Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts, omphaloskepsis, and other random musings.

Rule Five Terms You Shouldn’t Use Friday

English is a language that’s forever changing; it’s been said that while other languages adopt words and phrases, English chases other languages down dark alleys, hits them over the head and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.  (This observation is made more poignant for yr. obdt. as this Friday finds my own dear Mrs. Animal and me in Japan, where I am functionally illiterate and struggle to make myself understood because I don’t savvy the lingo.)

But even English has standards, and as a popular American talk-radio guy is fond of saying, words mean things.  So here are some words and phrases that people need to stop abusing.

Capitalism

This, like many on the list, is bandied about by plenty of folks who should know better.  Here’s the reason people should stop using this word: “Capitalism,” unlike socialism and communism, doesn’t have an underlying ideology or set of dogma.  There’s no -ism there; it’s just liberty.  What we call capitalism is in fact the free, unfettered, lassaiz-faire of people doing exactly what they choose to do with their own skills, abilities, finances and resources, unfettered by government, unshackled by regulation.  It is people freely choosing what the do with their wealth.  It is the result of free trade, where people exchange value for value by choice, in voluntary transactions in which both parties gain.  It is a market unhampered by any meddling, where the economic trends are not forced from above by fiat but the results of millions of people making trillions of economic decisions, ever hour, every day, in a great freewheeling machine that no person or group of people could ever hope to control without screwing the whole thing up.  This has been demonstrated time and a-damned-gain, see Venezuela, Cuba and Zimbabwe for recent examples.

Gun Violence

Guns are inanimate objects.  There can be no such thing as “gun violence.”  There is only violence, planned and perpetrated by people.

This one is especially egregious as used in policy debates today, because, even though far more people un the United States today are murdered by fists and feet, nobody talks about “fist violence.”  It is only when guns are involved that this term is dragged out.

Whether deliberate or intentional, the term distracts from the real problem – that bad people do bad things – and focuses instead on chunks of plastic, wood and metal that can take no action and possess no moral agency or capacity.  A gun by itself is a moral null; it can take no action and left alone, will never hurt anything or anyone.  It is only when a human being picks up that gun and uses it for good or ill that any judgement of violence can come into the picture.

Privilege

Deriving from a Latin term that translates loosely as “private law,” this is another term that is badly abused in today’s discourse, mostly be people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

American treasure Thomas Sowell noted that “privilege” is the idea that a white coal miner in West Virginia has some unseen advantages over a black Harvard graduate in New York.  As used in such a manner, it trivializes people and assigns them arbitrary categories based on their skin color, ethic background or religious affiliation; in other words, it’s bigotry, pure and simple.  As a middle-aged white male, I am supposed to meekly acknowledge the benefits of “privilege,” even though my Dad was a farmer most of his life, I went to college on the GI Bill and have worked for and earned everything I have.  I guess my privilege isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Decimate/Decimation

Decimation is a term that originated in the Roman army.  When a legion was seen to have failed in courage, one soldier of every ten was executed, pour encourager les autre.  (Voltaire would have loved these guys.)  The literal meaning of the term “decimate” means exactly that – to reduce in number by ten percent.

So, when a vapid talking head on a news program makes that claim that a certain terrorist group has been “decimated” he is saying that they managed to engage a nation-state’s military and only took ten percent casualties.  That’s a pretty good performance by a bunch of illiterates with AK-47s and an absolute cluster-fuck on the part of any modern military.

Democracy

The United States is a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy.

In fact, our Constitution, probably the most effective governing document in the history of mankind as it was originally written, contains specific safeguards against direct democracy.  The Senate is one of those safeguards.  The Electoral College is another.

Noticed, have you, that those are two institutions that the political Left in this country would like to do away with?

We do not nor should we have government by direct democracy.  That is no more than mob rule or, as Benjamin Franklin was rumored to have said, “two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”  We have a Republic, with a Constitution that clearly defines the roles and the limitations on the various branches of government.  We have a Senate that was originally supposed to represent the interests of their states, and we have an Electoral College to make sure that a few high-population states don’t end up dictating to the entire country.  Let’s keep it that way.

