Saturday, November 29, 2008

People should be allowed to make stupid mistakes

I was thrilled today to hear on PEI will not be passing any cell phone driving legislation any time soon. I was not so thrilled to read in the Cadre, the monthly UPEI paper, about why they put up the $190,000 iron fence. It was to protect pedestrians. It was to protect people from willfully choosing to jaywalk.

When you are given power over people it is tempting to try to make them appear smart by taking away stupid choices. Perhaps Randy Pauche put it best:

"The only way to get good judgment is with experience. And the only way to get experience is with bad judgment."

Protecting people from bad choices is a short term gain for a long term loss. Robbing people of experience is not good leadership.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ubiquity for flash gamers

I love Ubiquity for many reasons, but for now I am applying it to flash games.

I like playing flash games. There are so many to choose from, they are small, accessible and often extremely innovative. Unfortunately, often they are played on a small area of a window on screen that is increasingly being eaten up by buttons and bars.

Internet Explorer and Firefox have an option to get rid of all of the bars with full screen mode, keyboard-shortcut: f11. But this still gives the player a small flash area on a big window. This is where Ubiquity comes in.

Ubiquity has a function called "zoom". Yes, other bars and extensions have zoom functions too, but typically they only change the size of text. Not very useful when playing flash games. Ubiquity zoom is different.

Ubiquity zoom will zoom in on an entire page. Even more so, it zooms in on the Firefox window. This makes buttons, bars, text and entire pages bigger. The net effect when used in full screen mode is a flash game that is virtually full screen increasing playability.

To install it you will need to login. You can use the following:

email: ashley.johnston@gmail.com
password: ubiquity

Monday, November 10, 2008

Democracy: Voting and negotiation

Democracy has been praised for empowering the masses by giving them the vote. There is however another political action, negotiation, that is still reserved for the political class.

Rolling Stone, "Worst Congress Ever":
To ensure that Democrats can't alter any of the last-minute changes, Republicans have overseen a monstrous increase in the number of "closed" rules — bills that go to the floor for a vote without any possibility of amendment. This tactic undercuts the very essence of democracy: In a bicameral system, allowing bills to be debated openly is the only way that the minority can have a real impact, by offering amendments to legislation drafted by the majority.

The role of the political party was to increase the negotiating power of the political class. Doing the same level of organization with the electorate gives you constructions like Moveon.org.

It is a step in the right direction. And yet far from what is possible. The most meaningful negotiations happen between peers. Moveon.org is giant, I am small. It is a similar problem to dealing directly with government. It is big, I am small.

There is a different way that politics can be shaped to form a more empowering government. Imagine you could vote for anybody. Snap out of the reality where there is a list created off in the aether then presented to you, and into a reality where you could empower any living person with the power of your vote. That person could be your friend, a family member or a professional acquaintance. And because you already have a relationship with this person, and because you are peers, the two of you can discuss how to protect what is important to you. Your representative can then choose to use his votes to empower another, and so on up the chain.

The future of democracy must be between peers. It is the only way to share power effectively.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

At least we know who is president

All of the polling data put Coleman and Franken at neck and neck. This of course made me confident that Coleman would take the prize. My ace in the hole was supposed to be Barkley. Third party candidates are often listed under 'Other' for telephone polls, so I thought Barkley's representation would be slightly under represented, likely taking voters away from Franken.

Regardless of the validity of the reasoning, I was right. By just over 477 votes says CNN.com out of 2,860,193. If that looks tight, I wonder if it might be a record. That is 0.016%, and falls well within the half of a percent that demands a mandatory recount in Minnesota. No, I am not taking any victory laps about my fulfilled prophecy, and now I am less confident than before that Coleman will maintain his seat in the senate.

The race is important as it is part of a string of occurrences that could give the Democratic Party a filibuster-proof senate. The current count has the Dem's 4 seats away, while there are 4, including Coleman-Franken, that remain undecided from Tuesday's election.

There is also the Lieberman question. He is one of two independents that currently caucus with the Democrats. He campaigned for McCain and may switch loyalties in the senate.

Losing any one of these seats will keep the Democrats shy if a filibuster-proof majority.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lawsuits in Minnesota

Coleman is suing Franken over the content of a television and radio spot. The ad contains allegations that Coleman is the 4th most corrupt US senator, and that he is living almost rent free in a D.C. apartment. There are also other allegations in the ad that are not part of the law suit. There is no chance that the suit will be decided in time for the election.

Now a Coleman supporter is being sued for forcing the plaintiff to make payments to Coleman through his wife. This suit was pulled, but then reinstated on Thurday.

So it is perhaps a great time for Independence Party Candidate Dean Barkley to take to the air waves with his one and only ad for this election: "I'm one of you."