Bernal Property Phase II Land Use Plan, comprised of the "grand park" design concept, as adopted by the City Council, be ratified?

"Today, as a conceptual plan for Bernal moves forward, only one use has been approved by the council: three baseball fields in what will be a 10-field sports park on the eastern edge of the site near the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Work on those fields, two to be lighted for league play and one designated as a practice field, will begin this fall with the first games likely to be played late next year.

'I call it an illustrative plan,' said consultant Wayne Rasmussen, who is a former principal planner for Pleasanton. Pointing to different sectors of the plan, he showed sites designated for a cultural arts center, community center, teen center, 4-H club demonstration farm, wetlands,
meadows and picnic grounds."


Sounds good to me.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Candidate for Board of Equalization: Betty Yee (D)

State Board of Equalization; District 1 Voter Information
Betty Yee (D) was the only one listed in the voter's guide, but at least I liked what she said. However, the following candidates were not listed in the voter's guide:

David Campbell (Peace and Freedom)
David Neighbors (R)
Kennita Watson (Libertarian)

Need to research further.

Candidate for Insurance Commissioner: Anyone except Cruz Bustamante

Insurance Commissioner; State of California Voter Information

Please God, anyone except Cruz - pure snake in the grass, as became evident in the recall election.

Tom Condit (Peace and Freedom) and Larry Cafiero (Green) both didn't speak to me much, so I'm left with these candidates who didn't have anything in the voter's guide:

Jay Earl Brown (American Independent)
Dale Ogden (Libertarian)
Steve Poizner (R)

Need to research further.

Candidate for Attorney General: Jerry Brown (D) or Chuck Poochigian (R)

Attorney General; State of California Voter Information

This is a wierd one - I didn't agree with any of the three candidates in the voter's guide (though it's always ...interesting... to see a Libertarian who's an absolutist on the right to bear arms!).

So I need to research the other two:

Jerry Brown (D)
Chuck Poochigian (R)

Candidate for Treasurer: Claude Parrish (R)

Treasurer; State of California Voter Information
Based on the voter's guide, Claude Parrish ranked the best. For each of the candidates I go with, I'll come back and describe further research against their competitors (and I may switch along the way!).

Candidate for Controller: John Chiang (D)

Controller; State of California Voter Information
The best candidate from the voter's guide was John Chiang, but Laura Wells also seemed like a potential choice.

Candidates for Secretary of State: Debra Bowen (D) or Bruce McPherson (R)

Secretary of State; State of California Voter Information

From the voter's guide, both of these are good candidates:

Debra Bowen (D)
Bruce McPherson (R)

None of the others really said anything to me. I need to research further to narrow it down.

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor: John Garamendi (D)

Lieutenant Governor; State of California Voter Information

Based on the California General Election booklet I got and follow-up research, the primary candidate I would vote for is John Garamendi. Tom McClintock (R) was a good read in the voter's guide, but upon further research seems like a snake in the grass. My choice: Tom McClintock (D). I hope that he will be able to work well with Arnold.

My vote for Governor: Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

Governor; State of California Voter Information
Based on the California General Election booklet I got and previous perceptions, the only two candidates I would vote for are:

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican (but he's pretty moderate)
Art Olivier, Libertarian

Proposition 90 (eminent domain restrictions): YES

  • Proposition 90 Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property
    Should the California Constitution be amended to require government to pay property owners for substantial economic losses resulting from some new laws and rules, and limit government authority to take ownership of private property?
I don't care who you are or how meager it is, if you purchased your home, you should have the right to hold on to it. While I understand the goals of developers and community improvement efforts, I don't think that gives the government the right to drive right over the homeowners without adequately compensating them for their investment.

Proposition 89 (campaign finance): YES

  • Proposition 89 Political Campaigns. Public Financing. Corporate Tax Increase. Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Limits
    Should eligible candidates for state elective offices receive public campaign funding that is supported by new taxes on corporations and financial institutions, and should contribution limits be imposed on those candidates that do not receive public campaign funding?
I don't see a single thing I don't like about this proposition, which makes me nervous. ;-) Truly, while it would of course allow the same negative campaigns we currently see, it would also open up the playing field to other candidates that might use more positive tactics. I hope to speak to representatives from both sides to confirm my choice.

Proposition 88 (property tax for education): NO

  • Proposition 88 Education Funding. Real Property Parcel Tax
    Should the California Constitution be amended to levy an annual $50 real property tax on most parcels with the funds allocated to five K-12 education programs?
I'd need to research the needs and effectiveness of each of the programs this would benefit, but my initial vote is No. The last thing we need is to make it even more difficult for people to live in their own home in California.

I do like the exemption of elderly and disabled homeowners from the tax, and will look for that in future legislation.

Proposition 87 (Alternative Energy): NO

  • Proposition 87 Alternative Energy. Research, Production, Incentives. Tax on California Oil Producers
    Should California establish a $4 billion Clean Alternative Energy Program to reduce California's oil and gasoline consumption by 25 percent through incentives for alternative energy, education, and training?
$4 billion program, but not focused where I assumed it would be. Instead of reducing dependence on foreign oil, this actually adds massive taxes on California oil producers. It's not important to me that they don't pay taxes in California but they do in Alaska and Texas - this would be a step toward pushing their business away from California, instead of away from foreign oil producers (and bringing more revenue from within our country's borders).