This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list.  I’ll likely add to it as time goes on.  But it’s a good start.

Any suggested additions?

 

Animal’s Daily Random Notes and Deep Thoughts News

Last night ran late and this morning starts early, so I’ll just post a few interesting (to me, anyway) stories and some random notes and thoughts.  The fulsome totty appearing to the left has nothing to do with any of these stories or notes; her appearance here is purely gratuitous.

First up:  Big thanks to our blogger pal Doug Hagin over at The Daley Gator for the linkback!

Robert Stacy McCain brings us cogent discussion of the situation on our southern border.  This article is all the more interesting publishing as it did on the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo.

Another hate crime, another assault by a MAGA cap wearer – oh, no, wait, it was an assault on a MAGA cap wearer.  Someone probably thought he was insufficiently tolerant of other people’s views.

Speaking of hate crimes

Here is a prediction of what the 2020 Democrat Presidential nomination battle might look like.  One thing appears to have been decided:  Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I, Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, has said she’s not running.  And we all know Her Imperial Highness never goes back on her word.

Here’s how we’ll know when Skynet gains consciousness.  Right before it launches an army of machines to wipe out mankind, at least until a plucky little truck stop waitress rises to save us.  Because that’s how these things usually play out.

Welcome to U.S./Soviet relations, circa 1963.

Colorado’s last Governor, John Hickenlooper, has become Democrat #12,694 to enter the 2020 Democrat Presidential nomination sweepstakes.  His advantage:  He’s more moderate in most of his positions than pretty much anyone else running on that side.  His disadvantage:  Nobody much outside of Colorado has ever heard of him.

Barack Obama complains about leaders who beat their chest.  Animal says “look who’s talking.”

Hell with it.  Let’s look at another pretty girl, then get back to work.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Speaking of Rule Five:  Apparently six-bots might not only screw you – they may screw you up as well.  Excerpt:

From the Drudge Report to The New York Times, sex robots are rapidly becoming a part of the global conversation about the future of sex and relationships.

Behind the headlines, a number of companies are currently developing robots designed to provide humans with companionship and sexual pleasure – with a few already on the market.

Unlike sex toys and dolls, which are typically sold in off-the-radar shops and hidden in closets, sexbots may become mainstream. A 2017 survey suggested almost half of Americans think that having sex with robots will become a common practice within 50 years.

As a scholar of artificial intelligence, neuroscience and the law, I’m interested in the legal and policy questions that sex robots pose.

How do we ensure they are safe? How will intimacy with a sex robot affect the human brain? Would sex with a childlike robot be ethical? And what exactly is a sexbot anyway?

More on this in a bit, but first, here’s the bit about sexbots possibly being dangerous:

For example, dangers lurk even in a seemingly innocent scene where a sex robot and human hold hands and kiss. What if the sexbots’ lips were manufactured with lead paint or some other toxin? And what if the robot, with the strength of five humans, accidentally crushes the human’s finger in a display of passion?

It’s not just physical harm, but security as well. For instance, just as a human partner learns by remembering what words were soothing, and what type of touch was comforting, so too is a sex robot likely to store and process massive amounts of intimate information. What regulations are in place to ensure that this data remains private? How vulnerable will the sex robot be to hacking? Could the state use sex robots as surveillance devices for sex offenders?

Maybe I’m a bit naive about this, but for what possible reason would you want your sexbot connected to the internet?  Simply insisting on the sexbot have no wireless connections – something you can verify with an app on your smartphone – would preclude the espionage issue.  And I can’t fathom why you’d build a sexbot with the kind of strength described above.

Now, to circle back to the ethical questions:  What exactly is a sexbot?  Well, never fear, Animal has the answer!  A sexbot, no matter now fancy, how sophisticated, how expensive, is nothing more than a fancy masturbation toy.  A married person having sex with a bot isn’t cheating, they are just (literally) jerking off with a pretty toy.

