Why won’t it just go away?
Jul 6th, 2006 by teragram

I guess it’s time I wrote about the publication of the CEV’s second report. Frankly, there are some distinctly depressing aspects to the whole thing (not least the minister’s reponse) and sitting around in my pyjamas all day while my RSI gets progressively worse has not helped my mood.

“So, what did the report say?”, I hear you ask enthusiastically. For one thing, it said that the paper system is superior to the chosen electronic system because the latter lacks a VVAT. Great news! Except, they said it on page 153 of the report, and they couldn’t bring themselves to add it to their recommendations in any stronger language than:

The feasibility of implementing enhanced levels of audit within the hardware of the chosen system should be explored, including by means of the printer already present in the voting machine or by the further adaptation of the voting machine.

They also said, completely unambiguously, that the vote managment software (that does things like set up elections, collect votes and calculate results) needs to be entirely replaced. That’s great news, because from what I’ve heard it wouldn’t be accepted as a first year project in a computer science degree.

The opening summary for the report was much too mild for my liking. The first paragraph goes like this:

The Commission concludes that it can recommend the voting and counting equipment of the chosen system for use at elections in Ireland, subject to further work it has also recommended, but that it is unable to recommend the election management software for such use.

Sure, they were clear that the Groenendaal software simply cannot be used, but they could have been more emphatic about the other changes that need to be made.

So really what I want right now is for the e-voting system to go away. If Minister Roche insists on bringing it in I’m pretty certain that it’s going to cost wads of time and money (and heartache for me), and still not be good enough. Let it go man! Please!

Tg – in pessimistic mode

What will future generations say about us?
May 5th, 2006 by teragram

A long time ago I was in Krakow in Poland. The nearby town of Oswiecim was the site of one of the most famous “concentration camps” — Auschwitz. The camp was scarily close to the centre of Oswiecim itself. Though I decided not to visit the museum that the camp has been turned into, I read a little about it. I was struck by the idea of the residents of Oswiecim passing the camp, or avoiding it, knowing — if not exactly what was going on there — that something awful was. I thought: “How could they stand it? Why didn’t they do something?” But what could they do?

Before I go on, I want to point out that I am not comparing the Americans to the Nazis. I am not about to say that Guantanamo is just like Auschwitz. I don’t know what is happening inside Guantanamo, but I’m sure it does not contain the degree of horror that Allied soldiers found in Nazi death camps. I do believe, however, that we are talking about a matter of degrees here.

It is just plain wrong to detain someone without due process. A certain Mr Bellinger, described by today’s Irish Times as “a top US government lawyer” has called on EU leaders to offer alternatives to Guantanamo. Here’s an alternative: charge them with a crime, or release them. That’s one of the foundations of the rule of law, and you don’t get to discard it when it becomes inconvenient. Questioning someone against their will when they’re not charged with a crime — even if they definitely know something you need to know and even if you treat them better than you treat your mother when she comes to visit — is indefensible.

I honestly believe that future generations will look back at Guantanamo and wonder why we didn’t do anything.

Well here’s what I’m going to do. It may not make any difference at all, except to salve my concience, but I’m going to turn this entry into a letter and send it to my four MEPs.


Jul 26th, 2005 by teragram

President Bush – September 12, 2001

“But we will not allow this enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms.”

New York – July 23, 2005

   Police search bags as commuters enter Grand Central Terminal, New York.

We come in peace, shoot to kill
Jul 24th, 2005 by teragram

As captain Kirk would say.

Why is no-one saying that the British police should not have a shoot to kill policy? I even saw a representative of a civil rights organisation saying that police would have to be more careful without actually disapproving of the policy.

I don’t want to live in a world where I have to fear being killed by my own police, no matter how careful they might be with their suspicions about me. Frankly I’d rather be killed by a terrorist than a garda/bobby. A young Brazilian man is dead because he lived in the same building as someone that the police suspected of having links to the London bombers. That is not good enough. I am honestly afraid of the future we are bringing down on our own heads.

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he doesn’t become a monster.”
   Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146
   German philosopher (1844 – 1900)

For a much more eloquent exposition of this point, you should read the article Justice Aharon Barak (of the Isreali Supreme Court) wrote earlier this month. He includes the following quote from one of his own judgements:

“… This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open to it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual’s liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and its strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties.”
   The Role of a Supreme Court In a Democracy and the Fight Against Terrorism
   By Justice Aharon Barak

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