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How Can Nerds Make a Difference In November? 950

Posted by kdawson
from the our-own-sweet-way dept.
Scott Aaronson offers an intriguing call for ideas on how nerds can supercharge the political process this year. He's clearly an Obama admirer and phrases his challenge this way: "What non-obvious things can nerds who are so inclined do to help the Democrats win in November?" But the question itself is not inherently partisan. The analogy Aaronson gives is to the Nadertrading idea in 2000 (which we discussed at the time). What's the Nadertrading for 2008? "The sorts of ideas I'm looking for are ones that (1) exploit nerds' nerdiness, (2) go outside the normal channels of influence, (3) increase nerds' effective voting power by several orders of magnitude, (4) are legal, (5) target critical swing states, and (6) can be done as a hobby."
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How Can Nerds Make a Difference In November?

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  • by longacre (1090157) * on Friday August 29, 2008 @09:56AM (#24793853) Homepage
    Get a programming job at Diebold.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:02AM (#24793943)

      Spam all republicans with a message saying due to voting machine problems, and to avoid overcrownding on the few working termnals, Democrats are asked to vote on tuesday and republicans on wednesday.

      • Re:I know I know! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:17AM (#24794159)

        That happened in Iowa City where I live. KCJJ (A local radio station known for their run ins with the court system) were threatened with a lawsuit for telling people on the air that republicans were being asked to vote on Wednesday to help prevent long lines at the voting places. Honestly, if you dont know what DAY you're supposed to go vote, you probably should stay home.

        • Re:I know I know! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by initdeep (1073290) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:27AM (#24794317)

          and if it was done the other way would you feel the same about it?

          what if they had asked black people to vote on wednesday instead to prevent long lines?

          a public broadcast medium making what appears to be a legitimate announcement (and yes i live in iowa and have heard their "parodies" which sound amazingly official) SHOULD be held responsible for their actions.

          Just because you thought it was funny, doesn't mean it might not have disenfranchised many people.

          Preventing people from casting legitimate votes, regardless of their political affiliation, race, religious background, or any other criteria covered under law, is both legally and morally irresponsible.

          • Re:I know I know! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:31AM (#24794383)

            Preventing people from casting legitimate votes, regardless of their political affiliation, race, religious background, or any other criteria covered under law, is both legally and morally irresponsible.

            And yes, for some reason this does include being stupid enough to fall for something like this in the first place.

          • Re:I know I know! (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2008 @11:04AM (#24794975)

            what if they had asked black people to vote on wednesday instead to prevent long lines?

            They did [wikipedia.org]

          • Re:I know I know! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by multisync (218450) * on Friday August 29, 2008 @11:19AM (#24795235) Journal

            and if it was done the other way would you feel the same about it?

            The AC didn't say how he felt about it. He merely reported the fact that it happened.

            Just because you thought it was funny ...

            I've read the comment several times, and I don't see how you got the impression he thought it was funny, or that he was making light of it. If you are taking issue with the remark "if you dont know what DAY you're supposed to go vote, you probably should stay home," I think you are off base. That comment is insightful, not funny.

            You should direct your indignation at the radio station, not the person who reported on their actions.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by nomadic (141991)
            I thought that was the joke, that it's done all the time by people trying to prevent people who demographically tend to be democrats from voting. Unfortunately the Deceptive Practice and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act [wikipedia.org] hasn't been passed yet.
          • Re:I know I know! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ukemike (956477) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:15PM (#24796243) Homepage

            and if it was done the other way would you feel the same about it?

            I'd feel... well exactly how I feel because it has been done, many times. There was a widespread phone banking effort in heavily Democratic areas in Florida in 2000 reminding people to vote, on the following Tuesday. If you want to read a laundry list of such abuses, read the Conyers Committee Report on the elections in Ohio in 2004.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rinisari (521266)

      Seriously. The establishment played dirty with the media, let the geeks play dirty with the proprietary voting machine companies with no method of peer review ;-)

      • Re:I know I know! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Burz (138833) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:44AM (#24794623) Journal

        Not only is there no method of inspecting the "mechanics" or logic (one transistor or bit out of billions could throw an election) of these Black Box Voting machines, but the prospects of forensic investigation are extremely poor.

        It is hard enough maintaining security/integrity in computerized transactions these days even when the identity of both parties is known and a statement/receipt is generated. But where the user is necessarily anonymous, accountability with computers goes out the window.