But a bot designed to look like a child?

That’s a head-scratcher.  The bot is still just a machine.  It’s inanimate.  You can’t molest a bot.  It isn’t a victim.  It’s not capable of giving consent, but there’s no reason why it should have to, any more than your toaster has to give consent before you stick a slice of bread in it.

But there’s an “ick” factor here.  On the one hand, of course, such bots might give a non-victimizing outlet to perverts who might otherwise be lurking around schoolyards.  On the other hand, it might normalize the behavior in the minds to the point where they’re more likely to act out.

There’s probably fodder there to keep a legion of head-candlers busy full time for months.

Mom (1928-2019)

Mom in 1945

If you come from a family even marginally normal, the first person to show you what love meant was probably your mother.  That was certainly the case in my family.  For seventy years my Mom has been mothering our whole family.

Her task is now done.  Tuesday night Mom passed quietly away in her sleep.  She was 90.  Dad left us last May, and after he was gone, a light went out in Mom; without her husband of 71 years a great deal of her purpose in life just wasn’t there anymore.

Growing up on an eastern Iowa farm during the Depression certainly shaped my mother’s outlook and attitudes.  She was a staunch believer in the “fix it, fudge it or make do without it” school of thought.  My maternal grandparents did have one advantage during those difficult years that a lot of farm families lacked; the lived on a century farm, homesteaded by an ancestor of mine in the 1830s, and there was no paper on the land.  So, while they went at times with very little money, they always had enough to eat and a secure place to live; Mom was fond of pointing out that her family was among the “…landed gentry of eastern Iowa during the Depression.  We owned the wall we had our backs to.”

Mom after a day of fishing, 1975

Mom was fond of recalling the first time she met my father, at a wedding, when she was eight and he, thirteen; “he was a little out of my league then,” she would say with a laugh.  But that didn’t last.  Mom graduated high school in 1944 and spent the last year of the war working a Western Union switchboard, all too often having to call farm families she had known all her life and tell them they had a telegram from the War Department.

Those telegrams were never good news.

When Dad got home from the Army in 1946, he didn’t waste much time waiting to propose.  The folks were married in Independence in March of 1947 and were happily married for 71 years.  They spent 30 of those years on my childhood home on Bear Creek in Allamakee County, in a house they planned and built together, where they were the happiest they’ve ever been.

Mom caring for her plants at Bear Creek, 2000

A farm wife for many years, Mom mastered a variety of skills.  She was a pretty fine pistol shot, an accomplished angler, a master at patching skinned knees and comforting the normal bumps and bruises country kids accumulate.  She also invented the energy bar, which she called a ranger cookie; this was a marvelous combination of brown sugar, oatmeal, chocolate and butterscotch chips, crushed corn flakes and coconut.  One would keep you going for hours.

Mom loved camping, fishing, the outdoors.  Some years back when the folks came to visit Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. in Colorado, we took them camping in the White River National Forest up on the upper reaches of Blacktail Creek.  Mom and Dad spent the nights in a big tent we had, and one night they were wakened by two bull elk bugling in the creek bottom a few hundred yards away, an experience Mom recounted with awe for the rest of her life.  She was an avid birder and a fixture in the Allamakee County Audubon Society for years.  College botany professors from around the

Mom (right) on Independence Pass, near Aspen, 1993

Midwest would drive for a day to come to the folks’ Allamakee County home to walk in the woods and mine Mom’s extensive knowledge of Midwestern wildflowers; as far as anyone is able to discover my mother is the only person that ever succeeded in growing the tiny, rare white lady’s-slipper orchid from seed.

But most of all, my mother excelled at being a Mom.

Mom with her namesake, 2015

When I became a father the first time, she repeated some advice on parenting that had originally come from her mother: “Hug them, kiss them and feed them, and they’ll turn out fine.”  And I have to say, it works.  Throughout our childhoods my siblings and I were always confident and secure in knowing she loved us.  My kids, all grown now, have always said the same thing.

