Neil Freeman interviewed about his Electoral College Reform map

You may have seen Neil’s map before, where each of the US’s 50 states are redrawn to balance for population. It’s nice to see his project’s motivating ideas laid out like they are in this Paris Review interview:

I think that the biggest cultural change would be with the profusion of city-states. Many states overrepresent rural areas when it comes to divvying up funding for infrastructure projects and other spending. The alignment of metro areas and states would mean that decision-making power in land use and transportation would shift away from rural areas, which would probably mean less sprawl and more livable cities.

electoral10-1100

See also: Neil’s 50 states and 50 metros

The fifty largest metro areas, disaggregated from their states. Each has been scaled and sorted according to population.

#ShellFail behind the scenes (updated again)twitter.com

Here’s the amazing follow-up to yesterday’s Shell party malfunction now confirmed to be the work of The Yes Men.

The terms ‘hoax’ and ‘fake’ don’t seem quite right to me. This is theater, plain and simple. The audience—both online and in person (?)—isn’t in on the joke for the first act, but this is all part of the larger theater experience. This video is act 2, and the resulting conversation and press coverage is act 3.

There’s a lot of symbolism packed into these short YouTube videos, but age is one of the more potent ones to me. The central character this video opens with is a stand-in for the many generations who’ve squandered the natural world at the expense of our inheritors. We don’t feel so bad laughing at her in the first act because of what she represents. That she’s already a well-known figure within the Occupy narrative makes the big reveal all the sweeter. Bravo, Yes Men!

Update: I may have spoken too soon about act 3. Check out Arctic Ready website and the accompanying Twitter account.

Update 2: There’s another written recap of the event on Salon.

Link

Why you should fear Mitt Romneywww.animalnewyork.com

All this talk about “Amercia” is a distraction:

Gaffes stick when they reinforce an existing criticism of a candidate. Is anyone really worried that Mitt Romney, whose personal crest may as well be a spreadsheet, is insufficiently obsessed with details?

Here is Jay Smooth explaining why the Romney “meh” response is dangerous:

Also, my site was down for a while earlier today. It’s all fixed now.

Link

Bill 78 and the casserole protestwww.youtube.com

From Common Dreams:

Bill 78 not only “enraged civil libertarians and legal experts but also seems to have galvanized ordinary Quebecers.” Since the law passed Friday, people in Montreal neighborhoods have appeared on their balconies and in front of their houses to defiantly bang pots and pans in a clanging protest every night at 8 p.m.

Link

CISPA is bad newswww.opencongress.org

From Open Congress:

[CISPA] would allow web companies to share virtually any information about their users with the government, without a court order. No prior privacy laws would apply.

Even if this is already on the veto chopping block, look forward to attack ads framing Democrats as “anti-cybersecurity.”

Link

SOPA-supporting media companies don’t cover SOPAmediamatters.org

Legislation that would break the Internet is absent from television news:

As the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) makes its way through Congress, most major television news outlets — MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS, and NBC — have ignored the bill during their evening broadcasts. One network, CNN, devoted a single evening segment to it.

To their credit, the online arms of most of these news outlets have posted regular articles about the fight over the legislation, but their primetime TV broadcasts remain mostly silent.

Link

Clay Shirky on newspaper article thresholdswww.shirky.com

If only 2% of New York Times online visitors trigger the 20 per month article threshold, their former mass advertising audience turns into a niche of self-selecting paid customers.

There has never been a mass market for good journalism in this country. What there used to be was a mass market for print ads, coupled with a mass market for a physical bundle of entertainment, opinion, and information; these were tied to an institutional agreement to subsidize a modicum of real journalism. In that mass market, the opinions of the politically engaged readers didn’t matter much, outnumbered as they were by people checking their horoscopes. This suited advertisers fine; they have always preferred a centrist and distanced political outlook, the better not to alienate potential customers. When the politically engaged readers are also the only paying readers, however, their opinion will come matter more, and in ways that will sometimes contradict the advertisers’ desires for anodyne coverage.

See also: The Times’ Paywall and Newsletter Economics, from a year ago

Link

Another take on invented peopleguerrillathoughts.wordpress.com

The claim made by Gingrich that there never was a Palestinian state is one often made by people hostile to the plight of the Palestinians. This claim is made in an attempt to deny an indigenous people the right to dwell on their own land. What this claim essentially does is, it takes what is after all a modern European concept — the idea of the nation state — and uses that as a prism through which to view a non-European people and judge them as not being worthy of the right to live on their own land. Remember also, that the word Palestine has existed in some etymological form for far longer than the names of most states in the world today.

Link

The invented people

Recently there’s been some discussion about Newt Gingrich’s views on Palestinians, that they are an invented people:

Remember, there was no Palestine as a state, it was part of the Ottoman Empire, and I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and were historically part of the Arab community.

An American talking about “invention” in the context of a people’s right to statehood is so mind-bendingly ironic. Anil Dash sums it up in 129 characters:

One of the best things about the U.S. is that it's an invented country populated by an invented people with an inventive spirit.
@anildash
Anil Dash

This position gets even weirder as Thomas Friedman (yeah, really!) points out where this line of reasoning takes us:

If the 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians are not a real people entitled to their own state, that must mean Israel is entitled to permanently occupy the West Bank and that must mean — as far as Newt is concerned — that Israel’s choices are: 1) to permanently deprive the West Bank Palestinians of Israeli citizenship and put Israel on the road to apartheid; 2) to evict the West Bank Palestinians through ethnic cleansing and put Israel on the road to the International Criminal Court in the Hague; or 3) to treat the Palestinians in the West Bank as citizens, just like Israeli Arabs, and lay the foundation for Israel to become a binational state. And this is called being “pro-Israel”?

