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Comments

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The Man Who Created the Pencil Eraser and How Patents Have Changed

MarkusQ Re:No one needs a motivation to invent (234 comments)

" my point was that the only reason for a society to grant patents is to provide a viable alternative to the former system (closely held trade secrets) without the risk of the secret dying with the inventor?"

I guess my question would be WHY you see ONLY this reason, and refuse to acknowledge the others. I mentioned at least one of them. But you have rejected it without any real argument or refutation, and simply repeated your original statement again. The fact that inventions were created before the motivation of patents existed, is not evidence that patents do not create motivation. The real question, which you have refused to even acknowledge so far, is: which is BETTER? A system with no patents, or a system with patents.

Actually, you're changing the argument here. This part of the discussion was about why patent laws were enacted in the first place (was it to motivate people to invent, or to motivate them to disclose the details of their invention?). It was never about whether patents do or don't motivate people to invent thing, only about whether the supposition that they do was behind the creation of the patent system.

You argued that this was "obvious" from the constitution by imposing a modern perspective--shoe horning a Randian perspective on a document written a century and a half before that view gained currency--and a bit of selective reading. I countered that given the prevailing circumstance (e.g. trade secrets as a prevalent practice) and the clear written statement (e.g. the law itself, which I cited above) a much more probable explanation was that the intent was to motivate disclosure of existing inventions rather than (as you would have it) invention per se.

This may seem odd to modern sensibilities, in a world where "the profit motive" is taken for granted (and condoned) and we have more information at our fingertips than we could possibly digest, a world where cases such as starlite (which may well be a fraud in any event) seem like musty relics of pre-Victorian era, but I think it's safe to say the founders of our nation would have had as hard a time seeing things from our perspective as we have seeing it from theirs.

Likewise, as for your question about my phrase "the only reason for a society to grant patents" I think you are confusing motivations of the two parties (society and the inventor). There are many things that might motivate an inventor (dreams of wealth, fame, glory, desire to scratch an itch, prove a point, discomfit a rival, etc.) but society as a whole is largely indifferent to these. If we are to be strictly randian (as seems to be the tenor here, at least in so far as the constraints of historical accuracy permit) the only thing that works as a societal motivation is something that benefits people in general, imposing a cost on (in an ideal case at least) no one but the inventor. The most salient of the possibly candidates is clearly disclosure--we all gain information, and the inventor is out one secret.

I will, though, admit that "only" was too strong and there are indeed other (far less plausible) candidates. Perhaps we all love a Horatio Alger tale enough to want to foster them, or can't help but indulge our schadenfreude habit when a mustachio twirling industry is turned on its head by a plucky upstart. But I haven't been able to turn up any contemporaneous support for these theories.

By your argument, I could claim that firearms are not effective for hunting because animals were killed long before firearms came along. I don't buy it. It's not black and white, it's a matter of degree.

Again, I believe you are getting yourself tangled. You started this line of discussion by making the contrary black and white claim:

You: The idea (which history supports) being that when you don't allow people to profit from their own efforts, things don't get invented.

Me: That would make sense if there was a shred of evidence that people only invent things because they hope to patent them.

You: Well then, it makes sense, because we have far more than a shred. We have at least 300 years of historical evidence, continuing into modern times.

...and I objected, pointing out that history very clearly show that things were invented before patents, and that patents are not, as you seemed to be arguing, the only (or even the best) reason or people to invent things.

--MarkusQ

about 7 months ago
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The Man Who Created the Pencil Eraser and How Patents Have Changed

MarkusQ Re:No one needs a motivation to invent (234 comments)

"That would make sense if there was a shred of evidence that people only invent things because they hope to patent them. Say maybe if the world were full of saying like "IP protection is the mother of invention" or "invent a better mouse trap and the world will grant you exclusive use of the idea for a limited time."

Well then, it makes sense, because we have far more than a shred. We have at least 300 years of historical evidence, continuing into modern times.

I would certainly like to see this supposed evidence that people only invent things because they hope to patent them. I can not imagine what it would look like, considering all the evidence we have that people invented things before there were patents.