At some point it will be time to focus on the oil cartel within our borders, but I don't think it should be a top priority for this election cycle with so many other priorities. This was the one Proposition that I thought I knew how I would vote without even doing any reading, but that turned out not to be the case.

Proposition 86 (big cigarette tax): YES

  • Proposition 86 Tax on Cigarettes
    Should the state impose an additional tax of $2.60 per cigarette pack to fund new and expanded health services, health insurance for children, and expand tobacco use prevention programs?
Need to see how this money will be broken down via HMO's etc. to make sure it's ethical, but the money saved on future health care (and plus I just hate being around cigarettes :-) gets a Yes from me.

Proposition 85 (Parent approval for abortions): NO

  • Proposition 85 Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor's Pregnancy
    Should the California Constitution be amended to require notification of the parent or legal guardian of an unemancipated pregnant minor at least 48 hours before performing an abortion?
I plan to vote No on this for several strong reasons:
1) It's after the fact (won't reduce teen pregnancy)
2) It assumes that the parents in teen pregnancy situations are mature caretakers
3) Could cause a delay in important medical care while the parents get involved.

Proposition 84 (resources/conservation): YES

  • Proposition 84 Water Quality, Safety and Supply. Flood Control. Natural Resource Protection. Park Improvements
    Should the state issue $5.4 billion in bonds for a wide variety of projects related to water safety, rivers, beaches, levees, watersheds, and parks and forests?
Lots of good measurable efforts, good endorsements - I'm okay with the $5 billion bond for this one (even though they have the "no new taxes" falsity).

Proposition 83 (Sex offenders): NO

  • Proposition 83 Sex Offenders. Sexually Violent Predators. Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring
    Should California amend existing laws relating to violent and habitual sex offenders and child molesters to increase penalties and monitoring?
A lot of the text that got strikethroughs are things that I think are reasonable, or that I would need to see the actual penal code ("in violation of section 264.1", but doesn't say what that is, etc.). Goes to far in my opinion - at some point after a conviction, serving their time and potential rehabilitation, we have to give people a chance to try to live a normal life instead of spending money to treat them like criminals for the rest of their lives.

Proposition 1E (Disaster and Flood Bond): NO

  • Proposition 1E Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention
    Should the state sell $4.1 billion in general obligation bonds to finance disaster preparedness and flood prevention projects at the state and local levels?
Over $4 billion of bond debt ("without raising taxes!"). I need to research how true the need for and effectiveness of each of these are (vulnerablility of flood control structures, delta levees, etc.), but my initial vote is No. I'd also like to find out the geographical distribution this would be likely to have, and how much local projects could realistically be funded locally and how much the state government (and our state taxes) should help out with.

Proposition 1D (K12 facilities revamping): NO

  • Proposition 1D Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities
    Should the state sell $10.4 billion in general obligation bonds to fund repair and upgrade of public schools, including kindergarten through grade 12, community colleges, and state universities?
Almost $10.5 billion of bond debt ("without raising taxes!"). I need to research how true the need for and effectiveness of each of these are (overcrowding, earthquake upgrading) and what the geographic distribution would likely look like, but my initial vote is No. It also appears that a good portion of those funds will go toward vocational education and the community college system, when I'd rather primarily target the K-12, UC, and CSU systems instead.

Proposition 1C (Housing, Emergency Shelter): NO

  • Proposition 1C Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006
    Should the state sell $2.9 billion in general obligation bonds to fund housing for lower-income residents and development in urban areas near public transportation?

Almost $3 billion of bond debt ("without raising taxes!"). I need to research how true the need for and effectiveness of each of these are (more emergency shelters, more affordable homes for seniors/fosters, more social services for homeless), but my initial vote is No.

Update: This fellow's perspective solidies my stance some.

Proposition 1B (Transportation): NO

  • Proposition 1B Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security
    Should the state sell $19.9 billion in general obligation bonds to fund state and local transportation improvement projects to relieve congestion, improve movement of goods, improve air quality, and enhance safety and security of the transportation system?
I like the concepts in general, but $19.9 billion - whoo, that's quite a price tag given our state's current financial situation. Not only that, but it's got the dangerous "and we'll do it all without raising taxes!" argument due to being funded by a bond. It never ends up true, particularly with a bond of that magnitude, and we need to get our debt back in line.

Proposition 1A (Fuel tax specific usage): YES

  • Proposition 1A Transportation Funding Protection
    Should the California Constitution be amended to further protect the state sales tax revenues for transportation purposes from general-purpose use and require any funds borrowed to be repaid to the transportation fund?
Gas taxes should be spent on transportation improvements. Yes, we also have education, health care, and disaster relief priorities, but they should pull from funds specifically geared to that purpose. If needs are not being met there, get actionable items on the ballots going forward - but don't try to pull from areas that voters intended for a specific use. If we want a specific amount of funds set aside specifically for discretionary spending, get it on the ballot.