01001000 01100001 01101110 01110011 01100101 01101100 + 01000111 01110010 01100101 01110100 01100101 01101100

According to my sources, the above spells “Hansel + Gretel” in binary (base-2) code. This article is going to take a more technological slant and show how local political climates have welcomed easy-to-hack voting machines that may loose Texas’ democracy in the same way Hansel and Gretel lost their bread-crumb path.

In the wake of Florida’s recount mess, there has been a great deal of push to move the ballot from paper to electronics so that votes can be counted with ease and speed. The problem with the electronic solution is that it simply leaves a trail of 1s (ons) and 0s (offs) that can be picked up by a malicious hacker and be more readily lost than any paper trail, just as Hansel and Gretel’s bread-crumb scheme got them miserably lost. I am not against technology; in fact, I intend to pursue a career in electrical engineering. However, when technology has its limits, we must recognize them and not jeopardize the political future of this great state.

Multiple studies from Princeton University, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), and independent reports commissioned by states such as Maryland, Ohio, and California have concluded that electronic voting machine, particularly the popular Diebold machines, can be hacked by a determined team. These are high-quality studies that have been performed by experts and, to varying degrees, they show the risk in entrusting any vote solely to a pattern of 1s and 0s.

The Princeton study, probably the most independent yet fairly recent study, specifically focused on one of Diebold’s voting machines. It found multiple ways in which determined hackers could install malicious software on the machine that could completely alter the outcome of the election.

The very ironic thing about Diebold’s response to this study is that they nowhere claim that their new systems remove the problems these researchers found with the old ones, only that the machines are new, have the most advanced data encryption techniques, and that the old ones will not be used in another election. As explained by Professor Edward W. Felten, who lead Princeton’s research team: “Diebold made the same kinds of claims about this [older] version — claims that turned out to be wrong — that they are now making about their more recent versions.”

More than just three crazy computer scientists from Princeton are complaining. I found at least five other quality studies [*] which came to very similar conclusions; an electronic voting machine could be hacked by determined political activists. One such study from an independent corporation commissioned by the State of Maryland stated:

“This Risk Assessment has identified several high-risk vulnerabilities… If these vulnerabilities are exploited, significant impact could occur on the accuracy, integrity, and availability of election results.”


Because of the inherent hack-ability of a trail of 1s and 0s, it is important that Texas elections leave a paper trail; a trail that can be verified. A study from RABA, who was also commissioned by Maryland, concludes:

“Ultimately we feel there will be a need for paper receipts…” (p 3)

This is the solution I propose. Allow votes to be cast electronically, but make sure that the people can verify those votes with some kind of paper receipt that voters get to look at and personally verify.

Technology is a good thing in Texas politics, but we must not get so caught up in it that we loose our trail, just as Hansel and Gretel supposedly did.

*Quotes from, citations of, and bios for these studies will be posted later for those who are interested. [edit: see my comment on this post]

Definition

This post is going to be short. I just want to define two things for everyone so you aren’t fooled by political rhetoric.

  1. Bond (in the context of government, not Chemistry)-“a certificate of debt (usually interest-bearing or discounted) that is issued by a government or corporation in order to raise money; the issuer is required to pay a fixed sum annually until maturity and then a fixed sum to repay the principal”

A bond sounds great, and we’ll approve bonds easily to fund Austin schools. What about debt? Would we approve debt? I don’t think we would as regularly, which is why politicians resort to such political rhetoric to pass thier proposals.

  1. Debt-Slavery

Proverbs 22:7b rightly tells us: “…And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” (NSAB) I think we probably should take the advice of the wisest man to ever live, don’t you?

Read this article by my good friend Thomas Umstattd about why the federal government shouldn’t be borrowing and how we’ve got ourselves in a load of trouble because of it.

Global Warming: at Best a Hypothesis

ABC’s 20/20 has an excellent article on global warming that I found a while ago and was astounded by its depth.

John Stossel was told by Mr. Al Gore that “debate is over” when it comes to Global Warming. The former vice president wouldn’t even give the him an interview to explain why. Is Gore scared that his “science” might become unraveled if he was interviewed by a conservative commentator? Well, the debate most certainly is not over. Michael Savage has whole page on his website devoted to debunking the global warming myth.