"Of course, we don't see any of that. We don't live in that world and it takes a rather twisted view of human nature to swallow the notion that patents somehow cause invention. "

You are blaming abuses that exist in our current bureaucratically-fouled system on the very concept of patents. That's like blaming the 4th Amendment for the time the police broke down your door without a warrant.

You response to this point makes no sense. I have said nothing about any abuses here, and haven't blamed anything on anyone.

"If you want a patent on your gizmo, you have to fully disclose the details so anyone reasonably competent can make and use one after the patent expires. That is what society gets out of it."

No shit, Sherlock. What is your point?

Uh, my point was that the only reason for a society to grant patents is to provide a viable alternative to the former system (closely held trade secrets) without the risk of the secret dying with the inventor? And that that is the perceived social good that motivated the creation of the patent system? It seems rather clear to me.

"The promotion of progress isn't about gulling people into inventing stuff (they were doing that already)."

Nobody said it was. I didn't claim it was an attempt to trick people. It *ISN'T* an attempt to "gull" anybody.

Well, "motivate" then. I admit that "gulling" has a pejorative connotation, but operationally it amounts to the same thing. Your claim (which I dispute) is that people wouldn't invent things unless we offered them patents, and that we therefore offer them patents to get them to invent things. You can call it an incentive, a bribe, an inducement, a reward, or anything else you like.

" It's about making sure that other people can copy those inventions, build on them"

Only AFTERWARD. It's about MOTIVATING people to invent, SO THAT society can benefit from it later. We are arguing the same thing, except that you're denying the necessary first half of the argument.

No, we are not. You are claiming, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, that the intent of patents was to motivate people to invent things. I, on the other hand, am pointing out that the intent of the patent system was to induce disclosure of invitations.

--MarkusQ

about 7 months ago
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The Man Who Created the Pencil Eraser and How Patents Have Changed

MarkusQ No one needs a motivation to invent (234 comments)

That would make sense if there was a shred of evidence that people only invent things because they hope to patent them. Say maybe if the world were full of saying like "IP protection is the mother of invention" or "invent a better mouse trap and the world will grant you exclusive use of the idea for a limited time."

Or suppose we had clear evidence that primitive people lived lives little different than those of other animals until some freak accident created the first intellectual property laws, triggering the taming of fire, agriculture, and so forth.

Of course, we don't see any of that. We don't live in that world and it takes a rather twisted view of human nature to swallow the notion that patents somehow cause invention.

On the other hand, all it takes to support the notion that patents were intended to cause disclosure of inventions is a little reading. For example, in the second paragraph of The Patent Act of 1790 we find the prerequisites for obtaining a patent and the reason for them spelt out. In the second full sentence of US patent law we are told that those seeking patents must:

[...] deliver to the Secretary of State a specification in writing, containing a description, accompanied with drafts or models, and explanations and models (if the nature of the invention or discovery will admit of a model) of the thing or things, by him or them invented or discovered, and described as aforesaid, in the said patents; which specification shall be so particular, and said models so exact, as not only to distinguish the invention or discovery from other things before known and used, but also to enable a workman or other person skilled in the art or manufacture, whereof it is a branch, or wherewith it may be nearest connected, to make, construct, or use the same, to the end that the public may have the full benefit thereof, after the expiration of the patent term;

If you want a patent on your gizmo, you have to fully disclose the details so anyone reasonably competent can make and use one after the patent expires.

That is what society gets out of it. The promotion of progress isn't about gulling people into inventing stuff (they were doing that already). It's about making sure that other people can copy those inventions, build on them, progress from them, rather than having the secret die with the inventor thus forcing everyone else to (as the saying goes) "reinvent the wheel".

--MarkusQ

about 7 months ago
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The Man Who Created the Pencil Eraser and How Patents Have Changed

MarkusQ You have that exactly backwards (234 comments)

"At the heart of any patent, there should be some trade secret."

I think most people would disagree with you. The majority of ills in our patent system today are due to patented "trade secrets" [...] the workings of most useful INVENTIONS usually become pretty obvious at the point the invention hits the market; thus the need for a patent in the first place.

