Peder D4

Discussion of politics and other odious things

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Very cool map (via Volokh). It shows the history of the middle east in about 90 seconds.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Trust in voting

Good column by Glenn Reynolds on the twin problems of fraud that worry voters. He discusses the vulnerability of computerized voter machines:
Computers are inherently insecure, and electronic voting machines are basically computers. As this report illustrates (complete with video), Princeton researchers were able to hack a Diebold voting machine in short order.
His suggestion is a return to paper ballots. The machines used here in Minnesota use an optical scanner and I've never heard of fraud allegations with them. The key is to have an easy to understand system of voting and a high degree of certainty that your vote is recorded correctly. Our current system seems to pass both of those tests.
He also talks about the other problem:
But moving beyond the hardware, we also need to look at voting procedures. Machine fraud, after all, is only one form of voting fraud. That means we need to work harder at ensuring that voters are actually eligible to vote, and that they don't vote more than once. This means stricter identification processes at polling places, cleaner voter-registration lists, and techniques of the sort used in other countries (finger-inking, for example) to ensure that people don't cast multiple votes.
This really is an ignored problem. Reynolds notes that the ID burden is higher to buy alcohol than it is to vote. What's worse, the burden to rent a DVD is higher too. We simply aren't serious enough about this. And frankly, both sides of that equation need to be fixed.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Hurricane season

September 10th is the traditional high point of the hurricane season. As of today we've had six named storms and only two hurricanes. Ernesto was only a hurricane for about half a day. Florence is only category one. The 2006 season was forecast to be above average in terms of number and severity of storms. So far it's been well below (knock on wood).
I mention this for one reason. After last year's bad season there began to be speculation that global warming was creating more extreme weather. Fears have been raised that rising temperatures will create more Katrinas. Al Gore made the direct connection with his movie this spring.
Does a milder season this year mean that the earth is cooling? Of course not. Random variations in weather create different circumstances. The overall number from this season won't mean anything. That only makes sense. Of course, it made the same sense last year!
It'd be nice if an important subject like climate change could be discussed calmly and openly. Instead we get overreaction to any data that supports theories of warming. Anyone that disputes it is painted as a flat earther or an industry shill. Very frustrating.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Change of dynamic?

Interesting news today out of the Gulf of Mexico.
Move over, Alaska. Geoscientists have made what may be the nation's largest oil discovery off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.
The region may hold 15 billion barrels of oil, enough to increase the US oil reserves by 50%. The article is full of wet blanketry, discussing how long it'll take this oil to make a difference at the pump. It also suggests that this will only reduce US dependence on foreign sources.
Two things here, the process being used to get this oil is revolutionary. Most wells in that area are on the continental shelf, drilling about 1700 feet down. This oil was extracted about 20,000 feet down. That means that entirely new areas of oil exploration are possible. This will almost certainly lead to other larger oil finds.
And the second thing is the effect this will have on world oil markets. In the past, OPEC has lowered the price of oil to discourage this type of exploration. If this find was coupled with sensible drilling in ANWAR (about 10 billion barrels) it would change the pricing dynamic. With luck, new deposits will end up in the hands of friendlier people. The Scots and Norwegians for instance.
One other thing, it's been noted that gas prices track pretty cloesly to Bush's approval ratings. They've been falling lately and this news could push them even lower. Most of the bad polls for Republicans are based on the possibility of the right staying home. This could change that.
(Oh, and one other thing. The oil companies were beat up pretty badly earlier in the year when it was announced that they're enjoying record profits. They answered that the profits were being invested in exploration and new development. Today we saw the exploration part of the equation.)