Saturday Smorgasbord

     I feel like the Flying Dutchman: if I stop blogging, either I’ll die or the world will end, whichever would be worse. So here we go again.


     According to Jazz Shaw at Hot Air, the smash-and-grab robberies in California are not ending. I hadn’t imagined otherwise. Indeed, my response upon reading the article was Why would anyone think otherwise? Conditions there are so favorable to such crimes that for them to come to an end would be baffling.

     It’s not just the flaccidity of California law enforcement and its justice system. Smash-and-grabs have begun to proliferate, nationwide. The would-be thieves have discovered that there’s a shortage of people who’ll impede their fun. In any district where the cult of victimism has taken root, individuals who see the opportunities are finding a “conscience loophole” that permits them to get in on the gravy. Few are pursued afterward. Fewer still are arrested, indicted, and tried. So the incentives surrounding such criminality are strongly positive.

     Yes, California cities get more of it than any other city not currently experiencing riots. But that’s California, a.k.a. “The Land of Fruits and Nuts.”


     My Gentle Readers have probably already read about this monstrous bill, which I believe has passed the House and is headed to the Senate. Add to the mix this equal monstrosity, which seeks to turn the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment into a permission, revocable by the federal government at any time and for any reason or none.

     Whoever it was who said that the Second Amendment is the guarantor of all the others had it right. The right to keep and bear arms is what distinguishes the citizen from the subject. If you think your First Amendment freedom of expression is being curtailed today, just wait for the day when you’re no longer allowed to possess weaponry unless the State thinks you can be “trusted.”


     Jeffrey Tucker has written a heartfelt essay on the COVID-19 lockdowns and “the loss of moral clarity.” Tucker sees the connection between the two and pins it as few others have done. In speaking of the empathy fostered by a regime of freedom and free markets, he writes:

     Adam Smith’s masterwork The Theory of Moral Sentiments… is heavy on the analysis of what it means to feel empathy, and not only to feel it, but to rely on it to the point that our own well-being is connected to the belief that others too are experiencing something like a good life.

     What instills this higher sense in our minds? It is the practical experience of depending on others and finding value in their labor, productivity, contribution to community life, and coming to see our own well-being as bound up with the fate of others. This is what the market and socializing encourages: the gradual recognition that others, and indeed all people, are worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.

     The universalization of this sense is never complete, but as civilization and prosperity grow, we make progress toward that end. This is what grants us ever better lives. Without it, we can very quickly descend into barbarism in the way The Lord of the Flies describes. This is particularly true in the volatile years of youth, when the search for meaning is active and the mind is malleable in both good and dangerous ways.

     I could not have put it better.


     The educrats are very worried. Frantic, even. The kiddies are steadily leaving the “public” schools! And you know what that means:

     In New York City, the nation’s largest school district has lost some 50,000 students over the past two years. In Michigan, enrollment remains more than 50,000 below prepandemic levels from big cities to the rural Upper Peninsula.

     In the suburbs of Orange County, Calif., where families have moved for generations to be part of the public school system, enrollment slid for the second consecutive year; statewide, more than a quarter-million public school students have dropped from California’s rolls since 2019.

     And since school funding is tied to enrollment, cities that have lost many students — including Denver, Albuquerque and Oakland — are now considering combining classrooms, laying off teachers, or shutting down entire schools.

     I added the emphasis. Every so often, even the reliably statist New York Times will blurt out the real issue. And so it is in the above.

     I read recently that homeschooled children in these United States now number about five million. That’s quite an increase from the roughly one million of thirty years ago, when I first started to watch the rise of homeschooling. The folks who promoted Critical Race Theory and transgenderism, who turned their classrooms into propaganda centers for socialism and catastrophic climate change, and who engineered the “pandemic” have shot the educrats in the foot, if not somewhat higher up. I couldn’t smile any more widely. What about you, Gentle Reader?


     Speaking of truth-blurting, here’s a case that shouldn’t be missed:

     Some will find this blatantly totalitarian emission shocking. I don’t. Yes, it’s Kinsleyesque, but it reflects the mindset of the corporate captain of our time: Profit Uber Alles. If we can get the State to force the public to buy our product, we’ll be on Easy Street!

“A corporation has neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned,” said Isabel Paterson The incentives built into the existence and special privileges of the limited liability corporation have brought about exactly the sort of person we see in the above: a CEO of a drug company who cares about selling drugs. Nothing else. If he can get the government to push his drugs, he’ll be happier than a clam at high tide.