        Computerized "ballots" (those not submitted as physical objects) can't truly exist and must be banned.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sm62704 (957197)

          We're getting some new voting machines this election (they're being rented) and if the newspaper [sj-r.com] is to be believed, these machines will actually be trustworthy.

          They're doing it as I've advocated for years.

          Sangamon County had to obtain new voting machines after the State Board of Elections ruled the county couldn't use the more than 900 machines it purchased for $2.7 million three years ago.

          The board said the company that made the machines, Populex Corp. of Elgin, had not completed all the required testing.

          C

    • Re:I know I know! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:10AM (#24794073)

      Close, but if you want to really fix electronic voting, there's one sure-fire way of doing it.

      1. Figure out a way of rigging a vote for a believable candidate.
      2. Describe exactly what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, and encrypt this document.
      3. Send the encrypted document anonymously to all the media organisations you can think of in advance of the election.
      4. Rig the vote.
      5. After the election, send the decryption key to all the media organisations.

      It's one thing to get somebody to admit the elections are riggable in theory. People don't really believe it until you show them. They still have faith in the process, or the government, or human nature. This way, you can get people to take notice without actually doing any real harm.

      What you don't do is rig the election for an unbelievable candidate. That way, they immediately go into damage-control mode, make you out to be a prankster, and find some way of "retrieving" (e.g. making up) the "real" results. The point is that you wait long enough for everybody to congratulate themselves on another well-executed election, make all the acceptance speeches, etc, so they really commit themselves and can't say that they weren't utterly fooled.

      Bonus points for giving up your anonymity afterwards and pointing out that you rigged the election in favour of a candidate you don't want to win.

      • by Chmcginn (201645) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:21AM (#24794235) Journal

        Close, but if you want to really fix electronic voting, there's one sure-fire way of doing it.

        The other one is an EMP blast.

      • by ElizabethGreene (1185405) on Friday August 29, 2008 @11:26AM (#24795365)

        The evil-er approach is to send 2 encrypted documents, don't rig the election, and only send the decryption key for the candidate that actually wins.

        Tehe.. saves all that pesky "work".

      • Re:I know I know! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IDtheTarget (1055608) on Friday August 29, 2008 @11:27AM (#24795381)

        Interesting idea, but I believe that this would cause a constitutional crisis, as the "winning" candidate and his/her party attempt to hang on to the presidency by "proving" that the fix didn't happen and that the encrypted message was a hoax, and the "losing" candidate and party demanding a re-vote.

        As a member of the National Guard, I view this scenario with horror, as I'm one of the guys that would probably be called out to keep the peace. Not something I look upon with any enthusiasm...

      • 1. Use a deniable encryption scheme to encode a document which has multiple plaintexts, each describing your intent to rig the election in favour of a different candidate.

        2. Send the encrypted multiple-plaintext document to the news media.

        3. After the election, send along the appropriate key.

        4. Singlehandedly psycho-disenfranchise the electorate without ever doing anything illegal. Good job, you anti-democracy terrorist, you!

    • Re:I know I know! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:16AM (#24794157)

      When mentioning Diebold, it is always crucial to mention that they now call themselves Premier Election Systems, in an attempt to make people forget that they are "that" company.... you know, the one with broken and insecure voting machines.

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday August 29, 2008 @11:15AM (#24795153) Homepage

        When mentioning Diebold, it is always crucial to mention that they now call themselves Premier Election Systems, in an attempt to make people forget that they are "that" company.... you know, the one with broken and insecure voting machines.

        But that doesn't make any sense! Our consultant from Accenture [wikipedia.org] assures us that Premier Election Systems has a terrific and unblemished reputation, and has nothing to do with the disgrace that was Diebold's voting machine division!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by F34nor (321515) *

      NO NO NO!!!

      Be an election observer of both the machines and the servers. We need a pair of nerd boots of both republican and democrat persuasion at each tally server to ensure that no one can sit down and alter the unencrypted count files. This is the most important nerd activity you do. At the last election all my lawyer friends were working as observers but they were looking for something completely different than the real vote rigging activities.