Consensus is one thing that is not present in the Global Warming debate. Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute and John Christy who won NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Achievement were part of drafting a report from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. They quit after their objections were not respected. Stossel sums it up nicely:

In all the confusion surrounding the global warming debate, one thing is clear: Global warming activists don’t welcome the skepticism.

Here’s some skepticism for you. John Coleman, the original founder of the Weather Channel, calls global warming “the greatest scam in history.” as reported by ICECAP.

quote:

I have read dozens of scientific papers. I have talked with numerous scientists. I have studied. I have thought about it. I know I am correct. There is no run away climate change. The impact of humans on climate is not catastrophic. Our planet is not in peril. I am incensed by the incredible media glamour, the politically correct silliness and rude dismissal of counter arguments by the high priest of Global Warming.
In time, a decade or two, the outrageous scam will be obvious.

Not good enough? You don’t think a weatherman compares to a noble peace prize winner? Well, do you believe NASA? Al Gore’s moans that the melting of polar icecaps may raise sea levels are not all unique to global warming. According to Professor James Morison of the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center Applied Physics Laboratory:

“Our study confirms many changes seen in upper Arctic Ocean circulation in the 1990s were mostly decadal in nature, rather than trends caused by global warming,”

Global Warming might be a serious problem, it might not. However, government action should not be dictated by unconfirmed hypothesis. As long as the evidence for the urgency of the warming citation remains shrouded in uncertainty by findings such as those above, (and many more) the government should leave the free market… free!

Re: Medicare Cuts; Why Medicare is Not a Caring Policy

As explained by the heading on my blog, I am taking a government class at my community college. My classmates posted on her blog, Farren’s Inside Look, regarding Texas legislation to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by taking money from Medicare funds.

I agree with the main point of the article. It makes no sense to take from one major insurance program to give to another. I think its just politics, little else. As stated by George Bernard Shaw, “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”[1] The issue I have with the article is in the last two paragraphs. The assertion Farren makes is that Medicare is the future of America’s seniors and therefore is worth keeping around. I respectfully disagree. Medicare is a bad policy for the same reasons as other government welfare programs. The dilemma with government welfare programs such as Medicare is that either 1) money comes from taxpayer right back to taxpayers, and some mysteriously disappears along the way; or 2) Money goes from taxpayers to non-taxpayers and then Government has become no better than any thief.

The first problem is that when government takes money from people via taxation and then decides to give it back to them, some will inevitably disappear through government’s “butter fingers.” At best, it is useless; at worst, it causes economic lag. According to Economists James D. Gwartney, Ph.D., and Richard L. Stroup, Ph.D.:

“In the United States, studies indicates [sic] that it takes businesses and individuals approximately 5.5 billion worker-hours (the equivalent of 2,750,000 full-time workers) each year just to complete the taxation paperwork. This compliance cost adds approximately 15 cents to every dollar of tax revenue raised by the government.”[2]

Fifteen percent mysteriously disappears in the process of just getting tax money to the government, and that’s not counting administration of the programs. On the other hand, when people can keep more of their money and invest it as they see fit, and then the money can be more effectively utilized. Therefore, I think that Medicare money should be given back to the people in the form of tax-cuts.

Secondly, it is morally wrong for anyone, especially the government, to plunder one person to “give” to another. If a person stole money from one person while threatening to take their property, he would be punished as a criminal. It doesn’t matter if he had the benevolent ends of helping someone in need fund their health care. Yet, government somehow claims immunity from this law. Justice Brandeis had some very insightful words for us when he said: “Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law…”[3] No matter how benevolent the acts of the government be, sponsoring Medicare-like programs is still plunder if it takes from one person to “help” another.

After realizing the facts outlined above, Texas hero Davy Crockett stated before Congress:

“We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.”[4]

I believe its time for Texas government to grasp this idea and realize that it has no more right to steel than anyone.

A note I believe I need to add: I am not attacking anyone who uses programs such as Medicare, Welfare, CHIP, etc. In fact, I was on CHIP for a while. I understand that such people have paid the government a lot of money, and should get at least a little bit back. I just believe that we should stop funneling money through a bureaucracy that has butter fingers and start letting people keep more of their own money.

