Machinery of Gambling and Voting

Can Las Vegas slot machines be trusted? The state of Nevada seems to want the answer to be yes. So it demands access to all software, and reserves the right to do unannounced spot checks on the hardware.

Now, what about electronic voting machines? The US government seems to have a more relaxed attitude to them than NV does to the slots. When it comes to voting machines, the software is secret, and the hardware is not subject to inspection.

The source for these and other disturbing comparisons is Steve Freeman, an academic, via The Washington Post and Reddit. The article is from 2006, but I don’t think much has changed since then. I am among those who thinks that voting software should be free/open source, or at least available for public inspection and running on machines subject to independent checks.

Democracy in the USA

Some of these Diebold voting machine posters are great. But even greater is Jimmy Carter’s Onion article; as I link to it, I should remind you that The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.

If you must have a serious snapshot of the primaries, you could do worse than The Economist. Or you might prefer a snapshot of Hillary & The Pips, presumably doing “Midnight Train to South Carolina.”

Wikimocracy and a Grook

Wikipedia describes itself as written by open and transparent consensus. So the Register article about a ruling clique using a secret mailing list came as something of a shock.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a shock. Stan at Mashable, in covering the story, asserted that Where there’s democracy, there’s oligarchy.

Oligarchy is the rule of the few. Democracy is the rule of the people. Are these two mutually exclusive? Quite the contrary. It is impractical and impossible for everyone to rule; thus, a higher degree of influence and power will always be retained by the selected few.

That quote reminded me of “Majority Rule,” a grook by Piet Hein.

His party was the Brotherhood of Brothers,
and there were more of them than of the others.
That is, they constituted that minority
which formed the greater part of the majority.
Within the party, he was of the faction
that was supported by the greater fraction.
And in each group, within each group, he sought
the group that could command the most support.
The final group had finally elected
a triumvirate whom they all respected.
Now, of these three, two had final word,
because the two could overrule the third.
One of these two was relatively weak,
so one alone stood at the final peak.
He was: THE GREATER NUMBER of the pair
which formed the most part of the three that were
elected by the most of those whose boast
it was to represent the most of the most
of most of most of the entire state —
or of the most of it at any rate.
He never gave himself a moment’s slumber
but sought the welfare of the greater number.
And all people, everywhere they went,
knew to their cost exactly what it meant
to be dictated to by the majority.
But that meant nothing, — they were the minority.

I found this and other grooks here.