Obama's Must Do List

Everybody has their wishlist and "must do" lists for the new President.  Back in March of 2007, the NY Times published this Op Ed piece that I personally believe is critical and outlines what needs to be done above all else.  The article goes into much more detail about specifics, but the overall thrust is threefold:
  • Restore Habeas Corpus
  • Stop Illegal Spying
  • Ban Torture, Really
I'm curious to know though, what do you think the priorities should be for Obama's presidency?…

[youtube=] Okay, Kev, here's your chance on affecting climate policy, go crazy!…

Crowdsourcing Election Verification, part 2

Back in June, I suggested that public voting records would be healthy for our democracy if the populace were comfortable revealing their voting records.  There is now a movement* and new web site for this called Who Voted? though they are not going as far as I am in advocating for revealing your actual choices. True to my word, I voted absentee, which not only gave me an opportunity to photocopy my completed ballot, but also gave me some time fill out each choice so that I could double-check and not make a mistake.  I am revealing to you each of my ballot choices.  My home state is Nevada, I'll let you look up the details of the ballot choices if you care.
  • U.S. President/VP: Obama/Biden
  • U.S. Rep. in Congress: Shelly Berkeley
  • State Senate: David Parks
  • State Assembly: Joe Hogan
  • Justice of Supreme Court Seat B: Deborah Schumacher
  • Justice of Supreme Court Seat D: Mark Gibbons
  • District Court Judge, Dept. 6: Elissa Cadish
  • District Court

Want to Influence Financial Crisis Policy Debate?

One of the talks at Pop!Tech this year sparked intense emotions regardless of whether people agreed with the premise or not:

Juan Enriquez (2008) Pop!Tech Pop!Cast from PopTech on Vimeo.

To address these intense feelings and the demand for public discussion, a wiki was created, in which you are invited to join the discussion.  This forum was designed as "a place for a rich, lively, respectful and facts-based dialog on what’s necessary to address the serious economic challenges confronting America today."  Hope to see you there.

Click here to go to the policy debate.

National Popular Vote

Yesterday I blogged about personal vote verification.  At the group level, I recommend supporting the National Popular Vote.  While most people (70%) favor a popular vote for president, the U.S. Constitution calls for an electoral college system.  The National Popular Vote movement is extremely clever in that it doesn't require a constitutional change:
Under the U.S. Constitution, the states have exclusive and plenary (complete) power to allocate their electoral votes, and may change their state laws concerning the awarding of their electoral votes at any time. Under the National Popular Vote bill, all of the state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).
As of this writing, the bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois,…

Crowdsourcing Election Verification

I take it as accepted fact at this point that the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election would have gone to John Kerry if everyone who attempted to vote that day were able to and all the votes were counted correctly.  Here's the the Wikipedia entry on the subject and here's a documentary to get you started. Regardless of your political leanings or party affiliations, there's hardly a more important issue if you believe in some form of democracy.  As we run up to the 2008 elections, you should be very concerned that the problems have not been adequately addressed, despite all the various voting reform and voting rights initiatives. While there may be nothing you can do do assure that your vote is counted properly in 2008, there are some ways you can keep a verified record of your vote, which is a necessary precondition for fixing the broken system:
  1. Vote absentee.  Not only does this eliminate a whole set of irregularities having to do

Dangerous Media, part 2

I have talked about some of the dangerous aspects of main stream media in the past.  Recently I was reading The Black Swan, in which the author argues that watching TV news, listening to news on the radio, and even reading newspapers actually makes you less informed (and dangerously so) than if you were to tune out completely. The argument goes that all media is biased, and if you watch, listen or read more, it simply enhances that bias while giving you a false sense that you are getting more information and different perspectives.  And since all of the one-to-many forms listed above have the same inherent biases and incentives, your confidence goes up without increasing your actual knowledge.  A lot of biased information and misinformation is worse than none at all. While The Black Swan makes this point somewhat tangentially, Jeff Cohen brings home the point from the perspective of a former main stream journalist who was forced out for raising these very…

Notes from TED

Here are some notes that I took at TED 2008.  I have a bunch more on each of the speakers individually which I may post as time permits.  Let me know if you want me to expand any of the notes below into a full post.


TED sessions have their own explicit themes, but I detected a few implicit themes based on the overlapping content of the talks. Global Awakening: there is something afoot that is palpable that is more than a political or cultural movement.  Al Gore and Samantha Power talked explicitly about this referencing a "higher consciousness".  See levels of organization and cultural agency.  Counterpoint theme: The Failure of the System to protect its individual constituents and serve their needs (see Sue Goldie). Compassion / Cooperation: as juxtaposed to the mindset of the selfish gene, social Darwinism, "nature red in tooth and claw", Libertarianism, Objectivism, free-market radicalism, etc.  See cooperation. Breaking the Spell: scientific results…

Dangerous Media

With the massacre at Virginia Tech weighing on everyone's mind, we must look at the causal role that society, especially mass media (including the internet) plays in such tragedies. Much is discussed about the personal influences of mass-murderers, what "lead" them to do horrific deeds. Was it their parents who abused them, the fellow students who harassed them, the lover who scorned them, or some chemical/psychological imbalance that caused them to go off the deep end? What about the easy access to weapons? Clearly all of these factors and more can, and do contribute. But the secret sauce in such recipes for disaster is mass media. Media cannot be divorced from culture, indeed, it is an integral part. It is at once the Greek chorus reflecting society's values, and also is (increasingly) the creator and amplifier of evolving and new values. Editorial media (such as TV and newspapers) have agents in charge of who gets what information. These agents take umbrage at, and often simply…

Eliminating Political Parties

This is a repost from my MySpace blog, but it really belongs here.

Why Political Parties Exist, Why they are Bad, and How to Eliminate Them

Voting blocs are an emergent property of representative democracies wherein each new voting issue carries with it an automatic right for each representative to vote. In other words, when votes are treated like a continually renewable resource, there becomes incentive for each representative to give away votes on issues they care less about in exchange from something of greater value. When that thing of greater value is money we call it corruption. When the thing of greater value is a promise of future support from an outside agency, we call it lobbying. And when groups of representatives agree on an ongoing basis to trade away votes in exchange for membership, we call it a party.

Once parties exist, they are self-perpetuating. Even if all representatives from all parties were to agree individually that everyone would be better off…