References

I recommend The Law by Frederick Bastiat. It is an excellent primer on the philosophy of freedom.

1. George Bernard Shaw. Everybody’s Political What’s What? (1944) ch 30. http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/179.html

2. James D. Gwartney and Richard L. Stroup. What Everyone Should Know About Economics and Prosperity. (1993) p 76. available at: http://oldfraser.lexi.net/publications/books/econ_prosp/

3. Justice Louis Brandeis (dissenting). Olmstead et. al. v. United States. 277 U.S. 438. (1928) http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=277&invol=438

4. David Crockett. “Not Yours To Give” originally in: Edward Sylvester Ellis. The Life of Colonel David Crockett (1884). http://www.house.gov/paul/nytg.htm

Some More Quotes

“No nation can remain free when the state has greater influence over the knowledge and values transmitted to children than the family.”
~Ron Paul on The Family Education Freedom Act,
http://www.ronpaul2008.com/homeschoolers/ron-pauls-record/

“I generally lean toward a flat tax, but I want to make it really flat-like zero.”
~Ron Paul to Jay Leno

I support Ron Paul for president in 2008 because he is the only candidate in the race who is unwavering in his principles and has shown it over and over again. He believes in freedom and constitutional government he will stick by that. Plus, it looks like he stands a good chance, even when he’s practically ignored by the media. Here’s an amazing video on the subject:

My Favorite November Mosquito

Yes, as stated by a simple cartoon character,
“Voting is like choosing your favorite mosquito out of a swarm.”
-Maxine. quoted by: Dr Bob Griffin, http://www.grif.net/

So, I’m going to pick out mosquitoes. Here goes. This is how I would be voting in Today’s Constitutional Election. My default is “no,” since, as I’ve already written about, our constitution does not need to get any longer or less understandable. I think its insane that the most basic law of Texas needs to be changed sixteen times just over the course of one year.

Prop 1-NO I can’t understand what it’s about by reading the ballot language or even by reading the official declaration. I have no clue what change in governance is required. Since they cannot seem to make their law understandable, NO!

Prop 2-NO The government should not encourage students to get into debt, and I’ve already written on the subject.

Prop 3– NO Not readable, makes no sense.

Prop 4– NO

Prop 5– NO This one is barely understandable. Here is one part I got, though. While reading the actual contents of the S. J. R. No 44 I came across the reason for the amendment: “To aid in the elimination of slum and blighted conditions in less populated communities in this state, to promote rural economic development in this state…” Well, I don’t think either is the government’s job, so NO.

Prop 6– YEAH, why not. It gives the government less money to waist. Would be pretty good for my Dad, since it would exempt his work truck from being counted in the property (aka: ad valorem) tax. My only objection is the fact that no where is ad valorem taxation defined.

Prop 7– YES I support property rights. While this amendment is somewhat weak in that it limits the reason property can be returned to only three, it is a step in the right direction by requiring the agency to sell it at the same price it was bought at.

Prop 8– No. This doesn’t clarify anything. If you want to make it clear, shorten the crazy thing so that people can actually read it.

Prop 9-YEAH. I probably have about the same to say on this as on Prop 6 .

Prop 10-Yes. Let’s clean up the constitution by eliminating the office that hasn’t been held in forever.

Prop 11-Yes! Please require that legislators have records of their votes. See, currently, law is sometimes passed when a speaker simply says “all in favor? Aye” “All opposed? No” and decides who’s louder. Usually, its about which side is louder in his head.

Prop 12-No! I’m protesting unnecessary constitutional indecipherability! Yeah…

Prop 13-No. The wording of this provision is insanely long. I’m not voting to make our constitution less understandable.

Prop 14-No. Same problem as prop 13. Geeze… It doesn’t have to be that complicated! How can people be law-abiding citizens when they cannot understand the law.

Prop 15– No. I don’t believe Government’s job is to fund research, and the money that is supposed to help develop a cure for cancer may be used in useless, and morally questionable, stem cell research. I don’t exactly want to take the chance of playing around with innocent human life under the sanction of the state.

