Re: Bev Harris Trashed OVC at theHouston ElectionHearing

From: Jim March <jmarch_at_prodigy_dot_net>
Date: Sat Jul 02 2005 - 22:05:24 CDT

Alan Dechert wrote:

>> I could name names and discuss cases but to avoid bickering on this
>> OVC list (and avoid bickering in general) I'll go no further. But
>> Bev has one hell of a lot to complain about that she holds back on.
> Three things:
> 1) You wrote this in response to me, but your comment has nothing to
> do with what I wrote. To restate, I simply pointed out that in order
> for the elections community to take full advantage of the scientific
> and engineering talent in the open source community, voting software
> must be non-proprietary. If source is disclosed but proprietary, very
> few are going to be willing to even look at it much less invest time
> and effort in testing, evaluating, suggesting improvements, etc. This
> is not a moral judgement about right/wrong or good/bad, just a plain
> simple fact of life.

First, I cannot agree more that you (Alan) have NEVER been part of the
"problem academic community" in any way shape or form. And that goes
true of OVC in general and the vast majority of people with solid
computer academic/industry credencials connected to OVC - people like
Arthur Keller aren't the issue either.

<scratches head>

There really is a pattern among academics though: unless you're in
academia, you (and your criticism/opinions) don't matter.

Let's take an example COMPLETELY removed from the voting world.

Anybody heard of a history professor name of Michael Bellesiles? He
wrote a book called "Arming America" in...2000 I think, that claimed to
prove that early America circa 1776 - 1794 didn't have very many guns in
it - that guns were rare, hideously expensive, mostly owned by the
nation itself and that therefore, the 2nd Amendment couldn't possibly
mean what the NRA thought it did.

Yes, we're talking gun stuff but bear (ooops, pun!) with me, this matters.

A non-academic name of Clayton Cramer had read many of the same source
documents that Bellesiles cited and as he read Bellesiles book, he
didn't think the quotes were right. While it's true he was a computer
engineer at HP at the time, he did have a second major in history with a
degree and was a published author of history books and peer-reviewed
articles, but with no teaching role.

See also:

...for his oldest and most widely-cited example. (Yeah, it's way
off-topic but you'll find it interesting if you're any kind of history

Soon after "Arming America" was published, Cramer wrote critiques
showing side by side how Bellesiles had systematically mis-quoted period
sources, very deliberately changing their content. For a short but
"punchy" 7 page example, see also:

Cramer was laughed at for over a year, but of course the "gunnie
community" took him seriously and Cramer's research was cited online
often enough for a few "real academics" (most of whom were supporters)
to pressure Bellesiles to "hey, shut this guy up once and for all, willya?"

'Cept for one teensy little problem. Cramer was 100% correct. It took
a total of two years but Bellesiles was eventually booted out of Emory
University in disgrace and is now teaching high school in England (good
riddance). The Bancroft Award committee demanded their $5000 award for
"best history scholarship of the year" back :).

Even after Bellesiles started to come unglued, Cramer's attempts to
publish a scholarly rebuttal were denied by academia:

(Bellesiles got so desperate that he made up a "gun nuts now want to
kill me" story to rally the academic community behind "academic free
speech" principles. What a twitchcase. We didn't want his ass SHOT, we
wanted him debunked. I think he'd have preferred a bullet...)

Now what this tells me TODAY is that, if you're a non-academic, the
"scientific community" will always treat you with disdain even if you
are OBVIOUSLY and CLEARLY correct.

So...explain to me again how, if a voting system is managed inside the
university system and I'm not IN the university system, and neither is
Bev Harris, if we find something really stinky buried in the
university's voting system, we'll be taken seriously?

BUT: I realize that OVC can act as "another means of criticism input"
bypassing the university system, which could end up being the saving
grace of this whole thing...because if criticsm happened solely via
academic channels, that could be very bad. Ask Cramer.

So OK, maybe I'm generalizing. But...I watched the Cramer vs.
Bellesiles fiasco unfold from it's first minutes. I *saw* the abuse
heaped on Cramer for quite literally two years by DOZENS of academics
when the period sources in question still existed on paper at reputable
sources like the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, etc. where anybody
could get to them on an "open source" basis.


(Clayton Cramer is a fascinating gent. A "gunnie" who, like me, has
never hunted and approached the whole thing from a self-defense point of
view. He has the absolute cutest and friendliest pet duck you've even
seen. Not what you'd expect of an "NRA guy" :). Also one hell of an
amateur astronomer...)

> 2) I don't know if what Kathy says is correct -- that Bev "thrashed
> U.S. computer scientists in general." For the moment, I'll assume
> it's Kathy's interpretation and wait to see what exactly Bev said. In
> general, it's widely understood to be a bad idea to generalize about a
> whole group of people based on the actions of a few. I think
> historical examples should be unnecessary at this point. And when OVC
> is under discussion, while Bev may not see eye-to-eye with everyone
> associated with the OVC project, it would not be good to generalize
> about the whole organization based on her interactions with a very few
> of us. We haved 8 board members, twenty five or so founding members,
> and hundreds of other contributors. Certainly, she may have a list of
> things she doesn't like about the OVC president/CEO, but she can't
> claim I'm computer scientist that didn't help (I'm not really a
> computer scientist, for one thing). Of the OVC board members, I don't
> think she's had much if any interaction except for two or three of us.
> Lara has talked with her a little in person and on the phone -- all
> upbeat as far as I know. In my first phone conversation with her from
> more than two years ago, she said Doug Jones was one of her heroes --
> okay maybe that's changed since then.

For the sake of peace on this discussion list, I'll avoid comment.

> 3) Bev is an heroric figure sticking her neck out, taking risks,
> pushing buttons, and, in general, pissing off a lot of people. Such
> is the life of the messiah. Few people are willing to stand with a
> messiah. Can you blame them? Taking shots comes with the territory.
> There is an odd risk/reward equation going on here. It doesn't
> compute for non-messiahs.

Yeah, but...sometimes, somebody is right but unpopular and they don't
give a damn, they keep on coming.

And they get things done.

Like Clayton. Like Bev.

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Received on Sun Jul 31 23:17:12 2005

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