And late in my mother’s life, she was delighted to have a great-grandchild – my granddaughter – named after her.

Mom at Bear Creek, 2001

You can’t really do much better than that as a parent.

I was very lucky when it came to parents.

Throughout my life I’ve encountered plenty of folks who had troubled childhoods; screwed-up parents, dysfunctional extended families, that sort of thing.  Sometimes I almost feel guilty about the happy, secure, idyllic childhood I enjoyed.

Mom and Dad are gone now.  But life is water, not stone.  It’s sad to suffer the loss of a loved one, but in this case, I prefer not to dwell on the loss but to take joy in the happy, wonderful, long, long lives my parents shared together.

Not too many people get both quality and quantity, but Mom and Dad sure did.  The world would be a better place if more people had a marriage like theirs.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Thanks once again to blogger pal Doug Hagin over at The Daley Gator for the linkback and the kudos!

When I was a little tad, one of the major figures in my young life was my maternal grandfather.  Grandpa Baty stood as a giant in my young world.  He was a farmer and a carpenter, a dedicated fisherman and keen observer of the outdoor world.  He was a man of another era, born in 1898, a young man during the first World War, the father of an expanding family during the Depression, a man with two sons and a son in law serving overseas in the Second.

Grandpa in 1915

Every morning of his adult life he rose, washed, shaved with a straight razor – when I was little I thought that was the coolest thing ever – and donned his Key Imperial hickory overalls to face the day.  In the bib pocket of those overalls he put his watch, an old Westclox Pocket Ben that he bought sometime during the Depression for the princely sum of three dollars.  The watch had a fob of knotted string that Grandpa had made himself.  One of my earliest memories of my grandfather was of sitting in his lap at the kitchen table, hearing that watch ticking loudly in his bib pocket.

Last spring, when my Dad passed away, my mother and sisters spent several days packing up stuff from Mom & Dad’s house, as Mom wasn’t going to be able to stay there alone.

1967: Grandpa, Mom, Dad and Yr. Obdt.

Part of that process was deciding which family heirlooms would go to which of us five kids.  I’m not much for stuff, but it had been a long-understood thing that I was to one day get my Grandpa’s watch.  For the many years since Grandpa died my Mom had kept it; it was her Daddy’s watch, after all.  But during this transition, Mom decided it was time to pass the watch on.  So I have it now.  For Christmas this year, my own dear Mrs. Animal gave me a beautiful walnut and brass stand to display the watch:

Grandpa’s Watch

It’s an old, outdated, cheap wind-up pocket watch with a knotted string fob, eighty or more years old.  If you wind it it only runs for an hour or so.  The crystal is cracked and missing a piece; the radium-painted hands no longer glow.  No pawnbroker would give you a penny for it.

It was my Grandpa’s watch.  Bill Gates couldn’t buy it from me.  Once in a while I take it off the stand, wind it up some, close my eyes and for a few moments just listen to that old watch ticking…

…and for a little while, I’m a little boy again, hanging out with my Grandpa.

Some things are beyond price.

Animal’s Daily Secession Round II News

We’ve been kicking this idea around for a while now, but here’s another take on it from The Washington Times’ Stephen Moore.  Excerpt:

Houston, we have a problem. The federal government is losing the consent of the governed.

Could this red state-blue state America end in violence and uprising if one side feels hopelessly aggrieved by the tyranny of the majority of the other side? We know, regrettably, from history that it can.

How do we head this off? Two ideas need to be pursued.

The most practical solution is a reinvigorated emphasis on federalism — a political movement that takes ever-expanding power away from the federal government and restores the sovereignty and home rule of the states. That way Americans can self-select to live under the laws they agree with but within the context of the legal protections of U.S. citizens embedded in the U.S. Constitution.

