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User Journal

Journal Journal: Let's debate emergency communications, not gun control

It's been 2 days since the massacre and the gun control debate has been revived again with all the deaf loud people screaming the stuff that no one hears. As important as that might be, I think that the debate that needs to be promoted is how to communicate effectively in an emergency. Although plenty of unfounded rumors were mongered last Monday, the most effective communications among the Virginia Tech Community, the loved ones at home, and the rest of us were by new technologies such as text messages, camera phones, blogs and social websites. The performance of those with official responsibility seems at this time to have been too slow and incomplete to save lives, and completely unsuitable for survivors to get help or assure that they were okay. Traditional broadcasters are also unsuitable to deal with the volume of information flowing around and out of Blacksburg that day. With ham radio, which has traditionally stepped in to handle this "welfare traffic", being on the decline, it is only natural that new technology be used to contact loved ones.

That was my bit. Here's a bit more from Wired Magazine:Lessons From Virginia Tech: A Disaster Alert System That Works.

User Journal

Journal Journal: U.S. Is Dropping Effort to Track if Visitors Leave

Seems that matching exiting visitors with their entry visas would be relatively simple compared with all the other law enforcement related data keeping that goes on in this country. Everyone entering this country could receive a visa or some other document recording their entry. When they leave, they present the receipt and they are automatically eliminated as suspects of anything that happens while they are out of the country. If they have lost the paper, they waste time regenerating it (or faking it), hemm, there's an idea here, but it needs work. If you want to shorten the wait at the border, just collect the data and let the matching happen after the fact. It's better than not doing it at all. But this seems like mostly a techology problem. Are the algorithms for matcing entries and exits any more complicated than those matching people entering and exiting any other sort of database?
The Almighty Buck

Journal Journal: Blog Content Based Solely on High Paying Keyword

I have published an article on this topic in Metablog, a blog on the subject of blogging and social networking. In general, I have no problem with money making schemes as long as they provide a useful service to all people affected, not just the schemer. In this case, that would be site visitors, advertisers and Google itself.

In a nutshell:

Classic Games (Games)

Journal Journal: Marriage? who needs marriage?

This starts an interesting thread. I didn't mean to get into it, but this moron who thinks anyone who disagrees with him about ANYTHING must be a homophobe, sucked me in. Well, not him, but the person who modded my response Flamebait. So, once we got past the bit about unnecessary namecalling being a poor debate tactic, we wound up with an interesting discussion about the sanctity of mariage.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Revolution in the Valley

I got another comment modded 5 insightful.

It's not that I don't like Microsoft. I think they are trying to have a good product, but for various reasons, I find their products very hard to use. Their marketing decisions seem to aim their products at someone different that me. Then there is the virus and other exploit situation. Windows and its siblings seem to be aimed at someone who doesn't mind spending a lot of time fixing problems fixing stupid little problems. I hate cleaning up other people's messes, especially when they are intentional. I'd rather use my time to keep up with the latest technological advances than with the latest security issues.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Election Reform

Note that Julie is from Australia where citizens are required by law to vote, the the third party might tend to attract the people who would stay away otherwise.

"Simmadahn" , wrote

> Just curious, how many of those alternate parties actually make it into office? I mean, more than just local positions?
> We do have more than two parties, but they rarely get any farther than maybe mayor or something.
> Also, it seems like the mandatory voting is a good idea but does it actually work? Or do people just vote for "whoever" because
> they have to vote for somebody?

In article ,
  "Julie" , wrote:

> Yes you guessed right, it hasn't happened yet, but the third major party is
> the balance of power, and has a huge say in what laws or
> ammendments are passed, or not, or what ammendments need to be made for it to
> be acceptable to pass. So in Australia at the moment
> we have a Liberal (federal) Government, with Labour in opposition and the
> Democrats as our balance of power in the Senate.
> It is usual that the independant parties, or more alternate parties, give
> their preferences to a more major party. So if enough
> people were to vote for xyz party and they would get in, if not their votes
> are preferenced to a different party - this is disclosed
> so that you know that if you do vote for xyz party and they don't get in you
> know that your vote will be going to abc party and so
> on. Personally I think it is this preferencing that keeps the major parties
> coming back in.

Election Reform is the great unacknowledged American issue. As long as only two parties hold virtually all the political power, those two parties have no incentive to mention it, and as long as those two parties can make the rules regarding debates and press conferences that punish news agencies that cover this issue or acknowledge the existence of alternative parties, it will be hard to fix.

Most existing alternative parties have postions that turn off people, such as the social darwinism for the Libertarians, the "God" stuff for the Constitution Party, and the sheer greenness of the Green Party. Any time a position held by an alternative party gets popular, one or both of the big 2 coopt it. The idea of single issue parties isn't popular, but I think we could use one whose single issue is election reform with the promise that if they won, they would establish a ranked voting sytem such as instant runoff or condorcet, and hold a national referendum to decide the other issues until such time that a reformed presidential election could be held.