      As for Diebold, we naked short the fuckers into the ground

  • Ummm .. Vote? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Friday August 29, 2008 @09:58AM (#24793875)
    Or is that obvious?
    • Re:Ummm .. Vote? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:04AM (#24793967) Homepage Journal
      Good luck getting anyone to vote in this country. We've had some of the lowest rates of voter turnout of any democracy for many, many election cycles now.

      Besides, it is much easier to say "I didn't vote because there was no candidate that was running on [insert favorite cause here]". And as long as the non-voters continue to not vote (or just complain), we'll continue to have this same system.
      • Re:Ummm .. Vote? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RealityProphet (625675) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:13AM (#24794107)

        Good luck getting anyone to vote in this country. We've had some of the lowest rates of voter turnout of any democracy for many, many election cycles now.

        For someone to do anything requires some amount of motivation on the part of that person. For voting, that would mean getting to understand the issues and know the candidates, and then to form an opinion one way or another on those issues and where the candidates stand on them. What makes you think it would be a good idea to have unmotivated people vote when they obviously have no interest and, more than likely, no understanding, of the issues involved?

        • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:28AM (#24794325) Journal

          Very good point. I think this gets to the root of why those MTV "Rock the Vote!" style campaigns get on my nerves.

          I'm all for people making the effort to learn what's going on in politics, and then being able to make an informed decision.

          But at the same time, some people are simply apathetic. If you prod them to go out and vote (by selling the idea as trendy and "cool", applying peer-pressure, etc.), you wind up with people voting for completely wrong reasons. EG. I just like candidate X because he looks better on TV. The other guys look too old and ugly!

          All things considered, I think we'd do just as well to have them opt out of the whole process, if that's all the effort they're going to put into it.

          At the same time though? I *really* wish the people who don't like either of the two "major candidates" would get out there and vote 3rd. party, rather than skipping the process. That's where I'm at right now, myself. I can't bring myself to cast a vote for yet another person following in the footsteps of Bush, but Obama comes from the typical crooked Chicago politician pool, screwed us over by not fighting the telcom immunity bill, and has professed ideas for public healthcare that I think aren't going to work. Both candidates are apparently fine with a continuation of the "Patriot Act" too, which tells me a LOT about them.

          That's why I'm going to cast a vote for Bob Barr. Frankly, the guy's kind of a "tool". He's just trying to ride the coat-tails of Ron Paul, and his V.P. already was heard admitting that he's really only running because he hopes it'll boost his popularity so he can get a book deal or radio show program in the future. But that's not the point. The point is, a vote for him is a protest vote the other guys can CLEARLY see they didn't earn.

          • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:53AM (#24794773)

            Eight years ago your post would be: "These two candidates are the same guy! I'm voting for Nader!"

            Do you honestly thing Gore would have run things just like Bush?

            Now, do you honestly thing McCain would run things just like Obama?

            Enough with the protest voting, we should mobilize people and teach them to vote for their best interests, not teaching them to be cynical and become protest voters.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Democratic leadership is just itching for their turn at the helm of the war machine.

              WWI
              WWII
              Korea
              Vietnam

              Those weren't Republican Presidents who entered us into those wars. You're sadly mistaken if you think the Democrats want less war. What the Democratic leadership wants their own wars that benefit them financially and benefit them politically. They've said they had enough of Bush's war only because it doesn't help them. Have you not noticed how the all powerful Democrats in the house and senate, and Pel

              • by Paradigm_Complex (968558) on Friday August 29, 2008 @06:17PM (#24802719)
                The Republicans freed the slaves, and so as a black man I'm going to vote Republican this time around. *rolls eyes*

                Please do not put much value on what a given party did historically, but rather what the party's leading candidates are most likely going to do given their own personal history. Yes, the Democrats were in charge as we jumped into a number of wars. However at the moment the Democrats want the support of those who are upset about the whole Iraq thing. Therefore they're playing the anti-war card. It's not that complicated.

                There is some merit to your mention of the fact that many of the anti-war claims from the Democrats aren't quite what they were a number of months ago. This is not, however, even remotely related to the fact they were in charge as we went into WWI.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by MrNaz (730548)

              Yea, because voting for someone other than democrat or republican is a waste of time, even if you don't agree with the democratic or republican political platforms.

            • Hear hear! (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Meoward (665631) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:37PM (#24796653)

              The 2000 election was decided by less than 600 votes in Florida. About 90,000 Floridians voted for Nader that year. If only 1% of those Nader voters could see what the future held.