If you want drugs legalized, government-run health care, abortion on demand and an end to fossil fuels, move to California. If you want low taxes, right-to-work laws, prayer in school, move to Alabama. This mitigates the tyranny of the federal government and is much in the intent of our Founding Fathers.

If this doesn’t work, America may need to consider a Brexit option. One of the flaws of the U.S. Constitution is that it never set forth terms of legal separation. Perhaps that needs to be fixed with a constitutional amendment that allows a state to leave the union if some super-majority of the citizens of that state want to opt out. As long as the states remained as a free-trade zone and perhaps agreed to a common currency (like the euro) the economic costs would be small.

Some may view this as an un-American and even treasonous idea. No. Offering states an exit option would force the majority of states to be more attentive to the grievances of the minority and would help resolve conflicts and could save the union from dissolution.

I don’t know as it would save the union from dissolution; not at all.  Why not?  Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First, the red/blue divide of the states isn’t as geographically coherent as the North/South divide in 1861.  You have New England and the Atlantic Seaboard, Illinois and a few other parts of the upper Midwest and the Left Coast, Nevada and Colorado in the deep-blue column.  The rest of the country is either red or purple, and I have little doubt that if a “USexit” was in the cards, plenty of folks would vote with their feet to either join or flee the seceding states, thus making the divide even greater.

Second, there would be a tipping point at which the Imperial city wouldn’t be able to hold things together.  If, say, twenty of fifty states bailed – the aforementioned above plus, say, Alaska and Hawaii – I think you’d hit a point of no return where residents of the remaining states would start looking closer to home for resolutions of their distributed interests.  The result of that would probably be several loose regional coalitions of states – several versions of something more like the Articles of Confederation in the red states, something more along the lines of pure democracy in the blue areas.

Either way, the United States as we know it ends at that point.

Now, Mr. Moore also advocates the more sane solution of a return to federalism.  That’s my preferred action as well, but honestly, hardly anybody in either party in the Imperial City is interested in depriving themselves of what has become a truly staggering power over the citizenry.

That’s where we are, True Believers, and it ain’t pretty.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Well, sort of.  I’m not certain how hump day works when this Mittwoch is also basically this week’s Monday.  Regardless, let’s move along.  First up, thanks once again to The Other McCain for our first 2019 Rule Five links!

So let’s look at some 2018 highlights:

Here from PJMedia are the 20 Worst Quotes of 2018.  My favorite:  “Almost every single person I’ve ever heard of with an AR-15 has been a mass murderer.” — Author Nina Burleigh.  There are, best guess, somewhere between 10 and 20 million AR-pattern rifles in the United States.  Since we can only conclude that there have not been between 10 and 20 million mass murders, we can only assume that “Author” Nina Burleigh is a hyperbolic horse’s ass.

Speaking of horseshit:  “Psychic” Nikki, whoever that is, has some predictions for 2019.  As is normally the case with this kind of crap, her “predictions” are so vague as to be meaningless.   Except this one:  And if we can’t find someone on this planet to be nice to, perhaps someone from somewhere else will come into our lives. “…You’re going to hear more voices coming from outer space.” And not just voices, either. Psychic Nikki is certain of that. “We’re going to see more UFOs coming to earth… I wouldn’t be surprised if a spaceship landed by the end of 2019, 2020 for sure. I don’t think it’s going to be anything to be scared of. I just think there’s another planet like us out there.”

I can make a prediction too:  This won’t happen.  But the kind of nitwits that pay attention to “psychics” don’t notice when they’re wrong.

Here from Campus Reform are the five craziest college campus stories of 2018.

Of course, you can’t overlook Dave Barry’s Year in Review.

And, here, from the Washington Examiner, are the top five worst journalistic fuckups of 2018.  The worst, of course?  The media’s handling of the Justice Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, and what a travesty that was.

Anyway, work beckons; Q1 2019 lies ahead, and it’s going to be busy.  Watch these virtual pages for more of all you’ve come to expect, True Believers!  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Rule Five Electoral Reform Friday

This Friday finds Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. in San Diego, where we have some local business to transact, after which we’ll enjoy a warm and sunny Friday afternoon and Saturday far from the chilly environs of New Joisey, to whence we return on Sunday.  It may be daffy old Californey, but at least it’s a change of scene.

