Tag Archives: politics

This hypothetical flag for the “Five Eyes” inspired me to do my own Five Eyes flag design:

Five Eyes

The red and blue are averaged from the reds and blues from the US, Canadian, UK, Australian, and New Zealand’s colors, at least according to Wikipedia. The flag is split into five vertical stripes, first a blue stripe with the five-pointed star from the US flag near the top where the US flag has its field of stars; the second a white stripe with red borders and the Canadian maple leaf near the middle where it appears on the Canadian flag; the third a blue stripe with the seven-pointed star from the Australian flag; the fourth a red stripe with white borders evocative of the Union Jack‘s vertical red bar (originally derived from the flag of England); and the fifth a blue stripe with the red and white star from the New Zealand flag.

Since these five countries are also the five countries where English is the de-facto language of the majority of the population, this flag could also double as a flag of the English language, replacing that abysmal diagonally separated US/UK flag. But it’s more inflammatory as the flag of a the massive, probably-illegal surveillance program.

Update: animated version.

Update 8 Nov 2014: Decided to add the crown from the Keep Calm and Carry On WWII posters.

Five Eyes Crown

And the animated version.

Oh, and you can buy this design over on RedBubble, on posters, scarves, tote bags, stickers, and more.

Update 18 Jun 2015: Turns out the inspiration for this has been floating around reddit/imgur for at least two years.

Creative Commons License

Five Eyes by /blurb/2629 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Three maps of North America

Colin Woodard’s “Up in Arms” breaks down North America into eleven “nations” or regions with distinct attitudes towards violence, gun control, and capital punishment, tracing those differences back to the historical origins of the first groups to settle there. Plus it comes with a nifty map.

Neil Freeman’s Electoral College Reform map is now on sale. I’m still wondering what happens to the boundaries of his fifty new states when the population centers drift.

And this 1879 railway map of the Chicago to San Francisco Burlington Railroad is pretty neat too.

Bradley Manning’s Statement

The transcript of Bradley Manning’s statement at his providence inquiry is well worth reading. It is a picture of a man who was deeply troubled by information he found in his duties as an intelligence analyst, and who decided to make that information public out of a belief that it ultimately would make the United States a better country, and the world a better place. Here’s a quote:

In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

His statement also shows that he understands that he broke the law and takes responsibility for his actions, and in that sense his actions should be considered civil disobedience. And that makes it all the more appalling that he’s been kept in humiliating and inhumane conditions for over a thousand days without trial.

China pisses off Google

From the official Google blog:

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

The not so subtle subtext of the post is this: why should Google play nice for the Chinese government and operate a special, censored version of Google, while Google’s infrastructure is under attack from what are probably Chinese government agencies?

Hacking the Constitution

A vote for the President of the United States is actually a vote for an “elector” who pledges, but is not legally obligated, to vote for a specific candidate in the Electoral College. Forty-eight states then allocate all of their electoral votes to the popular vote winner in that state. This means that a candidate receiving the most votes nationwide is not necessarily the one that receives the most electoral votes and becomes President. If the popular-vote loser many states by small margins, and loses some of the others by large margins, they can win the electoral vote, despite losing the national popular vote.

This winner-takes-all system of allocating electoral votes also has the side effect of making a few “battleground” states the primary focus of election campaigns. Candidates descend on these states, funneling money and advertising into them, and tailoring their campaigns to win over voters there. Voters, of either party, in the remaining “spectator” states are effectively disenfranchised, and the small percentage of voters in the battleground states elect the president.

This isn’t even how the electoral college was intended to work. The framers intended that the electoral college would usually fail to choose a clear winner, instead nominating the most popular candidates for election by Congress. This hasn’t happened in over two hundred years.

Programmers have a term for something that’s neither operating as originally intended nor guaranteed to do what their users ask it to do. The Constitution is buggy.

Yet the Constitution is notoriously hard to change. A programmer might use the term legacy.

How would a programmer fix this? Find a way to hack1 a bug fix into the legacy system.

What should the goal of the fix be? We should elect the president in the same way that every governor, mayor, senator, representative, city council member and dog-catcher2 is; by popular vote. If popular vote is good enough for every single other elected office in this country and in many other democratic countries around the world, it should be good enough for the President of the United States of America.

How do we change the Constitution? Turns out we don’t have to. The founders left the allocation of electoral votes up to the states:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors…
-U.S. Constitution

The appointment, and mode of appointment, of electors belong exclusively to the states
-U.S. Supreme Court

And the fix? The National Popular Vote Plan allocates all of a state’s electoral votes to the national popular vote winner. It only goes into effect once enough states pass it to command a majority of electoral votes. The electoral college won’t go away, but it will become obsolete. In programming terms, this plan ensures a buggy legacy system will never (again) get fed the kind of data that triggers the bug.

The National Popular Vote plan has been making its way through state legislatures for the last few years. I’ve brought it up in conversation a few times recently (because of my Visualizing the National Popular Vote plan project), and I’m surprised how many people don’t know about it. There should be a huge grass-roots movement behind this plan to re-enfranchise the electorate, but even smart, well-informed, thinking people haven’t heard of it. So please, if you agree with me and think the National Popular Vote Plan is a good idea, forward this page or NPV’s website to your friends, bring it up at parties, or support it with a donation. And if you don’t agree with me, forward this page or NPV’s website to your friends, bring it up at parties, or… well I guess I can’t expect you to support it with a donation.

Let’s get rid of this obsolete, broken, idiotic electoral college system once and for all.

  1. Note to non-technical readers: Among programmers, hack generally means a quick, clever, “outside-of-the-box” solution to a difficult or intractable problem. That is the sense in which I am using the term hack here. If you think the National Popular Vote plan is about subverting or circumventing the constitution, you have misunderstood it. []
  2. My thanks to Hendrik Hertzberg, National Popular Vote’s bulldog, in whose writings in the New Yorker I first heard about this clever plan. I believe the inclusion of dog-catcher in this list is due to him but I cannot find the exact quote. []