Tuesday, July 29, 2008


A few small things...

...that have been accumulating over the last week or two:

  • Liz, at Everyday Goddess has some very good commentary on this news item about another Bush administration abuse:
    Disabled people who are physically unable to navigate and work a construction site can’t demand construction jobs even when they can’t complete the job requirements. Pharmacists who are personally, morally and/or religiously unable to fill prescriptions for birth control can’t demand pharmacy jobs even when they can’t complete the job requirements.

    The Bush Administration, however, is looking to make Federal funding dependent on certification that you will not refuse to hire medical professionals who are unable to fulfill job requirements. Screw you, medical business owners! We’ll tell you who you can and can not hire, job requirements be damned!


    Not to mention the slid-in phrasing that defines human life as beginning at conception. Guess we’re throwing science out with the capitalist bath water.

    I’ll add to that the issue that federal funding is too often used by the administration as a back-handed mechanism to get around Congress. The president can’t make things illegal, but he can cut off your funding. It’s often round-about, too: your clinic might lose funding for its drug rehabilitation program because in another room there’s someone giving abortion counseling. Congress should make it illegal for the executive branch to use money as a tool in that way.
  • Our friends, our best friends in the world, now officially disapprove of our human rights policies and don’t trust us:
    LONDON (Reuters) — Britain should no longer rely on assurances by the United States that it does not torture terrorism suspects, an influential parliamentary committee said in a report released Sunday.

    Britain had previously taken those assurances at face value, but after the C.I.A. acknowledged using waterboarding techniques on three detainees, Britain should change its stance, according to the report, by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

    The foreign secretary, David Miliband, told Parliament in April that the technique, in which suspects are tied down and water is poured over their hooded faces to simulate drowning, amounted to torture.

    “Given the clear differences in definition, the U.K. can no longer rely on U.S. assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the government does not rely on such assurances in the future,” the report said.

    Delightful. Even our staunchest ally thinks we’ve gone off the deep end.
  • Is it just me, or are John McCain’s incoherent mumblings about Barack Obama’s speech in Germany just about the lamest criticism ever?
    “Well, I’d love to give a speech in Germany, a political speech, or a speech that maybe the German people would be interested in, but I’d much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for the office of presidency,” Mr. McCain told reporters outside Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus, shortly before Mr. Obama began speaking at the Victory Column in the heart of Berlin. (The campaign’s choice of restaurant was consistent with the Republican National Committee’s decision to run anti-Obama advertisements in Berlin, N.H.; Berlin, Wis.; and Berlin, Pa.)

    Instead, Mr. McCain said, he would be “campaigning across the heartland of America and talking about the issues that are challenging America today.”

    Oh, get a grip, Senator, and find something significant to criticize him about. Better still, stop criticizing and start talking about those issues for real.
  • Now, eight years after Palm Beach County (FL) illegitimately gave the presidency to George Bush with its infamous and confusing “butterfly ballot”, the problem has long since been fixed, and ballots are now clear and easy to follow, right? You’d think that, yes... but you’d be wrong:
    The controversy should have led to sweeping reforms, but it didn’t. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law lists 13 ballot problems that show up around the country in election after election. One is creating a layout in which it is unclear what hole voters need to punch — or where they need to place a mark — to cast a vote for a particular candidate. Another is placing more than one contest on the same screen of a computer voting machine, which often leads voters not to vote in one of the races. Making matters worse, the instructions that accompany ballots are often confusing.

    When election officials choose bad ballot designs, it predictably leads to problems. Voters skip races in which they wanted to vote, or they mark their ballots in ways that cause their votes not to be counted. As the Brennan Center report notes, poor, minority, elderly and disabled voters are disproportionately likely to have their votes thrown out.

    Ballot design has traditionally been left up to states and localities, which have had a spotty record. Local officials responsible for ballot design often lack the technical expertise to make the right decisions. State laws are often written in ways that permit, or even require, ballots to be poorly designed. New York has long had a misguided “full-face ballot” law that requires every race to be listed on a single screen or piece of paper. Experts say that leads to information overload, voter confusion and errors. There is also remarkably little usability testing before elections, which would allow officials to learn in advance when ballots have problems.

    When third-world countries use the sorts of election procedures that we do, our observers criticize them for their unfairness. And yet....

1 comment:

thom said...

And McCain apparently didn't realize that Canada, where he spoke just one month ago, is not, in fact, within "the heartland of America". Hardly surprising, though, for a man who also speaks frequently of a no-longer-existing Czechoslovakia.