Tag Archives: politics

The infancy of e-democracy

Houses of Parliament by night I have to confess to a certain bullish optimism about the potential of internet technologies to transform the way democratic governments operate – but I’m not under any illusions that we’re even close to success yet. There are steps being taken in the right direction, however – Michael Cross takes a look at the UK government’s electronic petition site, and concludes that – while it’s largely used in frivolous ways at the moment – the fact that it’s there at all, allowing admittedly odd (and occasionally crack-pot) opinions to appear on government webspace can only be a good sign. [Image by spjwebster]

Sadly, politics being politics, new technology isn’t always going to be used in the nicest of ways – I was rather disappointed to hear [via MetaFilter] that the US Democrats are crowdsourcing their smear campaigns by supplying video footage of Republican candidates for people to remix as they see fit. Fighting fire with fire … as the old anarchist joke goes, “it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in”.

[tags]internet, politics, democracy[/tags]

Is political stance hardwired in the brain?

I mentioned the first rumblings of this story back in the spring, but I think it’s worth mentioning again because we can be pretty sure that politico types are going to get a lot of mileage out of it over the next week or so: new neurological research suggests there are fundamental differences in the brain functions of people with conservative and liberal attitudes. My money says we’ll hear both sides of the political divide using these results as grist for their mill … which leads me to conclude it’s so self-evident as to be largely useless. Of course, your mileage may vary!

The tipping point for climate change denial?

While there are still some loud shrill voices denying the reality of climate change, Jamais Cascio thinks we may have finally reached the tipping point where such denialism is irredeemably exposed as obfuscation by those with vested interests – I sincerely hope he’s right.

That said, even advocates for environmental issues should be prepared to question the accepted dogmas; for example, a detailed study seems to indicate that the “eat local” philosophy may be misguided by the best of intentions, and that the long distance transportation of foodstuffs may actually have a smaller footprint than locally grown equivalents when other factors are introduced into the equation. [Brian Dunbar]

California Voting Machines Insecure, But Use ‘Em Anyway

115608-2206P121 6BThe Secretary of State of California recently ordered a complete security audit of all electronic voting systems in use in the state of California. Despite some concerns about an unrealistic schedule, this appears to be more than security theater — one system was completely decertified, and several other systems (including Diebold and Sequoia systems) were decertified and conditionally re-certified given the imposition of additional security precautions. Bruce Schenier’s got a good roundup of related articles.

I’ve worked the past couple of California elections and have to say that the physical security, at least at the polling sites, is pretty good. Nonetheless, I was glad to see a paper audit tape used last time around.

The Great Ethanol Swindle

cornVia PZ Myers: an article at Rolling Stone that looks at the sudden swing into favour of ethanol as an alternative fuel in the US … does the word ‘ subsidies’ ring any bells? There’s little doubt we need alternatives to crude oil derivatives, but we should probably be picking them on the merits of their environmental impact, rather than how much money they can make for shady business-persons … and how many votes they can garner in an election year. [Image by WayTru]

Edited for extra: the panic is over, we don’t need to switch to ethanol. A biotech start-up claims it will have created bacteria capable of making “petroleum-like fluids” within the next three to five years. Rather than voicing my opinion on the plausibility or practicality of such a solution, I’ll instead point out that Julian May posited that very idea in her 1988 novel, Intervention.