In the meantime:  After thinking a little about this week’s post on electoral shenanigans, I have an idea.  Let’s propose an amendment to the Constitution!

Yes, I know.  It’s a wild shot in the dark.  The Constitution is hard to amend on purpose, and this amendment would have the blue states lined up against it from the start.  Plenty of folks in the red states wouldn’t like it, either.  But anyway, here it is, my proposed 28th Amendment, the Electoral Integrity Amendment:

  1. All voters shall be required to identify themselves via government-issued photo ID or biometric to a certified election official prior to casting any vote.
  2. All votes must be cast and entered by the actual voter.  Voting by proxy and delivery of ballots by third party is prohibited.
  3. All votes will be cast on one day, that day being the first Tuesday in November, excepting special elections, recall elections and runoff elections.  Absentee voting is allowed for military members and persons working outside the country.
  4. Citizens and residents who have been on any form of taxpayer funded public assistance within the twelve months prior to the election day are denied the franchise.

That last one in particular would cause a RHEEEEE that you could hear from orbit.  But let’s look at each part:

  1. This is voter ID, but modernized.  A while back I proposed a few ways to modernize our voting system that this amendment specifically allows for, namely a biometric ID as part of a validated, secured online system.  I can’t believe that the high foreheads at the NSA can’t come up with something at least as secure as our present system, which ain’t saying much.  And I can think of only one reason anyone would object to making voters identify themselves prior to voting.
  2. No more “ballot harvesting” horseshit.  Each state can work out systems for invalids and so on, but everyone must cast their own vote.  Note that an online biometric system would make it much easier for, say, senior citizens and the severely disabled to cast their votes.  And biometrics joined to a validated, secure database would eliminate multiple voting shenanigans.
  3. Election day is election day.  If you don’t care enough to show up at the polling place – or open a damned app on your phone or computer, if we go that route – then you shouldn’t be voting.
  4. I’ve proposed this before, in my Manifesto among other places, but as a matter of principle, if you ain’t get skin in the game, you cain’t have a say in how things are run.  I’d want to work out the details to exempt retirees, disabled veterans and so on, but that can be handled.

So, True Believers – thoughts?  Additions?  Subtractions?

Animal’s Daily #MeToo News

No, not me.  Wall Street.  Excerpt:

No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings.

In fact, as a wealth adviser put it, just hiring a woman these days is “an unknown risk.” What if she took something he said the wrong way?

Across Wall Street, men are adopting controversial strategies for the #MeToo era and, in the process, making life even harder for women.

Call it the Pence Effect, after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he avoids dining alone with any woman other than his wife. In finance, the overarching impact can be, in essence, gender segregation.

Interviews with more than 30 senior executives suggest many are spooked by #MeToo and struggling to cope. “It’s creating a sense of walking on eggshells,” said David Bahnsen, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley who’s now an independent adviser overseeing more than $1.5 billion.

Now I’m the least threatening guy in the world to women young or old.  At 57, I’m well past the hormone-driven stage; as a happily married man for 26 years, I’m not interested in shopping around.  I enjoy women aesthetically, but I also enjoy golden aspens in the fall, beautiful sunsets, kittens and wildflowers for much the same reasons.

And yes, I’ve adjusted my behaviors because of all this crap.  No one-on-one meetings behind closed doors.  I’m probably speaking more deliberately because my natural tendency is towards rough language and I have to watch that more carefully now.  And unlike years gone by, I never, ever complement a woman (other than Mrs. Animal, my Mom or my daughters) on their appearance.  My one exception to the above rule is a 30-something colleague who a few years back asked if I could mentor her through her advancing career, and I have agreed to do so, but have known her for a long time, she and Mrs. Animal are great friends, and I trust her.