              Seriously. Don't vote for the candidate who merely claims to serve your interests. Vote for the one who will lay the cultural groundwork for the change you wish to see in your country.

              It's up to you to be that change, regardless of who wins.

          • by maxume (22995) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:54AM (#24794805)

            Plenty of partisan nutjobs cast their votes for reasons less substantial than 'he looks better on TV'.

          • by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope.gmail@com> on Friday August 29, 2008 @11:51AM (#24795813) Homepage Journal

            But if these people don't vote, who will vote for them?

            Voter turnout is historically the lowest for middle and lower income people, so if the well-to-do merely vote their pocket books and can dupe enough other people through flag-waving, we could easily get another Gilded age [wikipedia.org].

            Oh wait...it's already here?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by kestasjk (933987)
          Here in Australia you're fined if you don't vote.

          As someone who would vote anyway obviously I think it shouldn't be mandatory, because it gives my vote and people like me more sway. But for true democracy I suppose it's better.

          The question of whether people are, in general, "qualified" to vote is a tough one I think.
      • Re:Ummm .. Vote? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ioldanach (88584) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:29AM (#24794351)
        My favorite is "I live in a (blue|red) state, so my vote doesn't matter, the state will go with (blue|red) candidate regardless, so I won't vote."
        • Re:Ummm .. Vote? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@g m a i l .com> on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:56AM (#24794837) Journal

          Because that's not true? I vote, 80% of the state votes against me, and my vote counts for nothing in the national election. It's pathetic.

          Now, I still vote, but I don't have the illusion that my vote means anything in the presidential election. Winner take all politics is sure and certain death for minority candidates, and it can decide the national election as well, as in 2000.

        • Re:Ummm .. Vote? (Score:5, Informative)

          by greenguy (162630) <estebandido@nospaM.gmail.com> on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:14PM (#24796223) Homepage Journal

          I realize you're not actually advocating this kind of thinking, but I'd like to answer it just the same... in case others out there come across it.

          If you KNOW your state is going to go one way or another (e.g., Massachusetts or Wyoming), vote third party. If the Libertarian or Green candidate [votetruth08.com] gets 5% this year, their party will get matching funds in 2012. Then they'll have something like one half of 1% of the money the big two have, instead of 1% of 1%.

          This is counted nationwide, not by state, so this is a good way to make a difference, wherever you live.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ericspinder (146776)

        Good luck getting anyone to vote in this country.

        Actually, voter turnout is on the upturn [wikipedia.org], sure 56% is still lower than I'd like to see, but it's the youth vote which has been lacking. I think that Obama has a real chance of improving that number and even the very young governor of Alaska on the McCain ticket should generate some youth buzz. I still think that McCain will lose big, but the numbers of voters will be more respectable.

  • Real nerds... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by subl33t (739983) on Friday August 29, 2008 @09:58AM (#24793883)

    ... should be smart enough to see that neither party works and would start their own.

    OK, flame away. :P

  • Simple (Score:3, Funny)

    by Nerdposeur (910128) on Friday August 29, 2008 @09:59AM (#24793907) Journal
    Game the search results on the candidates. Especially for sites in the swing states.
  • echo chamber (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:03AM (#24793955) Homepage Journal

    I don't care who wins the election. Just to get that out of the way.
     
    I think that people who spend a lot of time on the internet build up a false sense of community size and influence. If one were spending a lot of time on Digg last year, they were probably surprised by how poorly Ron Paul did.
     
    What percentage of Americans are regularly active on the internet? What percentage watch hours of t.v. a day?
     
    I'm all for people getting out and doing something they believe in but the fact that this is compared to something involving Nader illustrates my point perfectly. It is a small group of people taking fringe actions what will not increase voting power by orders of magnitude.

  • by xappax (876447) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:03AM (#24793961)
    According to the criteria, I would say contributing labor to key "political" software projects such as GPG or TOR would be best. It can be done as a hobby, definitely exploits our nerdiness, and absolutely goes outside the normal channels of influence.

    Granted, this has nothing to do with getting a politician elected, but that's exactly the point. Taking direct action to solve the problems of privacy and government surveillance increases our "effective voting power" many times over, because we don't have to hope that whatever shmuck we put in office will do what we elected him to do. In a certain sense it makes us even more powerful than the president.

