10th > December > 2000 Archive

US Supremes stop Florida re-counts

The smart money was on George "Dubya" Bush all last week, and that bit of conventional wisdom crystallised Friday after two Florida judges shot down two separate Democrat requests to throw out absentee ballot applications which were said to have been altered by Republican zealots. By entering voter registration numbers after the forms had been mailed, the Democrats contended, state election officials were guilty of something approaching fraud. The litigants also noted that Democrats either didn't, or couldn't, do the same with incomplete overseas applications related to ballots cast for Al Bore. Another issue was the fact that the voters concerned were unable to verify that the information, which should have been pre-printed on the forms, was accurate and complete. The judges quite sensibly determined that while the forms had been altered after the fact, the nature of the tampering would have exerted only a negligible effect on the election's outcome. The right of the voters to cast their ballots trumped the minor issue of perhaps a few of the forms getting more than the minimal treatment cited. And so the Dubya camp sighed in relief and smiled with satisfaction. Until, that is, a few hours later, when the Florida Supreme Court decided, by a thin and clearly partisan majority, to order manual re-counts of the state's entire lot of questionable ballots. With the smart money shifting to Bore for a change, Democrats celebrated well into Saturday afternoon -- right up until the US Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari granting the Dubya camp a hearing to appeal the Florida Supremes' decision, which is to be held on Monday morning, and further ordered a temporary stay of the state court's order requiring the re-counts. So much for the smart money. At this point, even the normally omniscient Register is unsure where to place its bets. The US Supreme Court will have to decide whether or not the federal government has any business mucking about with Florida law, a question now influenced by a growing likelihood that the whole moronic fiasco is heading, under its own steam, into the federal Constitutional arena. The move is being hailed by Bush supporters as a positive development, which it no doubt is for them; but to overturn the Florida Supremes the Nine Immortals will have to conclude that the state court strayed from Florida law, and this is hardly a gimme. The state bench went to pains to cite the Florida legislature's intent in issuing their majority opinion. Manna from Heaven The immediate practical consequence of this decision is to screw Bore out of his re-count, even if Dubya's appeal should fail on Monday. The chance that re-counted results could be tabulated in time for Tuesday's selection deadline for the Electoral College is remote. This would mean that a further dispute, to be enacted after the state's electors are named, would be required; and it's also clear that the Florida Supremes very much wished to avoid such a situation. The electors do not actually cast their votes until 18 December, so there is some wiggle room here; but again, the Bush camp will fight it every step of the way in hopes of delaying it to the point of futility. It also appears that a dispute after the 12 December selection deadline would violate the wishes of the Florida Supremes, and that will leave Bore with a very weak hand to play. The US Supremes' dissenting opinion, authored by Justice Stevens, questions the wisdom, not of hearing the appeal, but of blocking the re-count. "To stop the counting of legal votes, the majority today departs from....venerable rules of judicial restraint that have guided the Court throughout its history," he wrote. But Justice Scalia insisted that stopping the re-count is necessary to maintain an orderly process. "Count first, and rule upon legality afterwards, is not a recipe for producing election results that have the public acceptance [which] democratic stability requires," he noted. A one-woman show As for Dubya's appeal, we think we can predict eight of nine votes. We have three Justices on the Right Wing (Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas) and three on the Left Wing (Ginsburg, Stevens and Breyer), who vote predictably and usually cancel each other. Most cases are decided by the three who incline in either direction depending on individual circumstances (O'Connor, Kennedy and Souter). These three are conservatives as opposed to Right Wing sock puppets (no names being mentioned here). Justice Kennedy actually accepted the appeal, but this doesn't mean he'll vote Dubya's way once it's heard. All he's saying is that the appellants have a case worthy of the Court's attention. But based on his record in cases involving partisan politics, for which he has some weakness but no dramatic inclination, we award him to the Dubya camp, calling it 60/40 that he'll lean Bush's way after the hearing. Justice Souter -- ironically a Papa Bush appointee -- joined in the dissent on Saturday. This is a bit more of a commitment to a legal position than Kennedy's entertaining the appeal, since it was Kennedy's obligation to decide whether or not the Dubya camp had a Court-worthy case. That is, Kennedy didn't reach out for the case; it fell into his lap. Souter, on the other hand, did reach out in Bore's direction by joining the dissent, so we call it 70/30 that he'll vote Bore's way after the hearing. However, Souter always votes his conscience; and if the Bush people put on a dramatically superior show before the bench, he'll roll with it. We don't expect a surprise here, however; Bore shyster David Boies is quite capable of arguing persuasively. This yields four for Bore and four for Dubya. We have, therefore, a situation the Rehnquist Court knows well: Justice O'Connor will be the one who makes the call. And here our insight breaks down completely. She's generally very hard to call, and here she's given no signals. She likes law-and-order legislation, but draws the line when privacy or free speech are at stake. She talks about states' rights, but also believes the federal government's interests are generally superior. She doesn't like to overturn state courts, and rarely does so on partisan grounds; but she's not afraid to assert the federal government's power when she feels it necessary. We have to call her vote 50/50, which means, according to our calculations, that the whole damn appeal is essentially a coin toss. The Court's majority and dissenting opinions are posted here. ® Related Stories Register total scorched-earth election coverage
Thomas C Greene, 10 Dec 2000