It’s a shame that things like this have to suck every last bit of enjoyment we have in human interaction.  I like women; I enjoy being around them and talking with them, even though I’m not interested in hitting on them or sidling up to them.

But even I, as harmless a sort as you’re liable to find, have cut way back on my interactions with female coworkers.  It’s not worth taking the chance.  No way.  And that’s just too damn bad.

Rule Five Black Friday News

If you look into news stories about election reform following our latest election, you (thankfully) won’t see much on reforming or removing the Electoral College, because it wasn’t a Presidential election year.  You’ll see some RHEEEEE about the Senate being “undemocratic,” which is a stupid complaint, because:

  • The United States isn’t a democracy, it’s a Constitutional Republic.
  • The Senate is intended to represent the states, not individual voters, and our Republic is a federation of 50 states who are independent and equal, thus equal representation in the Senate.

Along with the Electoral College, the Senate is as it should be – an effective check on unlimited mob rule, and in the modern day, the only reasons that New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco don’t run the whole country.

That being the case, I’m not interested in reforming the Constitution’s mandates over how we vote. It’s the process of collecting, recording and reporting votes that I’m concerned with.  Our voting system, by mandate in the Constitution, is run by the states.  And it’s a mess, as recent events in Florida has shown.  Why can’t we modernize our voting system?

Recently was saw the cluster-foul-up of epic proportions in Florida, caused in no small part by a mishmash of voting procedures and clumsy voting machines used to tally paper ballots.  In an era where we can manage our entire lives online, and where biometric security has become commonplace, why can’t we modernize and streamline (and, oh yes, implement a robust voter ID system) our elections?

Let’s imagine a voter registration system where your name and particulars are entered into a secure, validated database, and while registering to vote you are required to verify your ID and then enter a couple of biometrics – say, fingerprint and retinal scan.

When you vote, you can do it one of two ways:  Go to your polling place, verify your ID on a secured-network, validated voting machine, then enter your votes – or, open the official app on your mobile device, verify your ID by biometric, and vote.

It’s the damned 21st century, I refuse to believe we can’t make this work.  But here are some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • A two-stage biometric scan (fingerprints, retinal scan) would be even more secure than showing an ID at the polling place – and much more secure than the mail-in system that our own Colorado uses.  Want voter ID?  That’s some serious voter ID.
  • Instant results. You could have election results, live, in real time.  No recounts, no hanging chads, no damaged ballots – and no “ooh, look, we miraculously found a box of ballots in the trunk of a car!”
  • Voter turnout. Making voting secure and convenient would make more people likely to vote.  A big part of every election effort involves all parties working to turn out their base; this would eliminate most of the reason for those efforts.
  • Remove humans from the process. As a consultant well into a long career helping businesses solve quality problems, one of the best ways to get better results from a system is to reduce or remove variables from the process.  In Japan they call this poka-yoke, (ポカヨケ) or “mistake proofing.”  (A less charitable version is baka-yoke, or “idiot proofing.”) We can do this to our voting system by automating it.  Humans are, by our nature, variable.

Cons:

  • If a system exists, it can be hacked.  Now encrypted systems can be pretty damned secure, and in the case of an online voting system, we could get folks like the NSA on the case with their high-forehead experts on data security.  But the threat exists all the same.
  • No centralization. It would have to be set up and managed by the states, as the Constitution places almost all power to run elections in those hands.  Getting a streamlined, secure and validated system together fifty times is harder than doing it once, but the Constitution mandates things be done that way, which is one of the reasons we’re in the mess we’re in now.
  • Voter turnout. Let’s be honest; a lot of people who do vote probably shouldn’t.  This would make it easier for the ignorant and stupid to vote, too.

Not being an IT guy, I’m not sure such a system can be set up fifty times with ample security and control to be used in elections, but I suspect it can.  And in evaluating such a system, here’s one primary question to ask:

“Would it be better or worse than what we’re doing now?”

Because what we’re doing now is pretty messed up.