    I guess my point is that the most powerful things nerds have done to change the political landscape haven't had anything to do (directly) with elections. Because our power and potential is bigger than any politician.
  • Simple.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by houbou (1097327) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:05AM (#24793993) Journal

    I'm Canadian, but I do hope Obama wins, In the recent weeks, I've been working on getting work in the US, I think it would be nice to expand my computer consulting horizons. As I've been following US politics for the last 10 yrs, I do think Obama is indeed going to be a great president. I would consider moving to the US if a president like Obama was elected!

    But really, the problem with Obama, like anything else, are the myths propagated by others, or the misinformation about him. I say that anyone who wishes to help Obama (nerds included), only need to ensure that the facts are made clear to anyone willing to listen.

    Nerds and the web, can obviously create ads for Obama such as "did you know" blurbs on their websites for example.

    It's not about tricking people into voting for Obama, but about ensuring he's clearly understood by people. So, anyone who can clearly explain who Obama is, what he stands for and most of all, get his message across, is obviously going to help!

    • Re:Simple.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:21AM (#24794227)
      Dude, are you serious? Obama sold us out. He voted for telecom immunity for their illegal wiretaps, and thus proved he'll bend us over just as hard and fast as any other politician would. How can you say you want him as president, when he already killed our ability to have any faith in him?
      • Re:Simple.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by iserlohn (49556) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:27AM (#24794315) Homepage

        Think of it as a strategic move. If he voted against the entire bill containing the immunity clause, then yes, he's probably get a whole lot of respect from people like you and me.

        However, that's going to be a big thing that the McCain camp is going to harp on, and drill it in that Obama doesn't support measures to tackle terrorism.

        Obama has already voiced his opposition to the immunity clause by voting for the amendment to ditch it. That's didn't go through so you can imagine it's not a easy move to play.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "But really, the problem with Obama, like anything else, are the myths propagated by others, or the misinformation about him."

      Really? That's it? My problem with Obama comes straight from his mouth, from his supporters' mouths, and even from his wife's mouth:

      "We have lost the understanding that in a democracy, we have a mutual obligation to one another -- that we cannot measure the greatness of our society by the strongest and richest of us, but we have to measure our greatness by the least of these. T
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Graff (532189)

      What I don't get is why geeks would want someone as US President whose main focus will be to increase the role of government and tax the people who work hard. It seems to me that successful, hard-working professionals would rather have someone who will focus on less government and lower taxes rather than more government.

      I mean lets look at McCain [issues2000.org] vs Obama [issues2000.org] on Taxes. McCain wants to keep taxes low across the board and cut federal spending. Obama wants to cut taxes for people earning less than $75k a year a

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:07AM (#24794023) Journal

    "What non-obvious things can nerds who are so inclined do to help the Democrats win in November?" But the question itself is not inherently partisan.

    You and I seem to have different ideas of what 'partisan' means.

    Honestly, the best thing a nerd can do during an election is spread information. Not slanted information but stuff like the folks over at factcheck.org are doing. Another thing is discussing various differences in the voting process like trying to build a grassroots movement to move back to the popular vote or opening up discussions on runoff voting. There's plenty of ways to inform the public, possibly the most important and least rewarded job--in my mind anyhow. I find it humorous when Democrat workers go around alienating Republican voters and vice versa.

    If you approach me with the mindset that I need to be voting for your candidate I'm probably not going to react well to it.

    • by houghi (78078) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:33AM (#24794413)

      If you approach me with the mindset that I need to be voting for your candidate I'm probably not going to react well to it.

      Well, I think you must [wikipedia.org] vote republican.

  • Vote third party (Score:5, Insightful)

    by megamerican (1073936) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:11AM (#24794089)

    If you want to stop voting for the lesser of two evils, stop voting for the flawed two-party system. Simply vote third party to show that you want to be involved but hate the choices given to us by the corporate controlled parties.

    It doesn't matter if you vote for Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader or Alan Keyes.

    People need to start demanding that these 3rd party candidates get air time and in the debates. I'm really hoping that google or someone else has a debate with some of these candidates.

    The best thing you can do to make real change and a difference is to take over your local government and work up. Get some friends and like minded people and start running for city council, judges, etc....