     The days of the Thomas Watsons, the Thomas Edisons, and the Andrew Carnegies are far behind us.


     I’m not yet ready to sing Blame Canada, but I’m edging toward it:

     Since last year, Canadian law, in all its majesty, has allowed both the rich as well as the poor to kill themselves if they are too poor to continue living with dignity. In fact, the ever-generous Canadian state will even pay for their deaths. What it will not do is spend money to allow them to live instead of killing themselves.

     As with most slippery slopes, it all began with a strongly worded denial that it exists. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada reversed 22 years of its own jurisprudence by striking down the country’s ban on assisted suicide as unconstitutional, blithely dismissing fears that the ruling would ‘initiate a descent down a slippery slope into homicide’ against the vulnerable as founded on ‘anecdotal examples’. The next year, Parliament duly enacted legislation allowing euthanasia, but only for those who suffer from a terminal illness whose natural death was ‘reasonably foreseeable’.

     It only took five years for the proverbial slope to come into view, when the Canadian parliament enacted Bill C-7, a sweeping euthanasia law which repealed the ‘reasonably foreseeable’ requirement – and the requirement that the condition should be ‘terminal’. Now, as long as someone is suffering from an illness or disability which ‘cannot be relieved under conditions that you consider acceptable’, they can take advantage of what is now known euphemistically as ‘medical assistance in dying’ (MAID for short) for free.

     Soon enough, Canadians from across the country discovered that although they would otherwise prefer to live, they were too poor to improve their conditions to a degree which was acceptable.

     Not coincidentally, Canada has some of the lowest social care spending of any industrialised country, palliative care is only accessible to a minority, and waiting times in the public healthcare sector can be unbearable, to the point where the same Supreme Court which legalised euthanasia declared those waiting times to be a violation of the right to life back in 2005.

     It seems that in Canada, the waiting times for medical treatments have become so long that they effectively render it unavailable. If he lacks the means to seek treatment abroad, there’s nothing the sufferer can do except suffer. But he can die with State assistance.

     Look ye upon the future of socialized medicine, and despair.


     Just this morning, I ran across this JPG:

     At first blush, it sounds like a perfect solution to the problem of ballot fraud. However, we wouldn’t want to use the technology involved in printing currency.

     In 1980, a single Treasury Department Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) currency printer cost about twenty million dollars. I doubt it’s less expensive today. And they are not simple devices. Consider the implications of having to mark every bill printed with a unique number, so that each bill will be unique. The intaglio printing method – ink squirted onto engraved steel plates – is expensive all by itself. This extra requirement raises the cost.

     Now turn to the ballot-making procedure. The United States has over 88,000 governments, the majority of which have elected members. Each of those election contests would require a set of engraved plates that would differ from any other set, even omitting the serialization requirement. Moreover, the plates would have to be changed from election to election. Printing ballots is already quite expensive. Doing it the BEP way would compel school boards to subcontract their ballot production to larger and richer bodies, such as the federal government. If you’re looking for a way to compel the federalization of all elections, look no further.

     It might be possible to avoid that pass by the use of contemporary digital printers that are highly programmable and don’t require the special paper used for currency, but that means involving some highly special specialists in the programming. How many of those are there? Are they trustworthy?


     Finally for today, a graphic I found earlier that neatly expresses my struggles of yesterday:

     Yes, indeed. But do have a nice day.


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    • Abbe Faria on May 21, 2022 at 1:58 PM

    A good digital printing system that can easily do this, now costs about $1 million these days.

    No special programming is required. All the parameters involved would be transparently recorded as part of the job ticket.

    It would be trivial to create ballots with unique IDs. Serial numbers would be used in conjunction with precinct numbers, election dates, and other logical identifiers.

    The technology is so evolved these days, it costs a tiny fraction of what it did only a few years ago. Even allowing for special security measures including some kind of special paper like our business checks, this would be far less expensive than the insane amounts we are spending on these blackbox machines.

    1. $1 million machines for each of the 88,000 bodies that elect some or all of their officials? Or are you proposing that the job would be subcontracted to a printing firm? How many firms are there that would be capable of doing the job at a cost an election district could afford? And how many are there that would accept such a job, aware of the post-election odium that would go along with it?