It’s surprising that a right wing politician might be, in essence, arguing for a One State Solution. Aside from Friedman’s use of quotes around the word illegal — as in, “illegal” settlements — I think it’s a solid op-ed. But this notion of a group of people having their identity called into question is better explained by Laila El-Haddad:

After booking a flight online with British Airways out of Cairo (the nearest accessible airport for Palestinians here, eight hours and a border crossing away from Gaza), I attempted to enter my “passenger details”, including country of citizenship and residence.

Most people wouldn’t give this a second thought. But being the owner of a Palestinian Authority passport (which one can acquire only on the basis of an Israeli-issued ID card), I have become accustomed to dealing with Kafkaesque complications in routine matters.

And sure enough, in the drop-down menu of countries, I found the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Isle of Man and even Tuvalu – but no Palestine.

I collaborated with Laila on You Are Not Here and she told harrowing airport stories, of being detained and questioned on account of her “invented” status. I remember following one such adventure as she tweeted about being denied entry into Palestine by Egyptian authorities:

arrived in Cairo- am not being allowed through the airpot. been waiting w/ kids for 4 hours now. can't go back to US-visa expired.
@gazamom
Laila El-Haddad

Imagine traveling from Copenhagen to New York, with a stopover in Montreal. Imagine being held by Canadian authorities because they don’t like your “American” passport. They send you back to Denmark because, you know, the United States doesn’t even have a legitimate monarchy! Who can trust these “invented” people?

The kicker is the lack of recourse, no Palestinian embassy can hold those Egyptian authorities to account. Gingrich’s position inadvertently calls attention to the estimated 12 million stateless people in the world. Their rights are not adequately protected in large part because they’re not considered legitimate people.

This post has been censored

I’ve censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet–a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/6562/uncensor

█████ are two ██████ ████████ █████ ██████ █████ way ███████ ████████ (████/████) ████ █████ ██████ █████ █████████ for ████████ ████ ████ to or ████ ███████████ █████████. █████ the █████ for the ████ ███████.

Occupy Wall Street, The Tea Party and Beyond

Last night the Personal Democracy Forum Media people held a “flash conference” at NYU. The panel of speakers included two of my favorite people, Beka Economopoulos and Clay Shirky (who mentioned me during his talk! zomg!), focusing on the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements. It was skewed more toward OWS, but I did appreciate what Mark Meckler had to say about his experience doing grassroots organizing for the Tea Party.

Mark starts at 38:00, Beka at 57:00, and Clay around 1:14:00.

Deep link: MIA vs. NYTwww.metafilter.com

An unflattering NY Times Magazine article on M.I.A. leads to a retaliatory tweeting of the journalist’s phone number (her response). Not quite the Streisand Effect, but similar. The retaliation might lend credibility to the claims in the article while increasing its visibility. A summary of the 8,000 word article is also available.

One revelation from the article was that having “Born Free” banned on YouTube was probably intentional — M.I.A.’s upcoming tour will be themed around censorship.

The article goes to great lengths picking apart M.I.A.’s outspoken politics, dismissing her ideas on Sri Lanka and other geo-political topics as naïve and ultimately self-serving. I appreciated this comment from MetaFilter user A Terrible Llama:

When it’s Madonna and it’s 1986, who cares, because she’s trotting out virgin/whore dichotomy or wearing cone-shaped bras and people are in a tither — fine. But when an artist is funneling additional attention into a complicated and easily misunderstood political situation they can be contributing to a kind of simplistic viewpoint that gets people killed.

Link (via)

Lessig eats his own dog foodfixcongressfirst.org

Lawrence Lessig is primarily known for his Creative Commons project as well as books and masterful presentations on the same topic (the excellent free_culture presentation was my first exposure to his ideas).

More recently he’s been talking about reforming politics, about reforming Congress in particular. His argument is simple: money in Washington undermines our faith in democracy. It only makes sense, then, that he’s offered his supporters an opportunity to opt-out of those familiar MoveOn-style email fundraisers.

In this email, we’re doing something that no other advocacy group has ever done (or at least none we’ve heard of): We are giving you the opportunity to opt out of any email that asks for money — forever.

Not opt-out of emails altogether, just get rid of the “Donate Now” link at the bottom. From the special opt-out link:

Use the form below to opt out of future email appeals for financial contributions to Change Congress. We’ll still email to let you know about the latest news and opportunities to get involved in our work, but we’ll never ask you for money again.

Link

Zahra’s Paradisewww.zahrasparadise.com

A “real-time historical fiction” web comic about contemporary life in Iran. The NY Times writes:

The Web comic, which will be published in book form next year, is written by Amir, a human rights activist, and illustrated by Khalil. First Second Books is keeping their last names confidential to protect their safety. The comic will be updated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and will be published simultaneously in English, Farsi, Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch.

Link via The Morning News