Daily summary from Christians for Scientific Inquiry

  • 07:28 New post: Religious intolerance in Indonesia – Religious freedom for minorities is a complicated matter. After all,… ow.ly/16DGsv #
  • 07:28 New post: On not earmarking charitable donations – From change.org’s War and Peace blog post (emphasis mine): In So… ow.ly/16DGsu #
  • 12:09 C Street house target of clergy’s IRS complaint bit.ly/9fvYqW /cc @feedly #

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Daily summary from Christians for Scientific Inquiry

  • 16:39 We encounter the Divine through humble souls, and they transform our lives just as it transforms them. bit.ly/bjQdMK #
  • 17:18 Delightful post by Eric Von Salzen, who blogs as Anglican Centrist, on the web of authentication, and how Biblical… bit.ly/auUn5n #
  • 18:35 Another post on Lent — hey, it’s Sunday after all! If you find the post too long, at least read the bookending… bit.ly/ckr6ri #

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Making Congress Accountable: an actually workable plan

James Fallows linked to an interesting proposal for electoral reform by Center for Collaborative Democracy‘s Sol Erdman and MIT’s Lawrence Susskind. The document runs to 33 pages but, in a refreshing change, is actually really readable and does not require much political science terminology. Trust an amateur electoral wonk like myself to be able to tell 🙂

The proposal, termed Personally Accountable Representation (PAR), is superficially similar to a blend of single-winner IRV (instant runoff voting) and STV (single transferable vote). Like IRV, candidates are progressively eliminated until the number of remaining candidates equal the number of seats contested (in case of IRV, 1, in case of PAR, multiple seats). Unlike STV, “excess” votes are not reallocated, thus you get to be represented by your first pick if she wins a seat, eliminating a lot of complexity and confusion inherent in that system.

The proposal also eliminates the “one [Congress] man, one vote” link: after the winners are announced, voters can opt for their representative of choice among this list. Presumably they will pick their highest winning candidate most of the time, but this is not necessary (and voters whose preferred candidates all lose can still make a “least bad” choice). The votes of these representatives are then weighed in proportion of their support base. This weighting is similar to how the German Bundesrat works, and also how the EU council works (certain areas require double-majority voting: majority of countries and majority of represented population).

By having multi-member electoral districts, the chance of voters having a representative they can identify with increases; by opening up the political space, moderates are no longer stuck in the middle, but would instead likely gain a plurality in Congress; by having more credibility, members of Congress actually have the incentive and authority to negotiate deals, instead of just coasting along through reelections by selling their vote and blaming their opponents for lack of progress.

Most beautifully of all, they propose a roadmap through which this proposal can be tried out (starting with city council elections), and this does not require constitutional amendment.

Go, read 🙂

Writing on the Wall

Rembrandt's Belshazzar's Feast

With Google’s Buzz entering the social media space, the time has come for me to rationalize the system I use for my Internet posts. Until now, there has been an evolving, ad-hoc system, modified as I try new services and cease to use others; the system works, more or less, but it’s a bit fuzzy as to what ends up where. This is an attempt to clarify the alphabet soup.

  • Long writings end up here
  • Short jottings end up on Tumblr: both my own and shared items, as long as I add my editorial note to them
  • Interesting articles are shared on Google Reader, and tweeted if I think they merit wider readership
  • Location-specific notes are written directly in Buzz
  • Stumbles go to StumbleUpon. Provided I’m on Firefox. This is nowadays for oddball sites I would not use Tumblr for.
  • Pipelines — my WP, Tumblr, and StumbleUpon entries feed to Twitter, and Twitter and Reader entries feed to Buzz. Tumblr entries are fed to my Facebook Notes as well; and WP entries are noted individually if they are of general interest
  • In short, consult my Buzz page for everything, or Twitter if you’re not a heavy reader.

All Twitter syndication thanks to HootSuite, a really nice dashboard for Twitter-style sites. It does not support Twitter’s new oAuth system yet, but the Twitter support is way more reliable than Tumblr’s (understandable, as it’s the former’s lifeblood).

There might be a delay, as HootSuite only polls my other sites’ feeds hourly, and there is also currently some delays getting Tumblr notes to FaceBook, and Twitter entries to Buzz; the wrinkles should hopefully be fixed by FB and Google soon, though I have more hopes about the latter.

Think people are badly informed about vaccinations? Yes they are

From loosewire:

Evoting? First Bad Omen

I’m in the Philippines to look at their preparations for an automated evoting election in May. This morning’s visit to the hotel’s business center wasn’t a good omen: no antivirus software on their computers.

This might not tell us very much about the potential for disaster in an election which is supposed to be entirely electronic, but the staff’s attitude might. When I told her that her computers weren’t running antivirus, she nodded and said she knew that, as if to say that was a luxury this $120 a night hotel couldn’t afford.

While we could blame Microsoft for badly designing DOS and Windows in the first place, we must also ask why people has such a bad understanding of computer security. Most people I know are not aware of the need for anti-virus software on Windows, nor of the existence of many good *and* free (as in beer) AV software. Instead, they run years-out-of-date bundled AV software from brand names such as Symantec or McAfee.

Part of the blame must go to computer vendors. Knowing that many people don’t upgrade their AV subscriptions, should they not at least offer a choice on first boot, between a free trial and a free AV? But that would jeopardize the lucrative bundling business…

And you think people are stupendously misinformed about biological vaccinations… the digital counterpart is even worse. Granted, computer virii and worms don’t kill… yet.