If the working of the invention become obvious at the point the invention hits the market, society has no reason to offer the inventor patent protection in exchange for being let in on the secret. Only in cases where the trick wouldn't be obvious to a practitioner skilled in the applicable arts do we have any reason to say "Oh, come on, just tell us how it works and we promise not to compete with you!" -- in other words, grant a patent in exchange for full disclosure.

Patents are supposed to be what we grant the inventor in exchange for their revealing a "trade secret" that we wouldn't have otherwise been able to figure out.

-- MarkusQ

about 7 months ago
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Open Source Licensing Debate Has Positive Effect On GitHub

MarkusQ First time in history? (96 comments)

Yeah. It's a shame RMS never thought of discussing licenses with other developers. I'll bet he would be a lot more widely known if he hadn't been so reticent.

-- MarkusQ

about 8 months ago
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Is 'Fair Use' Unfair To Humans?

MarkusQ Corporations, not machines (259 comments)

I saw what you did there. "The aggregators" that tell you to fill out a form aren't machines, they are corporations.

Nice try though.

-- MarkusQ

about 8 months ago
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Microsoft Will Allow Indie Self-publishing, Debugging On Retail Xbox One

MarkusQ Re:In the voice of a British peasant (99 comments)

Oh, thank you, sir! For the privilege of accessing the hardware I have paid you money for, I am forever grateful!

This is the sort of entitlist mentality that shows how out of touch some people in this community are.

So objecting to "you bought it but we still get to control how you use it" is somehow "entitlist"?

I agree people shouldn't buy shackled hardware in the first place, but that doesn't mean that it's in any way ethical to sell it. And claiming that the public has made an informed decision by choosing heavily marketed closed systems over the essentially unmarketed open alternatives doesn't pass the laugh test.

-- MarkusQ

about 9 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Development Requirements Change But Deadlines Do Not?

MarkusQ Re: Agile? (221 comments)

We have a bastardized combo of waterfall and agile here. I call it the Drunken Sailor approach.

What DO you do with a drunken sailor?

Typically, you start working er'ly in the morning. And stay at it till the even'n's glomming.

-- MarkusQ

about 9 months ago
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If I could change what's "typical" about typical laptops ...

MarkusQ The Software! (591 comments)

Current hardware is amazing, but we've become so inured to bad software (chose any definition of "bad" you like, slow, bloated, buggy, insecure, incompatible, leaky...except perhaps "ugly" which we're doing Ok on) that so far no one else has even mentioned it. Until we start addressing that, better hardware will just lower the bar on the next round of software.

1 year,14 days
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Ask Slashdot: What Practices Impede Developers' Productivity?

MarkusQ Etymology of online/offline (457 comments)

"Online" and "offline" in the meeting sense considerably predate the internet sense. Originally it referred to equipment that was in the main production flow or pulled to the side for repairs, dating back to perhaps WWII and possibly further. The meeting sense was in use by the 1970s at least, and didn't seem new or strange then.

-- MarkusQ

about a year ago
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Texas Opens Fastest US Highway With 85 MPH Limit

MarkusQ Re:/. worthy? tech section? (992 comments)

what's "tech" about raising the speed limit? why is this on /. anyway?

I think it's because of the effect it could have on all the car analogies. Raising the speed limit might subtly alter the impact of such arguments, strengthen some or totally invalidate others.

If you think of the car analogies we routinely use to explain technical subjects to a non-technical audience as cars, our shared cultural assumptions about cars (how many wheels & doors they have, how fast you are allowed to drive them, etc.) are like the fuel those cars run on. Changing the rules is like changing the fuel. Some will run better, other worse or not at all.

--MarkusQ

about a year and a half ago
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Could You Hack Into Mars Curiosity Rover?

MarkusQ Re:Wikipedia has something to say about this threa (452 comments)

That's an interesting story, and one I hadn't heard before. However, I can't help but wonder how the hell you burn down a marble building?

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2007/08/are_ancient_ruins_flammable.html

tl;dr: heat

-- MarkusQ

about a year and a half ago
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Young Listeners Opt For Streaming Over Owning

MarkusQ "Own" the music? (390 comments)

Doesn't it get absurdly expensive to "own" the music?

Oh wait, you meant own a copy of the music. Or is it own a license (non-transferable) to a single physical copy...well, there's fair use of course.