Distie sacks ‘rollercoaster’ Nintendo

John Menzies is ditching Nintendo, after six "rollercoaster" years as its exclusive British wholesaler. The Edinburgh-based firm said it was exiting "before three or four untested products come on to the market and the in a situation where the volatility will be even greater". Menzies' Nintendo contract finishes at the end of the year and its demise will see the closure of the company's THE Games distribution subsidiary, the loss of 90 jobs and £3 million shutdown costs. All very peculiar, considering that THE delivered operating profits of £5.5m and had net assets of £3.2m in the year to May 6, 2000. However, the Nintendo business was "highly seasonal and unpredictable", and so far too exciting for a company which wants to concentrate on newspaper distribution and, of all things, aircraft services. ®
Drew Cullen, 10 Dec 2000

breathe gasps for survival

breathe.com, Britain's ISP for trendy people, is seeking a rescue buyer, in a 'last ditch effort to find fresh funds'. And if it fails, it could be in receivership within two weeks, the Sunday Telegraph reports. Surprising? Not exactly. Today, breathe shuts down its flat rate access for life service- a decision that would have cost it £2.5 million in customer refunds. Only it's not returning the money. The company says the 'breathe freely' package - introduced in April - is no longer viable. But it hasn't exactly planned an orderly withdrawal - the decision to scrap the service was announced only on Friday. Flat fee access becomes commercially viable next year, with the introduction of FRIACO, when BT stops charging ISPs by the minute. In the meantime, heaps of British ISPs have lost heaps of money with flat rate access loss-leaders. breathe has been more kamikaze than most, offering astonishingly generous terms - £ 50 for lifetime Internet access. In July, breathe shunted off the 500 most active users - and refunded their £ 50. The trouble with Breathe is that is designed by metropolitan marketeers for people who are just like... metropolitan marketeers. There simply ain't enough of these lifestyle monkeys to go around. In this instance, this is goddamn lucky, as only 50,000 people signed up for the lifetime deal, before the company pulled the plug on new subscribers in June. Apparently, breathe.com has 500,000 subscribers in total. ® Related stories Heavy breathers winded by Net access rejection breathe suffers asthma attack Oh to be a Modern Urbanist
Drew Cullen, 10 Dec 2000

Jobserve ‘abuses market dominance’ – Silicon.com

Silicon.com won an injunction last week against Jobserve.com, the UK's dominant IT jobs board, after claiming that it was abusing its market position, The Sunday Telegraph reports. The company claims that Jobserve has threatened to bar recruitment agencies from using its service, if they signed up for a rival operation run by Silicon. Jobserve denies the accusation and will return to the High Court next week, in an attempt to get the injunction lifted. Interesting to see how this pans out. There are more than 300 online job boards operating in the UK, dozens of which offer IT recruitment sections. But there's no service to touch Jobserve, the first online job board in the UK and, with an estimated 70 per cent share of job postings (and response), by far the biggest. British IT recruitment agencies, many of which privately accuse Jobserve of arrogance and inflexibility, have watched with growing dismay as the service has grown ever more successful. In an attempt to build a counterweight, ATSCO, the IT recruitment industry's trade body, decided to build its own Web site, which would advertise all the jobs carried by all its members. It put the service up for tender to 30 firms and, a couple of months ago, awarded Silicon the contract to build and operate the service. This is a big deal for Silicon, which also gets to post the jobs on its own site. More jobs means more people means more response means more jobs means more etc. And it all means more money. It also means that Jobserve has, for the first time, a serious competitor on its doorstep. ®
Drew Cullen, 10 Dec 2000

BOFH: Who Put the Mug in Smug?

