Bailout as 419 scam

I know that I have not blogged lately and that this is way off topic. But it is just irresistible.

(This is reposted from the Brad Blog but I’m sure it’s circulating through the net. I humbly present, the fed’s bailout as a 419 scam)

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion USD. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gramm, lobbyist for UBS, who (God willing) will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a former U.S. congressional leader and the architect of the PALIN / McCain Financial Doctrine, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. As such, you can be assured that this transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

Oh, wait, you want to know my thoughts on this bailout?
It’s disgusting. It’s short sighted. It’s idiotic. It’s socializing losses after privatizing profits. There may be merit to the taxpayers bailing out a private institutions but the way that this is being conducted acts as if no-one had a clue that these companies were in trouble until a few days before a bailout. Such a bailout using such huge amounts of public money (IIRC, this costs more than the Iraq war) is deserving of thoughtful debate, a non rushed time-frame, and almost certainly the imposition of regulatory framework on the failed institutions.

A comparison chart of single winner election methods

Be sure to check out this helpful comparison chart of single winner election methods.

The page describes several election methods, describes several desirable properties of election methods and indicates whether each method passes or fails the method.

If readers wonder why I oppose instant runoff voting but like approval voting this page is a good start.

Doonesbury on the partisan nature of voter ID

This one has been making the rounds:

Personally I’m still conflicted on Voter ID. Loosely my position is that it is a good idea in principal but it must be implemented in a way that minimizes disruption to voters and partisan advantage. That certainly has not been occurring. You can read more at my post ‘supreme court rules on Indiana Voter ID case’. In case I discuss this again, see all articles tagged ‘voterid’.

petition to oppose IRV in NC

There is a petition circulating to oppose Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) in North Carlina.

Restore Election Integrity in NC by opposing Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)

In 2006, North Carolina’s General Assembly approved a pilot program that allowed communities to test the use of the so-called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). IRV is a form of ranked-choice voting where voters casting a ballot to rank from one to three choices for each office in races with more than two candidates

RV advocates want IRV to be an option for the future, and are asking the General Assembly to extend and expand the IRV pilot. Many of their claims about IRV are simply not true once you look beyond the hype and the sophistry.

IRV does not ensure majority winners in one single election. The winner of our state’s single “instant runoff” contest took office with 1401 votes – less than 50% plus one vote (1512) of the 3022 votes cast. Our state’s current election equipment won’t tabulate IRV ballots, so the IRV ballots had to be tabulated by hand with workarounds that violated state election laws. And one small error in that tabulation cascaded info a recount that was done another day when the public could not observe it. In the 20 IRV elections in San Francisco held since adopting IRV, any elections going into an IRV “runoff” were won with less than a majority.

IRV only saves money if you consider nothing more than a single IRV election being cheaper than two elections (original plus runoff). While runoff elections are very rarely needed, IRV would require new & more expensive programming, additional voter education and training for poll workers and election administrators, and increased ballot printing expenditures. Candidates would need to spend time and money educating voters. We might need to purchase new voting machines. All those costs would have to be paid for even if no races ever required an instant runoff!

Although I don’t live in NC I’ve signed the petition and composed a comment explaining my reasons. Unfortunately my name no longer shows up on their list; Perhaps it is restricted to NC residents only?

See also Discussion on this petition.

Kathy Dopp takes on IRV

Kathy Dopp (1) has written a scathing criticism of instant runoff voting (aka IRV 2).

It’s a list of many criticisms but it is rooted in Dopp’s election integrity and election auditing background. IRV is a disaster from an election integrity point of view – primarily because it is not ‘summable in precincts’.

I agree with much of what she has to say. However, I find her paper to be somewhat difficult to read since the latest version frequently switches tone and voice between her voice and that of Abd ul-Rahman Lomax (who posts profusely on the election methods’ email list and the range voting message board.) [Update: 6/17/08 – see correction in comments] .

Here is Dopp’s summary:

Instant runoff voting (IRV) is a method for counting “ranked choice” ballots where each voter ranks the candidates – first choice, second choice, etc. The IRV counting process proceeds in “rounds” where the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated in each round and that candidate’s votes are reassigned to the remaining candidates using voters’ choices. IRV sounds enticing to voters who can express their preferences, but according to the new report, IRV does not solve the problems it is promoted as solving and causes significant new problems.

