Washburn's World

My take on the world. My wife often refers to this as the WWW (Weird World of Washburn)

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Location: Germantown, Wisconsin, United States

I am a simple country boy transplanted from the Piehl Township in northern Wisconsin to the Milwaukee metropolitan area who came down "sout" in 1980 for college and have stayed in the area since.
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Friday, November 30, 2007

Blegging for Records

I have only blegged for money once before, but at I would like to pay for the first batch of emails requested from the Office of Governor Perry.

This CDROM of data will cost me $568. The cost is for the 31.5 hours of staff time needed to locate the requested email records on the email server and transfer them to the CDROM. My Response to this charge is here.

If are so inclined to help on this project, a donation would be most welcome.

As of 2007-12-02 17:25 CST: Your generous donation total $130.00. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Texas Email Foot Print

My recent scuffling with the Governor of Texas has gotten me to thinking about email retention. I am looking for a long term home for the emails I expect to receive, so the natural question is how much data will that be?

What are the storage requirements in order to store one year’s worth of email generated by the Governor's office?

There are 300 people on staff with the Governor's office. According to email research from 2000 the average worker gets 40 email messages in his office every day and the size of an email averages 18.5 kilobytes

This seems low to me and the research is old, so I increased both size and volume 5-fold. This yields:
    300 people getting 200 email message each day where each email is 100K in size.
The total storage foot print for email from the whole whole office is then 6 gigabytes per day. Assuming the email traffic on Saturday and Sunday is the same as any other day, one year's worth of traffic is 2.2 terabytes.

I will splurge and go for 2.5 terabytes.

This will cost me $1,500 for an off the shelf USB compliant unit.

I seems to me that it would be cheaper for the Governor Perry to spend $2,000 to $4,000 for proper archive storage than to delete emails after only 7 days because there is too little space as the Governor's spokes man has stated here.

Since, I may have to buy this unit, a donation would be appreciated.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Internet fund raising

Supporters of Fred Thompson such as Blogs for Fred and Sean at the American Mind are hoping to replicate the November 5th fund raising success of Ron Paul.

It is called Fred's Giving Day. The Ron Paul campaign posts its donation information online. Fred Thompson's campaign does not.

Rumors are Fred's Giving Day has less than 500 people pledging. Ron Paul's next money bomb is scheduled on the aniversary of the Boston Tea party.

The effort on Thompson behalf looks on track to garner less than $100,000 (500 people at $200 per). Tea Party 2007 on behalf of Ron Paul looks on track for $5.5 Million (50,000 at $110 per).

On December 17th we will know about the December 16, 2007 Tea Party.

I wonder if Fred's campaign let us know this Friday the ammount raised by Fred's Giving Day or will we have to wait until the Q4, 2007 FEC reports are released in Feburary 2008?

[As poor as Fred's Giving Day may have done, it looks as if Barak Friday may have done even more poorly.]

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Milwaukee Election Problems Are Solved

According to the testimony given by Neil Albrecht before Congress last week, all of the problems of the November 2, 2004 election have be satisfactorily explained.

Here is the testimony of the assistant director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, Mr. Neil Albrecht in his own words:

Here is the whole of the testimony given that day so you can check on the faithfulness of the excerpt.[the original link from Congress has gone 404 as has the testimony of the first panel. The link here is of part two and is two hours long. Sorry for the broken link -- jww]

I know the final report of the Joint Task force is not an open record because I have already filed an open records request for the final report Mr. Albrecht references in his sworn testimony. The final report has been classified as an unpublished draft by the Milwaukee County District Attorney. Because the unpublished final report is a draft document it is exempt from disclosure because draft documents are not records under WI Stats. 19.32(2).

According to Mr. Albrecht, all of these discrepancies as I reported earlier have been explained? I don't think so.

This is why I wanted the final report of the joint task force between the US Attorney and the Milwaukee County DA. I want explanations, but I want them in public, not in a some report which is on double, secret probation.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Messin' With Texas

Counter to all bumper sticker urging me not to, last week I messed with Texas.

Specifically, I asked Governor Rick Perry for the emails from his office for the prior several days. This is now big news in Texas and is now an AP wire story.

Here is how this devolped.
The Purge: Part One,
The Purge makes The Carnival,
The Purge: Part Two,
The Purge goes old stream, and
The Purge: Part Three.

To follow this developing story please refer to The Political Junkie

I have been warned that Governor Perry does not have the good humor that this letter would indicate.

JWW-20110909. All of the links in this story had gone 404, so I have substituted the original ULRs with URLs from the internet Archive. It is my custom to mark all such retroactive changes to a blog post in green. Here though that would not be appropriate given the nature of the post hoc changes I have made. It is my hope this footnote suffices.

The link in the comment has gone 404 as well: The Archive.org link is here

Solution for WI Stats. 7.23(1)(g)

I have had several clerks anonymously ask the question: What is my solution to the WI Stats 7.23(1)(g) problem? Those comments can be found here and here.