    • Abbe Faria on May 22, 2022 at 7:16 AM

    $1 million machines for each of the 88,000 bodies that elect some or all of their officials? No way. These machines need to run all day every day, they are a printshop’s performing asset.
    Or are you proposing that the job would be subcontracted to a printing firm?  Of course, yes.
    How many firms are there that would be capable of doing the job at a cost an election district could afford? A LOT. These things are basically giant superspeed laser printers, but you can print from a database, (so each page or card can have any variety of changes, large or small) and you have folders and cutters and punchers and binders, etc. attached. Very slick. Pricing extremely competitive.
    And how many are there that would accept such a job, aware of the post-election odium that would go along with it?  I don’t get it … what odium? Printing companies are already printing all the forms and ballots, and have been forever. Business is business. If I’ve got the press and the run time available, and you can pay my price, I’m doing it.
    But  – what you and the meme are suggesting is overkill. The integrity of the vote needs to be enforced ahead of the ballot marking, and afterwards. The actual voting process should be dead simple.
    No advance voting. No mail-in voting. Rare exceptions *stringently* verified. We know how. Everybody else votes in person, on the day, and shows ID.  Unverified ID or anything else  – voter disqualified, get your info in order ahead of time. End of discussion. NO VOTING MACHINES. Paper ballots only. Unclear marking – vote discarded – NO EXCEPTIONS.
    All votes hand counted same day, with reps of both parties involved.  ANY AND ALL observers welcome at all times. NO EXCEPTIONS.  Results get phoned in to tabulation central *immediately* upon agreed counts.
    I didn’t dream this up – see my next post.