    • Re:Vote third party (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tlacuache (768218) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:48AM (#24794669)
      Exactly. As a conservative, I'm at the opposite end of the political spectrum from most Slashdotters on a lot of issues (although I agree with most of you on issues with technological implications such as net neutrality, privacy, that sort of thing). It's true, I hate the Democratic party with a passion. But over the last four years I've come to hate the Republican party just as much. It's the system that's messed up. We don't have real representation any more. I won't be voting for Obama because I disagree with almost every single policy he has, but I don't trust McCain either. I haven't exactly decided on who yet, but I'll be voting 3rd party this November.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:11AM (#24794095)

    Lets say you are pulling for Obama. Go into Call of Duty 4 and change your name to "McCain 2008" and run around with the shotgun. Or go play Counter-strike and change your name to "McCain Roxors" and camp in a dark corner with a sniper rifle.

    You can also go into people's skype channels and spam your love for the candidate that you do not want to win. People will be so put-off by your actions that you may just swing an independent in the opposite direction!

  • by rob1980 (941751) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:11AM (#24794097)
    Hack the Gibson.
  • by stubear (130454) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:14AM (#24794131)

    "(6) can be done as a hobby"

    Affecting a political outcome and changing the policies of your government is NOT a fucking hobby. If you want change you need to put forth commitment and while this might not be a full-time job, it is a second job at the very least. This is not another fucking coding project you can fork if you don't like the way things are going, you can't call others noobs, and you actually have to learn something about social interaction if you want others to listen to your ideas. If you treat this like another OSS project then it will languish in code hell, a perpetual alpha with the occasional vulture picking at the carcass every now and then.

    • by xant (99438) on Friday August 29, 2008 @01:24PM (#24797461) Homepage

      This is black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking.

      Politics is a process everyone should get involved in and contribute to--but it doesn't have to be everyone's full-time job. A few will treat the problem space as important enough to them to make a job out of it, but most of the contribution eventually comes from everyone else. The real strength of the Internet masses is in their mass. Only a teeny tiny bit of it needs to be applied to make important things happen, with just enough guidance to make it non-random. See Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody [amazon.com]. He describes a tiny surplus of effort as enough to create thousands of complete Wikipedia projects every year.

      So yes, let's look at solutions that can be done as a hobby, perhaps guided by someone for whom it is a bit more than a hobby. Structure the project to encourage the masses to contribute their single raindrop, and watch the flood change the world.

  • by MosesJones (55544) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:15AM (#24794135) Homepage

    In these days of sloppy journalism and down right bias on mainstream channels in the US then surely the most "effective" is to learn from the real scum of the political process the people who do the anonymous negative campaigning, shooting malicious falsehoods out into the world via leaflets and other approaches.

    Nerds could go hugely further than this by creating fake sites, bombarding social networking sites and editing wikipedia to spread these rumours and even create "verifiable" sources. Low quality videos suggesting illegal or immoral behaviour could be uploaded onto YouTube and main stream news channels could be bombarded with votes/emails/text pushing an agenda, view or revelation.

    Oh or did you mean what nerds could do on their own rather than what they will be paid to do in this campaign?

  • Barak Obama? (Score:3, Informative)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:21AM (#24794219)

    You mean the guy who voted for telco immunity [cnet.com]? The guy whose vice-presidential nominee is a MAFIAA crony [yahoo.com]?

    Remind me why I should support either him *OR* the equally scummy McCain?

  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:52AM (#24794763)

    Sorry, I'm just pissed off at the micro-issue morons. Gun control, telco immunity, abortion rights, etc. These "micro-issues' distract from the whole.

    You aren't going to EVER get someone with whom you agree with 100% all the time unless its you.

    Weigh the pros and cons of the two candidates, CAREFULLY, and think about who will best serve the country as a whole. Weigh the VP choice as well, McCain is old enough to die or become incapacitated and Obama is black, I can imagine the KKK or some white supremacy group trying to off him ASAP. Those guys are scary crazy, if you think islamic terrorists are crazy, you haven't seen the KKK. They'll kill a black man with no remorse, they enjoy it. (It isn't a racist troll and don't tell me you haven't heard it before. I'm just an engineer looking at the potential issues.)

    Third party? Don't be an idiot. A third party will not get elected in this cycle, maybe we can work for a viable third party over time, but not now.

    This election is IMPORTANT. Don't screw around and take your citizenship and right to vote seriously. Vote for the best all around package, knowing full well that there are no perfect people, and they will disagree with you on various issues, but *mostly* represent you.

