from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

A long school day, coming to an end 

I am sitting in my temporary classroom, as my Mock trial team goes through their preparations for their first match tomorrow. More than half are new to Mock Trial, and they are not very well organized, but I admire their enthusiasm. I am serving as their "coach" because the long-time faculty sponsor withdrew at the last minute, and if I didn't agree they were not going to be able to compete. I actually wish I were not doing this, because I have had no break all year, beginning as I do with soccer in August.

POLITICS I think that there is really not much point in continuing to support Dean. I feel very frustrated at the campaign's unwillingness to spend any money on advertising in NM, because with just a bit they might have pulled it out. Further, the quality of the public presentations he has made are now beginning to turn me off - he is still far too reliant on stump speech - perhaps it is just that I would like to hear something with a little more life in it.

I am intrigued by the analysis I saw about the difference in results in NH between those jurisdictions with paper ballots versus those with electronic machine, and even the difference depending upon the type of machine. One cannot help but wonder, given how easy it is manipulate such machines, if there was anything like that occurring. If the figures presented were accurate, it should scare the hell out of democrats for the possibility of manipulation of results in the Fall. We have already seen more than a few cases (Senate election of Hagel, results in Georgia in 2002, some strange results in other places including Florida) that could lead one to be more than mildly suspicious that some kind of manipulation was occurring.

I still remember a piece in Washington Monthly perhaps ten years ago in which a caution was raised about the ability to manipulate the results of elections held on computers. I also remember the responses I got at a conference of ACM perhaps 20 years ago (it was 1984): the respondees were Carl Hammer, former chief computer scientist for Univac, and Dr. Ruth Davis, who had been Asst SecDef for technology under Carter. I asked if outside access were allowed to a computer if either one could posit a guarantee that people could be assured the computer was safe from outside manipulation. They looked at one another, both shook their heads, and both responded that if there is an outside line to a computer, by definition that computer is not secure, that it could only be made somewhat less insecure.

All voting methods are subject to some degree of manipulation. But a computer with no paper trail has no possibility of further audit. If the only recordation is within the computer itself, there is no backup, and basic computer practices would say that such is not acceptable even in a basic accounting system. And yet we are moving pell-mell to replace other methods with such unaudited and uncontrolled electronic devices.

Ah, it may be too late to save the Republic. Still, when I come to that conclusion, then I will have to stop teaching Government.

FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.
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