I am so glad no one has gotten to the point of trying to build business models around breathing.

-- MarkusQ

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Transitioning From 'Hacker' To 'Engineer'?

MarkusQ Re:srsly (446 comments)

I very much doubt that any organization would be allowed to review Windows kernel source code (regardless of budget), but we might just have to agree to disagree there.

From personal professional experience I can think of at least two organizations (both rather large) that have access to the full MS Windows source, and suspect there are quite a few I don't know of. Both maintain considerable organizational controls around access to the source (contractually obligated, I suspect). I'm not sure what my non-disclosure agreements say about the two cases I know of, but a quick google turns up several other examples (that I personally know nothing of) such as:

http://www.informationweek.com/news/software/operating_systems/225400063

http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/security/2010/07/08/microsoft-opens-source-code-to-russian-secret-service-40089481/

...and even a link to how you ask for it yourself:

http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/software-assurance/enterprise-source-licensing.aspx

more than 2 years ago
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Analysis of Galaxy Spin Reveals Universe Might Be Left-Handed

MarkusQ parsec != light years (171 comments)

The radius of the observable universe is about 14Gly, not 14Gpc; only off by a factor of Pi (not exact, but a handy mnemonic), but still, like the old saying goes "Off by a factor of Pi is still wrong."

--MarkusQ

more than 2 years ago
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Americans Favor Moratorium On New Nuclear Reactors

MarkusQ Re:Time for a serious effort on renewables (964 comments)

Only if there is no scrubber at the power plant. Modern coal power plants are quite clean.

Wrong. Scrubbers don't stop the release of radioactivity from a coal fired power plant. You'd essentially have to go to CO2 sequestration for that.

--MarkusQ

about 3 years ago
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Tech Expertise Not Important In Google Managers

MarkusQ Re:You're in luck (298 comments)

soft skills are perceived as more valuable in a manager than technical expertise. To me, that's something that's stupendously obvious.

I agree. Soft skills are perceived as more valuable than technical expertise. Further, your arguments have convinced me that you not only share this perception but do indeed think it is stupendously obvious. If we were having this chat in person I would offer to buy you a drink and suggest we play a diverting little game of chance I happen to know in which soft skills are more valuable that technical expertise.

-- MarkusQ

more than 3 years ago
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Tech Expertise Not Important In Google Managers

MarkusQ Re:You're in luck (298 comments)

*sigh*

Let me walk you through this:

  • Google made a major point of ensuring that managers had technical expertise
  • If we assume that they (Google) were honest in reporting this priority, competent in executing it, etc., we can conclude that given an individual who was a manager at Google it's highly likely that they had technical expertise; that is, to a good first approximation, HasTechnicalExpertise(X) is true for all X for which IsManagerAtGoogle(X) is true.
  • Google then took a survey of the people being managed, and asked them what was important to them about their manager.
  • The resulting list of features was presumably finite, as they completed the survey in a finite amount of time.
  • This might at first seem surprising, since there are an infinite number of things that might be said about a manager. However, a little thought shows that the most probable cause is that predicates that were true of (almost) all or (almost) none of the managers did not make a serious contribution to the data. Note that this filtering could have occurred at any part of the process (if it was a "pick the most important" list, neither "drinks water" or "can fly" were likely to be included; if by chance they were, they would be unlikely to be chosen; likewise, if it was a free-form question most respondents would be unlikely to volunteer such observations).
  • Therefore we should not expect to see common traits shared by all the managers as a strong component of the data.
  • Specifically, we should not expect "has technical expertise" to be a strong component of the data.
  • It was not. No story here.

-- MarkusQ

more than 3 years ago
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Japan Battles Partial Nuclear Meltdown

MarkusQ Re:Considering ..... (769 comments)

Older does not always equal less safe.

Chernobyl was built at a time when countries outside the soviet block who cared more about safety already had better designs. The problem wasn't that it was old, the problem was that it was badly designed. If you built a new Chernobyl style reactor today it would still suck even though it was brand new.

-- MarkusQ

more than 3 years ago
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Tech Expertise Not Important In Google Managers

MarkusQ You're in luck (298 comments)

most of the time I wish this wasn't true.