I also wrote this:

> We usually have many more than two. There are several reasons you only
> here about the bipartison duopoly.
> 1. We have a "first past the post" system where whoever gets the most
> votes wins a states electoral votes, even if it isn't a majority.
> 2. this is complicated by the fact that most states give ALL there
> electoral votes to the winner even if he wins by a narrow margin.
> 3. Most voters have an intuitive understanding of Duvergers Law which
> states that when you have a plurality system, only the top two
> candidates really matter.
> 4. The bipartisan duopoly refuses to publicly acknowledge the existance
> of other candidates. If other candidates are invited to attend a
> function such as a debate, the duopoly candidates refuse to attend. If
> a reporter asks about an issue popularized by a third party candidate,
> the bipartisan duopoly candidate will look at the reporter funny and
> then see that he is excluded from the next press conference.
> It's a system with obvious biases against free, fair elections. The
> fact that both the parties comprising the bipartisan duopoly ran
> candidates from the same fraternity of the same university (W's father
> is another "brother") should indicate something, but neither candidate
> made a point of addressing a fact that would have weakened both of them.
> When reporters brought it up, they both dismissed it as being
> insignificant since they were a few years apart in age and didn't really
> know each other. Sure the two men have different personalities, but
> they have very similar old money prep school backgrounds.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Pair-Wise Ranking

The following is a work in progress, so I'd appreciate some comments. I've come up with new way of explaining Condorcet voting that eliminates both the French Fry problem and the complex math problem. Too bad it is too far down an old topic for very many people to see. So I'll stick it here for future reference.

Why not Pair-Wise Ranking (PWR)? (Score:2) by siriuskase (679431) on Tuesday October 26, @04:58PM (#10635068)

Systems like Condorcet's Method voting are technically superior but use a lot of math and are complicated to explain. If you can't explain it in a thirty second sound bite you won't get able to get enough popular support to get it passed.

It all boils down to how you explain things. Not everyone is going to stay awake long enough to understand the math and matrix explanations. So use a different strategy, one that hinges on two nonmathematical concepts.:

Experts have proven that better methods exist, such as IRV which is used in Europe and numerous other jurisdictions and Condorcet which is even better but has yet to be adopted anywhere.

It is unamerican for an innovative nation such as the US to use an obsolete EC system that even morons know to be defective. We should be the first in the world to use the superior and innovative Condorcet Method.

The only problem left to solve is what to name the darn thing, condorcet is too French, condoset (that's the GA pronunciation) sounds like its only for city people, these names and others such as "Fair Voting" are too vague, subjective, and unscientific sounding. Not that everyone wants to understand the details, but just slapping the world "Fair" onto a system doesn't make it so. Most Americans are wise to the subjective labeling trick.

How about Pair-Wise Ranking? That sounds meaningful without exactly contradicting itself. It communicates that candidates are ranked and every pairing is significant. That's a good enough theoretical explanation for most and a start in the right direction for those who want to know more. Even the smartest person in the world can't infer anything useful from the word "Condorcet" except that it's French. --

User Journal

Journal Journal: Colorado, Electoral Votes, and Proportional Representation

This is sort of long and I didn't write it, but it is good source for something I might write:

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein notes that under Colorado's proposed initiative to split the state's electoral votes, "it would require a 61% landslide in the popular vote to win the sixth Electoral College vote." The state seems most likely to split its votes 5-4.

"Historically, the best argument for the proportional system has been that it makes every vote valuable, since every ballot would affect the candidates' ability to reach the 270 Electoral College votes required for election. The modern era's polarization has added another justification. Today, most voters never see the candidates because their states are safely in either the blue or red column. A proportional system would give candidates the incentive to campaign even in states they are sure to lose."

But, Brownstein notes, "If the idea spread, it would increase the risk that no candidate would reach a majority in the Electoral College. That's because proportional representation makes it much easier for third-party candidates to capture some Electoral College votes."

User Journal

Journal Journal: Government should take over clinical trials, not healthcare

Government shouldn't take over the entire healthcare industry or even healthcare insurance. It would do much to improve healthcare in the US simply by allowing the FDA to take over clinical trials. It would be even better if clinical trials could be taken over by independent organisations that are to clinical trials as UL is to electrical products or Consumer's Union is to a wide range of consumer products.

This recent fiasco with the Merck drug Vioxx highlights why data created by clinical trials should be publicly owned and available to everyone. Although, I don't think that the government should take over the healthcare industry except as the insurer of last resort, clinical trials should be considered a public good, since the complete data is useful to everyone, not just the company who is paying for it and has a reason to suppress anything it doesn't like.

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