According to Kathy Dopp, the report’s author, “Instant runoff voting is a threat to the fairness, accuracy, timeliness, and economy of U.S. elections. The U.S. needs to solve its existing voting system problems and then carefully consider the options before adopting new voting methods.”

The full report “Realities Mar Instant Runoff Voting – 17 Flaws and 3 Benefits” is found on-line at

One main point I disagree with her about:

The National Election Data Archive recommends restoring verifiable integrity to elections first before implementing alternative voting methods.

There are many problems and issues with our election system.

They include integrity, election methods, gerrymandering, representation via districts vs other options, the electoral college, voting on Tuesdays rather then more accessible times.

In my view, getting rid of lousy election methods is pretty important.
(aside: a very loosy-goosy attempt to compare the importance of various reforms (+ discussion))


supreme court rules on Indiana Voter ID case

I’ve mostly stayed quiet on this issue but it is newsworthy.

The Supreme Court just ruled on the Indiana Voter Id case
(Crawford v. Marion County Election Board) in support of
allowing states to issue stricter voter id laws.

Rick Hansen gives his initial thoughts at the Election Law Blog:

Today’s much anticipated decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board is a significant win for those who support stricter voter identification laws, even if they support such laws for partisan purposes. It will encourage further litigation, because it relegates challenges to laws imposing onerous burdens on a small group of voters to “as applied” challenges, but those challenges will be difficult to win. The lack of a majority opinion, moreover, injects some uncertainty into the appropriate standard for reviewing other challenges to onerous election laws.

I am disappointed by how cursory that opinion was in its review of the state’s interest in light of the highly partisan atmosphere of election administration, and I fear that, despite the Stevens-Kennedy-Roberts’ opinion’s best intentions, this opinion will be read as a green light for the enactment of more partisan election laws in an attempt to skew outcomes in close elections.

I’m personally a bit conflicted on voter ID requirement laws. Opponents (1 2) of these sorts of laws argue that they are effectively poll taxes, that there is very little evidence of significant fraud by voters that they would help prevent (as contrasted with election fraud by election system insiders) and that the motivation for these laws is a partisan push to discourage voters from classes of people that lean to the Democratic party.

Despite these arguments, it seems very reasonable to me for our election system to have means to prevent or detect fraud attempts by voters. Intuitively a voter id requirement does not sound very burdensome. The question for me becomes not “Can / Should Voter ID requirements be enacted?” but rather “How can Voter ID requirements be implemented in a fair, non-partisan way that will not effectively result in partisan voter suppression?” I don’t have answers except for suggesting that laws like this not phase in for ~10 years so that the negative impacts can be minimized and partisan effects be less predictable.

Dan Wallach at Freedom To Tinker has a couple of very thoughtful posts on the topic:

  • How can we require ID for voters?

    he real issue is making sure that all people who might want to vote actually have IDs, which is a real problem for the apparently non-trivial number of current voters who lack normal ID cards (and, who we are led to believe, tend to vote in favor of Democrats).

    The question then becomes how to get IDs for everybody.

    The only way I could imagine a voter ID requirement being workable (i.e., having a neutral effect on partisan elections) is if there was a serious amount of money budgeted to help people without IDs to get them. That boils down to an army of social workers digging around for historical birth records and whatever else, and that’s not going to be cheap. However, I’m perfectly willing to accept a mandatory voter ID, as long as enough money is there to get one, for free, for anybody who wants one. The government is willing to give you a $40 coupon to receive digital signals for an analog TV, as part of next year’s phase-out of analog broadcasts. Why not help out with getting identification papers as part of phasing in an ID requirement?

  • voting ID requirements and the Supreme Court

    In the end, the court found that the requirement wasn’t particularly onerous (the New York Times’s article is as good as any for a basic summary, or go straight to the ruling).

    The big technical question, of course, is whether the root desires behind the voter ID requirement can be addressed in some more effective fashion than ID requirement. What are those root desires?

What’s Easier to Rig—the U.S. Presidential Elections or a Slot Machine?

From Discover magazine’s blog:

What’s Easier to Rig—the U.S. Presidential Elections or a Slot Machine?

Steve Freeman, a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, compared the vulnerabilities of the two in his book, with some pretty alarming results. Among the problems he found:

–Unpredictable voting machine software is kept secret, while gambling software must be kept on file with the state.

–State inspectors randomly inspect gambling machines to ensure their software and computer chips haven’t been tinkered with. Voting machines don’t need to be checked, and no one knows what’s in them anyways.

When will we have a transparent verifiable election system?