Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus – and he gave us Virginia.

(In case George Allen has not yet conceded as you read this, pending the ‘recount,’ note that there’s almost nothing to recount. If I got this right, 93% of the votes were cast with paperless ballots. Have I mentioned HR 550 and the importance to democracy of having verifiable elections?)

BALLOTS

Juan Jover: ‘You write, ‘You’d vote on the touch screen . . . then check the paper ‘receipt’ to be sure it reflected the candidates you chose . . . then drop it in the ballot box on your way out.’ In reality, in a good system, the voter never touches the paper ballot. It is printed at the voter can see it through a window, so there is no chance that the voter would walk out with the ballot (which would create two problems: (1) the voter could sell the vote, and (2) the count in the machine would not match the ballots in the box). Another way of obtaining the same result of auditability (and this is a preferred method) is that the voter marks a paper ballot (like in a standardized test), then the voter puts the ballot in an optical scanner attached to the ballot box. You put the ballot through the opening in the scanner, which then reads the ballot and deposits the ballot inside the ballot box. So there is no chance for the voter to walk out with a ballot. In addition, to voter verifiable paper ballots you need to mandate by law a certain percentage of precincts, selected at random, to be recounted manually. As you know, in many states there is a recount mandated by law if the results are very close. If there are no mandatory random audit somebody could cheat by a larger percentage and would never be caught since there would be to recounts to compare the results from the machine vs. the results from the paper ballots. The bill you’ve been advocating, HR 550, mandates both things (among others).’

BLIMPS

Joel Grow: ‘As romantic and whimsical as they are, I’d say don’t make a big investment in blimps. My dad flew them for many years for Goodyear, and loved doing so, from flying over the ’39 world’s fair (when the ailing Lou Gehrig was a frequent passenger who became a pal of dad’s) to scouting for German u-boats in WWII, to promotional flights before and after these events. But he said himself, and the writer implies as well, that their inability to fly in almost any kind of bad weather makes them unreliable. Many much larger rigid airships, like the Hindenburg, Akron, Macon, and Shenandoah, all crashed in bad weather with considerable loss of life.’

☞ I love writing this column, because inevitably one of you will turn out to have had a father who drove Lou Gehrig around in a blimp.

YOU CAN’T SAY WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO BAKE

Ralph Sanders: ‘The wages of sin is pumpkin spice muffins. Last Sunday, it occurred to me that not only are churches that exclude gays being hypocritical and un-Christian, they’re paying for their prejudice in ways they don’t comprehend. At our church, the Center for Spiritual Living in Seattle, all are welcome equally. Sexual orientation simply is not as issue, and we are infinitely the better for it. We have affinity groups: singles, couples, elders, and lesbians and gay men. One of the ways the affinity groups contribute is by taking care of the coffee and snack table in Fellowship Hall between services. The gay men are, not surprisingly, very good at this. This past Sunday, not only was their center piece beautifully designed and seasonally appropriate, but the goodies were freshly made right there in our kitchen. The highlight was just-out-of-the-oven pumpkin spice muffins! If this is sin, brother, bring it on!’

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