The arguments given for disobeying the law are:
  1. No state certified equipment allows us to meet this requirement of Wisconsin election law
  2. The Wisconsin State Elections Board certified these voting systems so we should not have to comply with the law.
  3. It is unreasonable to insist clerks, DA's, and state Boards obey the law after they have ignored its enforcement for 20 years.
To these points, it is not my fault the clerks of the state bought crappy equipment which violates state law. It is not my fault the State Election Board certified crappy systems which violate state law. I showed up all through 2005 and 2006 and pointed out other, statutory short comings of these systems. The systems were certified and bought with full knowledge of these other, statutory short comings. So yet another statutory short deficiency should come as no surprise. So, my over-arching solution is to find and purchase equipment which meets this clear statutory requirement.

That said here are my solutions from short term to long term for the Wisconsin election industry (WI SEB, municipal and county clerks, vendors, and vendor representatives).

Short Term:
I suspect the various election management systems (EMS) such as GEMS, UNITY, WinEDS, BOSS, etc. already provide this functionality even if it is not well documented. It is ludicrous to believe an application which can read and write to the memory cards cannot read the memory cards in order to make a backup.

If your vendor is unwilling to help you comply with the law, then purchase the extra equipment which will allow you to obey this 20 year old law in spite of your vendor's intransigence. If the intransigence of your vendor is too obnoxious, then sue them for breach of contract. They did after all warrant the system met all applicable state election laws.

Medium Term:
If the election system truly does not allow you to make backups of the cards it can read and write to, then Wisconsin State Elections Board does have some culpability here. They certified systems which did not meet the requirements of state law. The intermediate solution for the clerks of the state is to petition the Wisconsin State Elections Board (or the Government Accountability Board) for relief. Ask the Board to state in writing that obeying the law is optional in this case.

Long Term:
If the election system truly does not allow you to make backups of the cards it can read and write to, then the long range solution for the clerks is to argue before the state legislature that these backups are unnecessary. Talk to your legislator and have the law (WI Stats 7.23(1)(g)) changed.

Exemption from Having an SSN

My 16 year old son is in the process of getting is Wisconsin class D operator’s license. He decided some months ago to avail himself of a little known (and never advertised) provision of Wisconsin State law which requires the DMV to create a DMV without a social security number.

As part of the new and unconstitutional process for the implementation of this statue and transportation regulation, my son and I travelled to Madison so he could be interviewed on the nature and sincerity of his religious beliefs; an inquiry into his religious purity if you will.

The question I have for this small audience is this. How do you file for and receive an exemption from having an SSN? During this interview the interviewer from the DMV asked if either my son or I had filed for and/or received an exemption from having a social security number. I have ask for just such an exemption over the course of the last two decades and have been consistently told NO. There is no procedure for exemption from having an SSN.

Clearly I was wrong. The DMV knows that such exemptions are possible and have been granted or it would not have been part of the administrative hearing. The exemption from using an SSN for a WI driver’s license is little because unless you ask for the proper form by NUMBER, you will be told no such form exists and that you must provide a SSN to get a driver's license.

I would like to file for and gets this exemption. I suspect the federal version of this exemption is the same as the state's version. It is a secret unless you ask for the precise forms by number and cite the correct, arcane, implementing federal regulations. If anyone knows how this is done, please leave a comment to this blog article.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Guide To Hiding Public Records

Here is a short piece of satire byJohn Foust on How to Hide Public Records from nosy citizens. Hat tip to Wisconsin Sunbeam.

The article is orgainzed into two sections: Reasons and Tactics. There are three reasons to hide public records and ten tactics to used hide public records.

The three reasons are:
  1. You have nothing to hide. (because you do little)
  2. It's none of their business. There are plenty of embarassing facts in those files. Why volunteer them to a pesky newpaper?
  3. We can't do our job if we had to tell everyone what we're were doing.
The ten tactics are:
  1. Deny the record exists.
  2. Claim the request isn't specific enough.
  3. Make them pay for what they really want.
  4. Make haste slowly.
  5. Drive them nuts.
  6. Don't say more than you have to.
  7. Make mistakes and publicize requestor mistakes.
  8. Fake ignorance.
  9. Invent authority.
  10. Hire attorneys.
The paragragh on making mistakes cuts close to the bone for my current open records scuffle with my county clerk, Brenda Jaszewski [emphasis mine]:
    You can always ask for forgiveness. Surrender the wrong records. Forget to hand over some of their request. Split up the request into pieces, give out some, forget others. When they complain, say their request was so complicated and that you were so busy, you made a mistake.

    Mea culpa! Big deal! "What are you going to do, make a Federal case of it?" It's not as if you're going to be fired for making a mistake.

    The best mistake destroys a record. Zap those e-mails, and later claim you didn't know you had to keep them. Don't make backups. Claim you don't have the budget [voting system] for that.

    Erase audio tapes as soon as someone asks for them. These sorts of literal records are the most dangerous to release. After all, everyone knows the minutes of a meeting are the first opportunity to re-write history. One phrase in the minutes like "It was the general consensus that we should move ahead" will clear away the evidence of an hour of dissent on a tape. Losing the tape is an important part of preserving the official record of the minutes.

    If someone asks for an electronic record in electronic form, print it out and destroy the computer file. A database on paper is almost worthless for research, but the printed version probably complies with the legal requirements for preservation of the record.

    On the other hand, if the requester makes a mistake of any kind, say a lot about it. You'll look smart for pointing it out, and it'll build sympathy with your superiors. Point out that frivolous and repeated requests need not be answered.
I am sure the piece is satire, but I admit it is hard to tell. The line between satire and reality blurs badly sometimes when dealing with the humorless, such as public officials.