Prop 16-No

Final tally: Yes on 5; No on the rest (11). You may agree with me, you may not. Whatever your posision is, however, it is important that you show up and vote as an active citizen. Because Texas will fail when Texans fail to care.

Tyranny of Volume

Tyranny comes in many different forms. The founding fathers of the United States would probably look at Texas’ Constitution as one such tyranny. The author of the 62nd Federalist Paper[1] tells us of three sources of tyranny—all with the same root—that would necessitate a radical change in the Lone Star Constitution.

It was probably James Madison[2] who told us: “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws be made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read…” [1] This is the first problem with the current Lone Star Document. At ninety-thousand words of almost solid jargon, no casual or even a motivated citizen would attempt to read the whole document.

The second source of tyranny found in the Constitution, as the same author notes, is that it is “so incoherent that [it] cannot be understood.”[1] Not only is it frequented with indecipherable jargon, but the structure of the document is lacking. For example, to this day Article 3, Section 48c is left blank, [3] since it was left out after being transcribed at the original convention. As admitted by the Texas government itself: “…the 1876 [Texas] constitution… is now considered to be one of the most disorganized and confusing of all state constitutions.”[4]

The Constitution also “undergoes such incessant changes that no man… can guess what it will be tomorrow,” [1] as it was states in The Federalist No 62. In November, sixteen changes to the “foundation” of law in Texas will be put on the ballot for voter approval. [5] Indeed, Texas’ amendment rate has always been high:

“Some 615 amendments to the Texas Constitution had been proposed by 2005, only 129 years after that document was adopted. Of these, 439 had been ratified by popular vote. That averages to more than 9 amendments proposed and 6 amendments ratified for each two-year legislative session since 1876.”[6]

Some might be asking themselves: What’s so important? What is really the problem with a jargonistic document if it is read by those who understand jargon? Maybe it would have been a problem in the early 1800s, but not now. The simple impact to the argument is this: There is no way people can be law-abiding citizens if they don’t know the law. To the Texas public, though, knowing the law is like chasing the wind: It doesn’t stop long enough to give you a breath and doesn’t bother to explain what’s going on. Is it any wonder that less than 20 percent of Texans bother to show up for special elections were constitutional amendments are considered? [7]

In the end, what is needed is a Constitution that the people of Texas can actually study and understand. As Thomas Jefferson commented: “Though [the people] may acquiesce, they cannot approve what they do not understand.”[8] The citizenry must demand to be able to take an active roll in government if they feel so inclined. Texas needs both the “enlightened” citizens that a republic demands and strong political leadership in order to resist the tyrannies of volume, incoherence, and ceaseless change that are too prevalent in the Lone Star Constitution.

References

1. James Madison or Alexander Hamilton. Federalist No. 62. (February 19 1788) http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_62.html

2. The authorship of this paper is not certain. The University of Chicago Press version cites Madison as the author: http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch12s22.html The Emory Law School, however, less confidently states that it could be Madison or Hamilton. http://www.law.emory.edu/law-library/research/ready-reference/us-federal-law-and-documents/historical-documents-the-federalist-papers/the-federalist-no-62.html Finally, the Library of Congress, perhaps the best source, says that the “Author: [is] Alexander Hamilton or James Madison” http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_62.html

3. The Texas Constitution. “Article 3 – Legislative Department” http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/txconst/articles/cn000300.html

4. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. “The Texas Constitution of 1876” (Texas State Library, November 2005) http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/constitution/index.html

5. Texas Secretary of State. “Ballot Language For November 6, 2007 Constitutional Amendment” (n.d.) http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/2007novballotlang.shtml

6. Texas Politics. Texas Constitution. “Mode of Amendment” (University of Texas at Austin, n.d.) http://texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu/html/cons/0405.html

7. Micheal Hodges. “Observer’s Report for Texas: May 12, 2007 Constitutional Amendments Special Election” (Elections Advisory Committee, September 4, 2007) p 1. http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/sept2007report.pdf

8. Thomas Jefferson. “Opinion on Apportionment Bill” (1792) Lipscomb and Bergh, ed. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Ed. (Washington, D.C.: 1903-04) 3, p 211. http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff1350.htm