You're in luck. This is another case of #statisticsfail.

If all of their managers are selected to have deep technical expertise, it isn't going to correlate with success any more than "having two ears" will. This is a well known phenomenon called "sample bias" and is dearly beloved by everyone who wants to lie with statistics.

-- MarkusQ

more than 3 years ago

Submissions

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Karl Rove's IT Guru dies in small plane crash

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 5 years ago

MarkusQ (450076) writes "Mike Connell died in a when the Piper Saratoga he was piloting crashed. Known as "Karl Rove's IT Guru" /. readers may remember him for his involvement in the missing White House e-mail backups, or that his company, GovTech Solutions, created Ohio's 2004 election results computer network, or the story of how his gwb43.com was used to skirt records laws which came to light in the US Attorney scandal, various e-mail mining schemes, the controversy over setting up Congress's firewall, and so many other tech-meets-politics stories that some have dubbed him "the high IQ Forrest Gump."

After multi-year battle he was finally compelled to testify before a federal judge last month, and was scheduled to provide additional testimony in a few weeks. 19 Action News in Ohio is not calling it murder but notes that Connell had recently voiced suspicions that his plane had been sabotaged."
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Touch screens help voters vote...for McCain

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 5 years ago

MarkusQ (450076) writes "Early voters in West Virginia are complaining that touch screen voting machines are switching their Obama votes to MCCain. The same problem happened with down ballot races, in all of which votes were switched to the Republican. Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright said voting problems occur when voters touch the screen, but do not put their fingers inside boxes for their candidates.

Apparently if you miss the box the machines just guess you want to vote Republican."
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We can't be overdrawn, we still have checks left!

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 5 years ago

MarkusQ (450076) writes "In an economic analog to the Y2K problem, the US National Debt Clock has run out of numbers. As a temporary workaround, the orange-on-black digital display has been extended one place to the right with a orange-on-black piece of plastic. A new sign, able to track debt up to a quadrillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000,000.00) will be installed next year. Apart from the surely unintentional symbolism of pulling out the plastic keep things going in the face of mid-boggling debt, is this really a good idea? I know Dick Cheney has assured us that "Deficits don't matter" but I can't help wondering if we should be fixing the problem rather than the sign."
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MSNBC appears to have been defaced

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 5 years ago

MarkusQ (450076) writes "I just opened MSNBC's main page and did a double take. I assume they're the victim of a defacement, and this isn't some sort of stylistic decision. In any case, the present banner image is decidedly not safe for work!"
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MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 7 years ago

MarkusQ (450076) writes "Control of the US Senate is pretty much a toss up with a half dozen or so races potentially deciding if it lands in the hands of the Republicans, the Democrats, or some 3rd Party. According to a story in the Washington Post one of those races may come down to the choice of font used on the electronic voting machines in several counties.

Why? Because "although the larger type is easier to read, it also unintentionally shortens the longer names on the summary page of the ballot" — shortening in the case of one Senate candidate meaning it leaves off his last name; he will be listed as "James H. 'Jim'..." on a ballot that also includes a "James T. 'Jim'..." running against a "James P. 'Jim'..." which is not expected to cause undue confusion.

Officials claim that it is simply a computer 'glitch' and should almost certainly be fixed by the 2007 general election."
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MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 7 years ago

MarkusQ (450076) writes "

So, coming down to the wire, we see that control of the US Senate is pretty much a toss up with a half dozen or so races potentially deciding if control lands in the hands of the Republicans, the Democrats, or some 3rd Party. According to a story in the Washington Post one of those races may come down to the choice of font used on the electronic voting machines in several counties.

Why? Because "although the larger type is easier to read, it also unintentionally shortens the longer names on the summary page of the ballot" -- shortening in the case of the Senate candidate meaning it leaves off his last name. This means he will be listed as "James H. 'Jim'..." on an ballot that also includes a "James T. 'Jim'..." running against a "James P. 'Jim'..." which is not expected to cause undue confusion.

Officials claim that it is simply a computer 'glitch' and should almost certainly be fixed by the 2007 general election.

