Saturday, June 12, 2010

Could Alvin Green Be a Character in RUNOFF?

The recent primary victory of Alvin Green, the South Carolina Democratic nominee for Senate, has caused some consternation among Democratic party leaders in the state. As the Washington Post says,
He didn't start a Web site or hire consultants or plant lawn signs. There's only $114 in his campaign bank account ... [and] in a three-hour interview, the unemployed military veteran could not name a single specific thing he'd done to campaign. Yet more than 100,000 South Carolinians voted for him on Tuesday, handing him nearly 60 percent of the vote and a resounding victory over Vic Rawl, a former judge who has served four terms in the state legislature.
There are several theories that attempt to explain his victory: his name came first on the ballot so voters defaulted to him, large numbers of Republican voters crossed party lines in the state's open primary to insure a weaker Democratic candidate faced the Republican nominee, or he was an outright plant by the Republican Party.

It's also been suggested that his election was the result of e-voting fraud or error.

These posts on The Brad Blog and Tech Dirt discuss the possibility, pointing out several red flags in the results, such as the fact that the absentee ballot results were wildly different than the e-voting tally from election day and the fact that Green received 75% of the vote in a number of precincts, which is unusual even for a popular incumbent. Another flag is that the voting seemed to go against racial preferences. White counties gave Green large majorities, while black ones picked Green by slim margins.

The kicker is the machines that South Carolina uses have no audit trail (i.e., no permanent paper record of each vote cast), so as The Brad Blog puts it, South Carolinians have engaged in "faith-based voting" with no way to confirm the results.

All of this--particularly the red flags--will sound familiar to readers of my novel, Runoff. In it, a powerful business woman in Chinatown hires August Riordan (my PI protagonist) to investigate the results of a San Francisco mayoral election when the Chinese candidate she is backing fails even carry the Chinese precincts. She is convinced that someone must have rigged the outcome by hacking the city’s newly installed touch-screen voting machines.

Check out Runoff if you want to find the solution to that election mystery. I'm not sure the answer to the one in South Carolina will be as easy to uncover.

(Hat tip to Ann Hillesland for pointing me to the Tech Dirt article.)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

More Masters

I did a longer write-up on the chess fiction anthology Masters of Technique over on the Huffington Post.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Masters of Technique

Chess literature publisher Mongoose Press has just released their first fiction anthology: Masters of Technique, edited by Howard Goldowsky. The anthology features short stories with a chess theme from bestselling authors like Stephen L. Carter (The Emperor of Ocean Park) and Katherine Neville (The Eight), literary writers such as Wells Tower and Paul Eggers and even (in spite of what the title suggests) a patzer or two like me.

My story is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche titled The Adventure of the Black Bishop, and to my knowledge, chronicles the first instance of Holmes participating in the "King's Game" in the cannon.

There are other firsts--as the opening paragraph suggests:
Mr. Sherlock Holmes' aversion to women has oft been documented in these little narratives I have produced to illustrate his extraordinary powers of deduction and reasoning. So clearly and uncompromisingly documented, in fact, that as I take up pen and paper in the twilight of my years to describe the single case which proved the exception to this rule of Holmes' psyche, I fear there will be protestations of disbelief among my long suffering readers. Some may even question the authenticity of the account. Yet there can be no doubt—on at least one occasion of which I have personal knowledge, Holmes broke his habit of cold aloofness toward the fairer sex, and engaged in relations with women that more closely corresponded to the common pattern of behavior between men and women the world over.
I should mention that Masters of Technique is a labor of love. All of the stories were contributed by the authors, editor Howard Goldowsky donated his time and all of the proceeds from the sales will be donated to support chess schools and clubs. I hope you'll check it out--even if you aren't the biggest chess fan in the world. While all the stories do have some reference to chess, they span the gamut from historical fiction, to horror, to mystery to more literary offerings.

And while you're on the Mongoose Press website, you might want to check out the autobiography of Women's World Chess Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, Diary of a Chess Queen. Hubba-hubba!