    • Abbe Faria on May 22, 2022 at 7:23 AM

    Here’s a column Robert X Cringely wrote in 2003 comparing US & Canadian voting systems.
    It was on PBS website, but I can’t find a live link anymore, so here’s a full copy. I claim fair use :
    I, Cringely . The Pulpit . Follow the Money | PBS
    This is my follow-up to last week’s column about the U.S. voting technology fiasco as an IT problem. We don’t seem to do a very good job of running elections in this country. Our answer is to throw more technology at the problem, and last week, I suspected that our proposed solutions would just make the problems worse, not better. And I still feel that way, but this week, I have a solution to propose, and I promise you it isn’t what you expect.
    Last week, I questioned why the new touch screen voting machines coming into use don’t create a result that can be audited. That is, they don’t produce a paper trail. The rationale for not giving each voter a receipt that shows how he or she voted and can be used for later verification has always been that this would enable vote selling. If you could prove with an official receipt that you voted for Mr. Big, then it would be practical for Mr. Big to buy your vote, becoming Mayor Big. So receipts are bad, or at least, they can be bad. But that doesn’t mean that auditing an election is bad, though many people — some of them election officials — make that illogical jump.
    These same people also claim that receipts are bad because printers are unreliable or need to be refilled with paper, which they fear poll workers would be unable to do. We don’t seem to have a problem printing ATM receipts or lotto cards, but then maybe the folks down at 7-11 are more technically sophisticated.
    I asked the question, “Who decided to leave out this auditing capability?” The ability to audit is actually required by the Help America Vote Act of 2001, which is providing the $3.9 billion needed to buy all those touch screen voting machines. Or at least it appears to be required. Certainly, most of the Congressmen and Senators who voted for the Act thought it was required. But then the language was changed slightly in a conference committee, and for some reason, though the auditing requirement remains, most systems aren’t auditable. Huh? The best explanation for this that I have seen so far says that the new machines are “able” to be audited in the same sense that I am “able” to fly a Boeing 747. I am a sentient being with basic motor skills just like all 747 pilots, so I am “able” to fly a 747. So we are “able” to audit these machines. We just don’t know how.
    But it would be a mistake to think that with touch screen voting we are necessarily giving up an auditing capability that we traditionally have had. The old lever voting machines that were used in the U.S. for most of the last century produced no paper trail, just lists of total votes.
    Still, auditing in some form would be a good idea now because we seem to be entering a period when electronic elections can be subject to voter fraud on a massive scale. Rather than buying votes one at a time, the bogeyman is stealing votes en masse. Or even worse, it could be stealing votes on a very intelligent basis to just shade an election in a way that would go undetected. As President Kennedy once joked, his wealthy father might be willing to buy him an election, but he wouldn’t buy a landslide.
    There are lots of auditing ideas and systems under consideration. Many people don’t see how these could work given the difficulty of rounding up all those receipts, but others point out that if even a random one percent of votes were audited, it would be a powerful discouragement to voting fraud.
    My favorite voter receipt idea is the Vreceipt, which creates an auditable receipt that can’t be read by the voter or by Mr. Big.
    Now underlying all this is a deep distrust of the new technology and the people behind it. Software for these machines tends to be proprietary and hidden even from the officials who are supposed to “certify” that the code is accepted. This certification is a joke in that bug patches are routinely distributed after certification — patches that ought to be re-certified, but aren’t. Even worse, some of the software is considered to be off-the-shelf and not subject to certification. This applies to Windows CE, which is used in many new voting machines. But Windows CE isn’t really an off-the-shelf product. Microsoft distributes it in the form of source code that is compiled for each target hardware device. So here is software that can be supremely compromised, yet the certification officials never even take a look at it.
    And there’s the big problem — the people running the elections aren’t actually running them. Vendors are doing that. Election officials don’t know how their equipment works and won’t know if it works wrong.
    This is lunacy.
    And it is also patronage. There is a lot of money in replacing all those machines, and that money is going primarily to the usual suspects. Remember that every public crisis in America is an opportunity for someone to make money.
    In the last week, I have heard from all the voting machine companies and from some of their workers. I have heard from election officials and voting reform advocates. I have heard from all sides, including those who think I am a nut. I could take all that information those people have dumped on me and drag this thing out for another week or two in agonizing detail. I could write about the Open Source voting software being developed in Australia or the hard-wired electronic voting machines being used successfully in India. But I choose not to do that in favor of making a couple simple suggestions.
    First, the area where technology might be useful but isn’t being used much, as far as I can tell, is voter validation. This could be a pretty straightforward database application that simply ensures that people are who they say they are, and they only get to vote once. The Help America Vote Act and its $3.9 billion don’t touch this problem. If I were even more of a cynic than I am, I might suggest that’s because it is often easier to disenfranchise specific blocks of voters by losing or corrupting their registration data than any other way.
    As for voting itself, I think we have made a horrible decision to solve this problem with technology. While the voting technology we have been considering is flawed, the best answer doesn’t have to be some other voting technology that is somehow better. We turn to technology because it supposedly eliminates human error. I suggest that we add humans to the process in order to eliminate technological errors. And we’d save a lot of money in the process.
    My model for smart voting is Canada. The Canadians are watching our election problems and laughing their butts off. They think we are crazy, and they are right.
    Forget touch screens and electronic voting. In Canadian Federal elections, two barely-paid representatives of each party, known as “scrutineers,” are present all day at the voting place. If there are more political parties, there are more scrutineers. To vote, you write an “X” with a pencil in a one centimeter circle beside the candidate’s name, fold the ballot up and stuff it into a box. Later, the scrutineers AND ANY VOTER WHO WANTS TO WATCH all sit at a table for about half an hour and count every ballot, keeping a tally for each candidate. If the counts agree at the end of the process, the results are phoned-in and everyone goes home. If they don’t, you do it again. Fairness is achieved by balanced self-interest, not by technology. The population of Canada is about the same as California, so the elections are of comparable scale. In the last Canadian Federal election the entire vote was counted in four hours. Why does it take us 30 days or more?
    The 2002-2003 budget for Elections Canada is just over $57 million U.S. dollars, or $1.81 per Canadian citizen. It is extremely hard to get an equivalent per-citizen figure for U.S. elections, but trust me, it is a LOT higher. This week, San Francisco held a runoff mayoral election that cost $2.5 million, or $3.27 per citizen of the city. And this was for just one election, not a whole year of them.
    We are spending $3.9 billion or $10 per citizen for new voting machines. Canada just prints ballots.
    No voting system is perfect. Elections have been stolen and voters disenfranchised with paper ballots, too. But our approach of throwing technology at a problem with a result that election reliability is not improved, that it may well be compromised in new and even scarier ways, and that this all costs billions that could be put to better use makes no sense at all.

  1. We don’t need printing machines that use all that much hi-tech. We just need to ensure that when ballots are printed, they have identifying numbers, and that when they are returned, those numbers correlate with the number printed for that precinct. If there are duplicates, or numbers outside of that range, there is fraud. Those ballots can be sequestered and investigated further.

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