Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Diebold: Keeping America Safe From Democracy

A new report is out by Harri Hursti, a computer programmer in Finland, who tested Diebold's machines to see if they could be hacked to alter election returns.

Hursti, in participation with BlackBoxVoting.org, has released a report which detail several vulnerabilities with the Diebold machines - now the most used machines in the United States.

In short, Hursti's report says that the machines can easily be compromised if a hacker has a few minutes of time with the machine. Compromises can be very difficult to detect. In the process of "installing" updates to the software, malicious code could be written into the install and the machine would still report a successful installation of updates. The hack could cause the machines to fail to work or, worse, alter votes without anyone detecting the comprised vote.

So, today, which is a day of voting in New York for local school boards and school propositions, I thank my lucky stars that I'm still voting on those fantastic, old 2 ton pull-lever voting machines.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Faulting David Horowitz

A group called Free Exchange on Campus has produced a document countering the many baseless claims Horowitz makes in his book The Professors. The find many niggly little errors, such as that only 100 professors are profiled in the book (Horowitz claims that there's actually 103 profiled, because he discusses 3 in his introduction). They also find more weighty problems, such as a lack of any evidence supporting his claim that conservative students are being punished by liberal professors by lowering their grades.

Thank goodness. I think some academics would prefer to just ignore Horowitz on the hopes that he would just go away. But, he's not likely to do that, and it's better that the claims get countered than to let them stand.

Academia, intellectually, is about falsifying, truth telling, and producing compelling argument. It's time we tell the truth and let it speak louder than Horowitz.

For more info, there's a good story in Inside Higher Ed this morning.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

When Rumsfeld Lied 2,414 Died and Thousands Injured (and it's not over yet)

After watching my pre-recorded episodes of the Simpsons last night, I flipped through the channels looking for something to watch as I stalled going to bed. I landed on C-SPAN, which was showing a purple heart award ceremony. Seven men and women stood in front of the dias in their military fatigues to receive the award, their family members by their sides. Two men were in wheel chairs; a woman walked with a prosthetic leg. As the medals were awarded, family members softly wept. I did too.

This is not news, but it's worth being said: The war in Iraq has taken a terrible toll on our military members and their families. And, I found myself asking as I watched last night: To what end?

When Donald Rumsfeld beat the drum for war in 2002 and early 2003, I was doubtful of his claims of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq and his claims of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. Now, more than three years later, the press is finally highlighting the claims made before war and the reality that we now face - no weapons, no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, massive loss of life and limb of Americans sent to "liberate" Iraqi people and of the Iraqis we're supposed to be liberating.

Times Union reporter Eric Rosenberg wrote an article that was published this morning (in the paper but not on their website) that details the claims Rumsfeld made before we went to war and the claims he's made since, denying the original claims.

At a forum in Atlanta last Thursday, Rumsfeld was challenged by a questioner. The questioner claimed that Rumsfeld had lied when he said that he knew where the weapons were located in Iraq in the days leading up the war. Rumself replied
"I did not. I said I knew where 'suspect' sites were."
But Rosenberg's investigation on Rumsfeld's claims in 2002 and 2003 prove otherwise:
On March 30, 2003, 11 days into the war, Rumsfeld was asked in an ABC News interview if he was surprised that American forces had not yet found any weapons of mass destruction.

"Not at all," Rumsfeld said, according to an official Pentagon transcript. "The area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat."
Well, not exactly.

So, because of the deception, the claims of certainty that Hussein threatened the security of the United States, we went to war. But, the claims were false, and the war our men and women continue to fight is premised on false assumptions.

We can tell ourselves that we're fighting a war on terror, but it feels to me that we're fighting figments of Donald Rumsfeld's imagination. And the price we pay for that fight is precious life.