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How We Used To Vote 517

Mr. Slippery writes "Think hanging chads, illegal purges of the voter rolls, and insecure voting machines are bad? The New Yorker looks back at how we used to vote back in the good old days: 'A man carrying a musket rushed at him. Another threw a brick, knocking him off his feet. George Kyle picked himself up and ran. He never did cast his vote. Nor did his brother, who died of his wounds. The Democratic candidate for Congress, William Harrison, lost to the American Party's Henry Winter Davis. Three months later, when the House of Representatives convened hearings into the election, whose result Harrison contested, Davis's victory was upheld on the ground that any "man of ordinary courage" could have made his way to the polls.' Now I feel like a wuss for complaining about the lack of a voter-verified paper trail." The article notes the American penchant for trying to fix voting problems with technology — starting just after the Revolution. This country didn't use secret ballots, an idea imported from Australia, until quite late in the 19th century.

Feed Techdirt: DoublePlusUngood Legislation? (techdirt.com)

As Slate's Dahlia Lithwick aptly observes, the largely neglected "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007," which passed by an overwhelming margin in the House and will now be taken up by the Senate, seems to have provoked two types of reactions among those who've noticed it: Half think it's a pointless, redundant boondoggle, the other half think it's a first step toward an Orwellian War on Thoughtcrime. The stated purpose of the bill is to try to come up with ways to stop "radicalized thought" from turning into terrorist action -- but that's pretty open ended.

After a cursory read of the bill itself, I tend toward the former interpretation: The law, which would establish a commission to study the causes of "ideologically based violence," evokes MiniLuv less readily than it does Tom Chapin's satirical folk song "A Study's About to Begin." And, indeed, the government has already conducted ample research [PDF] on the psychology and sociology of terrorism. Still, it's not hard to see why civil libertarians get uneasy when the bill's sponsor, California Democrat Jane Harman, is prone to talk about formulating plans "to intervene before a person crosses that line separating radical views from violent behavior," which, presumably, means "intervening" while the person is still only holding radical views. Nor is it especially comforting to reflect on the bill's "finding" that "The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States," which suggests a mandate to focus on offensive online speech. Precisely because the bill is redundant, it seems more useful to worry about the actual steps law enforcement agencies take in service of "prevention." Depending on the composition of any commission convened under the law, there's a fair chance it will produce, if not a boot stamping on a human face forever, then at least a generous helping of national security FUD.

Julian Sanchez is an expert at the Techdirt Insight Community. To get insight and analysis from Julian Sanchez and other experts on challenges your company faces, click here.

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Leopard as the New Vista? 734

ninja_assault_kitten writes "There's an interesting rant from Oliver Rist up on the PC Magazine site. He compares the catastrophe that is Vista to the recently released OS X Leopard. While clearly one is a lion and the other a cub, there do appear to be some frustrating similarities. From the article: 'A month of using Leopard with the same software I had under Tiger and the OS has dumped six times. That's six cold reboots for Oliver. Apple isn't even honest enough to admit that Leopard is crashing: The OS just grays out my desktop and pops up a dialog box telling me I've got to reboot. Like the whole thing is my fault. I even snapped a picture of it. After all, I HAD PLENTY OF CHANCES!'"
The Courts

Submission + - A Sham Election in Russia (guardian.co.uk)

reporter writes: "As the sham election on December 2 in Russia approaches, the stories about the farce are being published in newspapers across the West. A report by the "Guardian Unlimited" offers particular insight. "As the Guardian reports today, thousands of local officials have to report for work on their day off to inflate the pro-Putin vote. Both opposition and independent sources say that local governors have been given quotas of votes that have to be cast for United Russia, Mr Putin's party. Public-sector workers, including doctors, teachers and university deans, have been told to vote for the party or face the sack and loss of bonuses. Tutors have told their students to photograph their ballot paper alongside their passport in the voting booth with their mobile phones. If they refuse they may not make the grade in their examinations. Even the country's 4 million homeless people are being conscripted into service — for the price of a free meal. If none of this works, the central election commission's computer is on hand to finesse the results."

Did Yahoo! programmers set up that computer for the central election commission?"

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