    As for the micro-issues:

    Telco immunity. Think about this, yea, they should have been nailed to the wall, but they WERE ordered by the government to do something. It is hard to resist being compelled like that. The real prosecution should be against BushCo. If a cop told you to help him, you'd feel compelled to help. If it is illegal, the cop is responsible, not you.

    RIAA, well that's the courts and congress. We need to fight it there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      Third party? Don't be an idiot. A third party will not get elected in this cycle, maybe we can work for a viable third party over time, but not now.

      My state's going for McCain - no ifs, ands, or buts. I'm voting for Barr to send a message to the Republicans.

      But beyond that, your argument against voting for third parties is stupid in a way that a self-proclaimed engineer should immediately grok. If third parties call only win the N+1 election, where N is the first one where they make a good showing and demonstrate viability, then at some point you have to have N or you'll never get to N+1. If the people using your logic last time had thought it throu

  • by N8F8 (4562) on Friday August 29, 2008 @11:05AM (#24794987)

    I'll be on the ballot for the US House of Representatives for Florida's 15th Congressional district.

    http://lowing08.com/ [lowing08.com]

  • by glassware (195317) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:07PM (#24796093) Homepage Journal

    Every year, when we get close to the election, tons of people come out of the woodwork and say, "Both candidates are evil, I've lost my will to vote, I'll vote third party. Why can't they ever nominate someone good?"

    If you recall, tons of people said "Both Al Gore and George Bush are lame politicians" in 1999. Many of those people didn't vote. And simply because Al Gore seemed dull, we lost out on the chance to have a politician who really cared about environmental issues and who would have applied some moderation to the response to terrorism instead of going cowboy.

    The trouble is, people, in general, are flawed. The sheer number of decisions a person has to make each and every day means that some of them will be wrong. It's simply not possible to find "a good candidate," because every human being has made a mistake in the past. Part of the reason Senators don't usually become Presidents is that they have a solid, visible voting record and lots of conflicting demands on their votes, so that anyone can point to and say "Haha! This one decision was wrong! You can't be trusted!" By contrast, Governors and Generals seem to have less visible records, so people can't play the "gotcha" game as often.

    Please stop thinking that an election is a chance to find a perfect person and vote for him or her. That's not the way elections work; if you keep waiting for a perfect candidate you'll never vote. Elections work by presenting you with candidates, and you get to judge which of them you think will do the best job.

    I'll confess this: in 1999, I listened to the candidates and decided that I would be a John McCain supporter. I decided to support him because I looked at Bill Bradley, Al Gore, George Bush, and him, and I decided McCain seemed like the best leader. Unfortunately, after the election, everything I learned about McCain gradually turned negative and everything I learned about Al Gore reinforced his solid reputation. In this campaign, I know a little about Obama and (I think) a fair amount about McCain. Both of them have had to abandon their key supporters to reach across the aisle and compromise with others, but I find McCain's decisions more wrong than Obama's.

    Obama showed great courage not backing a junkie's-quick-fix approach to gasoline prices.
    McCain supports creationism / intelligent design in schools.
    McCain sponsored an amendment to ban torture, and then meekly backed away when George Bush announced that he'd ignore the law.

    I'm voting for Obama. I may not agree with everything he does, but I think he's the best person to repair the damage that Bush has done to our country.

  • by Antibozo (410516) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:29PM (#24796491) Homepage

    One thing you can do that isn't blindingly partisan is to volunteer as an election judge. Election staff are in short supply in many places in the country, and as new (insecure) equipment has been purchased by states, a lot of older staff have retired from the process, overwhelmed by the march of technology. Being a geek is a good fit for this problem.

    More staff at the polls makes things run more smoothly, and that encourages turnout in future elections, and even in current ones when people who stayed away hear on Election Day that the line moved quickly, and decide to head in and vote after all. Bigger turnout generally favors Democrats, so if you want to help Obama this is a good thing to do.

    But even if you support McCain or someone else, it's a fun, interesting experience, and you'll be helping the country express itself. A lot of staff positions at the polls require a member of each major party, so both Republicans and Democrats are needed to staff the polls sufficiently.

    Voting is how we buy in to the government we end up with; even when we vote the loser, we participate in the process and that makes us stakeholders. When you become part of the election process, you facilitate this for your community.

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach

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