Categories
2012: it's important

Open source voting systems?

How is it, given the concerns over election system security, that the US doesn’t have open source-based voting systems, based on off-the-shelf components, running published and verified software (or even a mechanical tabulating engine: it’s harder to hack gears than flip bits in registers), and owned by the American people?

Given the wide use of public key encryption in online retail, banking, why are systems for the recording and tabulation of votes owned by private companies, controlled by them with no oversight by or accountability to the people?

I found this but it’s not clear it’s advanced to more than proof of concept or call to action.

Some states have moved to voting by mail (which poses a different set of questions if the USPS is successfully dismantled) but for those that favor the community aspect of public democracy, standardized ballots and publicly-owned voting technology is overdue.

I wonder if Richard Stallman, Bruce Schneier or Ed Felten haven’t proposed this. I haven’t found anything on it.

Maybe this is a corollary to the The best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity: idealists are theorizing while thieves are getting away with it.

Categories
2012: it's important

private equity firms as rag and bone merchants

While I can agree that some businesses run their useful course and should be allowed to fail, do we really think private equity firms are the ones to make that call?

I never thought of what I do for a living as job creation. … The primary goal of private equity is to create wealth for your investors.

Romney Economics | Mitt Romney’s private sector record.
Romney’s most recent call was to let GM and Chrysler die, rather than invest in them and keep those companies and their networks of suppliers in business. I’d say he’s 0 for 1, as GM seems to be doing well, was never at risk of being nationalized and is back in public hands, with the government retaining a minority stake in hopes of making a little something something. The irony of his father being a successful CEO of long-defunct AMC wasn’t lost: a smarter politician would have found something else to talk about.

Private equity mavens don’t see businesses as businesses or markets as markets: they see everything as a salable asset. You could see that in Romney’s claim that JPMorgan losing $3B meant someone made $3B. Does he really think the economy is a zero-sum game, not a dynamic complex system that expands contracts? Is this the value of a Harvard MBA?

The old saw about the cynic knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing comes to mind. The private equity mindset sees a steel mill as a building, land, and some equipment to be sold off or used up, not as a revenue-generator or the primary income source for families in a town or region. The old school patriarchal capitalists who built towns and schools for their workers, who understood the tension between capital and labor, might not have been so bad in comparison to these rag and bone merchants.

Can anyone cite a business that customer-facing business, a retailer or service provider, that Romney had a hand in creating or managing? Not something funded by Bain or but some evidence that he or his people saw an opportunity and built something to meet it, then ran it successfully.

Maybe we need organizations like Bain to prune the deadwood but I’m not so sure he knows how to decide what needs cutting back. Let’s not allow Romney to spin his experience at breaking things up and selling them off as some kind of visionary leadership.