"
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MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 7 years ago

MarkusQ (450076) writes "Here we go again. The "Don't be evil" search engine company, in an effort to increase their clout in Washington (DC, that is), has hired the infamous Astroturfing and Dirty Tricks firm Direct Connect, Inc.

You may remember DCI from their recent attempts to pass their "Penguin Army" video off as a product of some lone wit, unconnected with their client (Exxon). Or their involvement in Microsoft's "even dead voters love Microsoft" campaign. With a staff of veterans in the biz (such as Chris "Swiftboat" LaCivita and Jim "Electioneering" Tobin), led by ZTom "Big tabacco on the Dole" Synhorst, I'm sure DCI will be able to give Google whatever they're paying them for.

The question is, what are they paying them for? And does "Don't be evil" imply "Don't pay professionals to be evil for you?" Or could there possibly be a non-evil reason to hire these clowns?"
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MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 7 years ago

MarkusQ (450076) writes "A few days ago a bi-partisan bill to create a searchable on-line database of government contracts, grants, insurance, loans, financial assistance, earmarks and other such pork was put on "secret hold" using a procedure that does not appear to be mentioned in the constitution or the senate bylaws. This raised the ire of bloggers left and right and started an all out bi-partisan effort to expose the culprit by process of elimination.

Turns out it was our old friend Mr. series of tubes, Tom bridge to nowhere Stevens."

Journals

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Ohio Recount Rigging Case Goes to Court

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 6 years ago

The Akron Beacon Journal is reporting that the trial of the three election workers accused of rigging the 2004 presidential election recount in Cuyahoga County is finally underway. As you may recall, this was the case where poll workers "randomly" selected the precincts to recount by first eliminating from consideration precincts where the number of ballots handed out on Election Day failed to match the number of ballots cast and, then opening the ballot boxes in private and pre-counting until they found cases which would match up.

What is interesting here is that they have already admitted doing this and that it was clearly counter to the letter and the spirit of the law, but still insist it wasn't really wrong, presumably since they only did it to avoid having to go to the bother of a full recount as required by law.

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Control of US Senate may come down to...a font selection?

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 7 years ago

So, coming down to the wire, we see that control of the US Senate is pretty much a toss up with a half dozen or so races potentially deciding if control lands in the hands of the Republicans, the Democrats, or some 3rd Party. According to a story in the Washington Post one of those races may come down to the choice of font used on the electronic voting machines in several counties.

Why? Because "although the larger type is easier to read, it also unintentionally shortens the longer names on the summary page of the ballot" -- shortening in the case of the Senate candidate meaning it leaves off his last name. This means he will be listed as "James H. 'Jim'..." on an ballot that also includes a "James T. 'Jim'..." running against a "James P. 'Jim'..." which is not expected to cause undue confusion.

Officials claim that it is simply a computer 'glitch' and should almost certainly be fixed by the 2007 general election.

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Am I being trolled? Opinions wanted

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 7 years ago

OK, I could use some opinions / advice here.

I honestly can't tell if I've fallen for an elaborate troll or just run across someone who is English impaired.

The top of the thread in question starts out reasonably enough, but before too long it gets very odd. Its almost like I'm arguing with a really sophisticated chatbot or something. Or like that Monty Python argument sketch. Another thought that crossed my mind is that he may be trying to do a Colbert, and playing the part of an overly enthusiastic partisan for humorous effect.

So what do you think? Am I wasting my time on a really clever troll, or dealing with someone who is language impaired, or (I suppose it's possible) someone whose subtle wit is far beyond my ability to comprehend?

Thoughts?

--MarkusQ

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Any idea why the US media seems mum on this?

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 8 years ago

In a way, this reminds me of the Iraq prisoner abuse story, in that it seems to be getting coverage outside the US (especially the line " Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. " Which, coming in 2002, from a high level (albeit foreign) source, would be a rather big story, I would think.

Update: Well, a bit of noticeis being taken now.

From The London Times:

DAVID MANNING
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02

cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell

IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING, 23 JULY

Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.

This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.

(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.

(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.

On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.

Conclusions:

(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.

He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.

(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)

MATTHEW RYCROFT

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Are people boycotting the "Funny" mod or something?