Episode 41Episode 41 BOFH 2000: Episode 41 The Boss is wandering around Mission Control with his brand spanking new Madonna digital phone headset on like an extra from a sci-fi movie (and unfortunately, not one of the extras they send down to the hold to investigate that strange clanking noise...) and it's really starting to get on my tits. "What was that clanking noise?" I ask The PFY, my thoughts wandering for a second. "What clanking noise?" The Boss asks. It's too good an opportunity to miss.. "A clanking noise, like something banging down in the hold..." "This is a building, it doesn't have a hold!" he replies, on the money, everytime. "Oh. My mistake," I sigh. Pity "Yes, yes," The Boss murmurs back into his headset "Uh, huh.. Right!" The PFY and I wait for all the news that must *BE* important enough to require a mobile conversation to bring it to us as soon as possible. "That virus is out again!" he cries. "Which one?" "That love one - Apparently you had it here a while ago - under a previous manager," he recounts smugly. "Ah yes, the one who invoked mailed the message to everyone in your address book, if you were stupid enough to open it, stupid enough to use Outlook, stupid enough not to have virus scanning installed and up to date..." "Can there BE anyone that stupid?" The Boss asks, chuckling away from what he believes is the technical highground. "Bill Gates makes a fortune out of them!" the PFY slips in. "Does he make viruses too, then?" Which comes to the crux of the matter. The only thing WORSE than a technical boss is one who non-technical boss who believes that intellect and experience are obtained at the very same time as a job title - i.e. because he's become IT manager he can now manage IT.... Hence the headset. Hence the top-of-the-line brand spanking new desktop and laptop he demanded as befits and IT Professional. Complete with external consultant-installed virus protection. Hence the smug attitude. Sigh. "Not exactly. Anyway, we're running interception mail delivery software, so we're relatively safe from that particular virus and it's many variants now" I respond, >BRAINWAVE!< "... But what we're a bit flummoxed about what to do about all this porn getting mailed into the company en masse." His mental antennae extend faster and further than his headpiece antenna and he's over like a shot. So fast it almost looks like he's discovered the secret of teleportation. But still in a "casual" manner. Being an IT professional, he's interested in the problem, not the porn. "PORN, you say?" "Yeah, Gobs of it!" I cry "- And I think 'gobs' is an appropriate term. I'm just about to delete it and warn the user concerned. And half his department's also signed up for it by the looks of their fileshare!" "Hadn't you better keep some... evidence?" The Boss cries, thinking on his feet whilst trying desperately to suppress his drool reflex (Who says he can't multitask?) "Just in case they deny it?!" Hook line and sinker.. "Nah, it takes up too much space and we have nowhere to store it. Look, there's gigs of it!" I show him a fileshare cram packed with a couple of hundred megs of smut, and flash up a couple of images as a teaser. "He's even got them categorised!" The PFY cries. "He has too!" The Boss adds, surprised at the speed at which The PFY reached his conclusion. (Given that it's The PFY's porn archive we're looking at, the feelings of surprise aren't mutual, though.) "Anyway, it's best we delete them to free up space on the server," I continue, making to drag the contents into the Recycle Bin. "I DO think you should retain proof. What if there's some legitimate work stashed in their somewhere? What if they deny it and claim it wasn't there or wasn't them." "I see what you mean. But we don't really have the space on the server, as you can see.." "Ah. True. I know, what about my machine - I've got an 18gig disk with a PIII 866!" he cries, spurting out his machine specs (obviously a party favourite) like a machine gun, "and 256 meg of RAM!" (If only that were the case - after the great hardware robbery of last week... Patching the BIOS to report false info, however, took more time that ripping off the processor and memory, but it was time well spent...) "Well, I supposed we could store it there for a while...", I agree "..just in case anyone asks." .. Two days later.. "The Boss is pulling some long nights," the PFY comments a couple of days later as we exit a pub under the influence of hops derivative and notice a dull glow exiting his blinds into the street. "Yes, he's a driven man!" I concur. "Not everyone would 'categorise evidence' so thoroughly.." "You'd think he'd go home at night, though.." "Or at least wash and change his clothes..." .. Another two days later.. "And when they opened his office door the found him stark na..." Sharon the secretary blurts to her mate in the break room, on what looks like a secondhand spanking new Madonna digital phone headset, stopping mid sentence as I enter the office to get my snail mail. ..which explains the "Sealed by Security" sticker over The Boss's door lock... "Can I help you?" Sharon asks in a surly manner, not at all happy at being interrupted mid-gossip. "Yes, I was wondering if you could check out some clanking in the hold and let buildings maintenance know if something needs fixing." "Why don't you check it?" "Because you've got the only Master Key - but if you want to loan it to me.." "NO-ONE gets the Master Key!" she cries, defending her realm. "So I spose I'll go when I have some free time. Where's the hold then?" "Well you know where the waste outflow pipe in the basement is?" "No?" "I'll draw you a map then..." ® BOFH 2000: Kit and Caboodle That’s right, the whole shebang BOFH is the Bastard Operator From Hell. He is the creation of Simon Travaglia. Don’t mess with his copyright
Simon Travaglia, 10 Dec 2000