Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Could Florida happen again?

Charles Stewart III of MIT and the Voting Technology Project in their milestone 100th Working Paper (emphasis added):

Nowadays, when I am asked “could Florida happen again?” I answer, “We won’t have any more problems of hanging chad, but I actually think the chance of a large-scale meltdown in many parts of the county are greater now than they were. I at least expect ‘another Florida’ in my lifetime.” The reason I answer this way is that innovation in the core technology of voting has failed to keep up with the challenges of the voting environment. At the same time, the “new” machines purchased with HAVA (Help America Vote Act) money have proven to have shorter life spans than initially estimated. Just as the pregnant chad problem was caused by the failure to keep up the maintenance of old technology that inevitably degrades, the “next Florida” is likely to come when a cash-strapped county somewhere in America lets its maintenance contract lapse, or fails to update its software in time.
In other words, low-tech human failures.

Animated map of nuclear explosions, 1945-1998

Here is a fascinating map animation that shows every detonation of a nuclear bomb through 1998, by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto. The Map Scroll posted this last fall when Boing Boing called attention to it and The New Yorker commented:

The New Yorker:

It is the sort of set of pictures that makes you want to read—to learn more, for example, about how it came to be that France exploded more than a tenth of those bombs (two hundred and ten); China blew up forty-five. Not that anyone was taking cover in Provence: if you don’t watch the icons above and below the map, you might think that Algeria, and not France, was the world’s fourth nuclear-armed power (and that Australia, not Britain, was the third). The Gerboise Bleue explosion, of a seventy-kiloton device, took place in 1960, in the Sahara desert, in the midst of the Algerian war; several others followed. (Later, after Algeria gained its independence, France’s tests moved to French Polynesia; its last one was in 1996.)

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Supreme Court Justices can be Corrupt Politicians Too

Few justices allow political ideology to influence their judicial opinions as Scalia and Thomas do.

Not only do we have Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices using their offices to promote ideological political agendas, but also hiding their politically funded income from public view.

Antonin Scalia is the latest to cross the line with an announcement that he plans to address the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. The New York Times editorial board accused Scalia of becoming a “Justice from the Tea Party,” for his planned participation in their caucus seminar. This isn’t Scalia’s first breach of court practices.

Scalia also spoke at a Koch Industries retreat, sponsored by two billionaire brothers with a history of supporting extreme right-wing positions.
Normally, when judges are personally involved in cases before the court, they recuse themselves because they cannot give an unbiased opinion when they have a conflict of interest. Supreme Court justices are legally exempt from this requirement, but few justices push their involvement with extremists as Scalia and Thomas have.