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 8 years ago
Are people boycotting the "Funny" mod? Or has the /. collective sense of humour been kidnapped by the same aliens that finally got Jon Katz?

My last two funny posts (here and here) got nothing but serious responses..and one even got modded "Informative."

It

was

a

joke...

Arrrrrrrrrrgghhhhh!

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Some questions remain in bank audit

MarkusQ MarkusQ writes  |  more than 9 years ago

What would it be like if we ran our banks the way we run our elections?
I suppose something like this...

Some questions remain in bank audit

IP newswire
Dateline: your town

Another box of money was found in the offices of Central Fiduciary Fidelity Financial Faith and Trust (CFFFF&T) today, as its audit entered its second week. Witnesses said that the box, about two feet high by two feet wide and three feet long appeared to be stuffed full of bills but they were unable to guess the number or the denomination. The audit, which many believe to be unneeded, was called by the managers of a defunct savings and loan in response to the demands from their customers, some of whom claim to have lost their life's savings.

This is the fifth such box identified at CFFFF&T, though there is as of yet no official word on how much money has been found in total. Bank officials issued a statement last Wednesday when the fourth box was found, saying that manually counting the money is a waste of time, but will be done if there is sufficient pressure from the media.

There have been widespread rumours floating around the internet for months, claiming that the nation's banking system is in serious trouble. Many of them point to incidents such as these as supporting their claims. Banking industry analysts however have repeatedly said that it was not uncommon for boxes of money to turn up in various corners of busy banks, and the alarmists who say otherwise or claim that it points to a bigger problem are just crackpots. CFFFF&T President Karl Blackwell agrees.

"They just aren't seeing the bigger picture" Blackwell told Faze The Nation Friday. "Banks are in no way close to collapsing. In fact, many banks are reporting record profits for the tenth year running. People need to just keep making deposits and leave the boring details to us professionals. We professionals? Whatever."

In any case, no one expects the total amount of money found in CFFFF&T's audit to be anywhere near enough to affect the banks financial statements, which were filed amidst great ceremony last Friday at a lavish party held in honor of the bank's current accounting firm, Outron, Rove and Lark.

But extra cash is not the only problem Blackwell has had to deal with lately. There have been scattered accounts of people accidentally depositing more money in their CFFFF&T accounts when they intended to withdraw funds, due to an error in the banks touch-screen ATMs. Blackwell stressed that such minor miscalibrations are to be expected when dealing with complex electronics. "Computers," he pointed out at the time "are only as good as the people who program them and the people who use them. Expecting computers to be perfect is tantamount to expecting perfection from people. I'm not saying it was necessarily user error--just that you can't proof that it wasn't."

And CFFFF&T is not the only target of criticism. Banking industry critics also point to problems such as the recent payday backlog in Ohio, where some banking customers had to wait for up to ten hours in freezing rain to cash their paychecks, especially in poorer neighborhoods. They claim that many customers couldn't wait that long and were forced to leave without cashing their paychecks, and that others who did wait were turned away or had their checks taken from them because they were at the wrong window. Some even go as far as to suggest that this represents an unearned windfall for the banks.

Seasoned industry watchers dismiss such claims as mere speculation. "No one know for sure that people left without cashing their checks," explained one expert who asked to remain anonymous. "They are just basing the theory that the banks somehow benefited from keeping people from cashing their checks on abstruse statistical arguments. There is absolutely no evidence of fraud. We've been very careful about that. Besides, if they couldn't make it that day, there'll be another payday in, what, just under two years, isn't it? They can cash their checks then."

Most people agree with the experts. But not everyone.

Some fringe critics are even calling for a total rework of the banking system, to more resemble the nations electoral process where detailed paper records are kept of every vote and there is an elaborate system of checks and balances. A spokesperson for Piebald Industries, which makes both voting machines and ATMs calls such demands unreasonable.

In an interview with Newsweak magazine, Piebald spokesperson Ryan O'Dear was quoted as saying "A paper trail for every deposit and withdrawal? Receipts? Automatic and transparent auditing? I don't think the people demanding such things realize how much it would all cost," he said. "And given the insignificance of most ATM transactions, it hardly seems worth it. After all, it's only money. It's not like we're talking about control of the free world or anything here."

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