Tag Archives: Green Party

Hacktervism as a Distributed Team Sport with a Youth League

My list of interests includes tech, art and politics but I’ve never tried doing them all at once before. The inaugural meeting of Open Rights Group Birmingham recently was the ‘a first time for everything’ moment.¬† I found the way the techies, artists and political infuencers came at an issue with their own practices suggested that we could do great things together.
Twitter: @OpenRightsBrum
Blog: https://openrightsgroupbirmingham.wordpress.com/

Last week, as a volunteer mentor at Birmingham City University for Young Rewired State’s Festival of Code 2015, I was on more familiar territory of working with a group of young techies with a shared product development goal. Neither I nor my fellow mentors Simon & Bhish had been involved before and as the week wore on, we knew our emphasis needed to shift from working prototype to presentation skills. We suspected that we were slightly out of our depth in this area and that was before we saw the competition.

Even in the heats, there were no bad ideas. Some of the teams presented with such incredible passion and strength of personality, that it was easy to miss that they hadn’t shown any evidence that they had written any code that worked. Our team had gone from 6 quiet kids who’d never met on Monday, to a functional team developing front and back end systems in parallel and delivering a working prototype for an earthquake detection and mapping system by Thursday evening. They can be very proud of themselves but they were not selected for the semi-final. I hope they’ll continue working on their product.

I noticed that there appeared to be a divide between kids who had become skillful coders then looked for something to do with that skill and the teams who want to change the world so are learning to code. Imagine if they could get together in multi-skilled teams, including people with great artistic and presentation skills. They’d be unstoppable.

Last night, I went to a party with Dudley Green Party and Natalie Bennett was the unofficial guest of honour. She said it had proved difficult to organise IT with volunteers. I think it could be done, if you had a few cat-herders, a broad mix of skills to draw on and a distributed development model. First, find your Green hackers; then find out which night they have least homework.

IF socialist THEN IF democratic AND distributed_power THEN Green_Party

I always like ‘crossing the streams’ of my apparently disparate obsessions. Last night my long term fascination in whether the Free Software movement can survive a war with software capitalists, collided with my recent interest in the Green Party.

I have struggled for years to find any political party in the UK that comes close to my political ideals. I am economically Left, Right in terms of Liberty and think the environment is sending us very strong signals that capitalism has been a more destructive failure than communism. I believe in equality of opportunity rather than equality and in distributed rather than centralised power. I prefer incremental change to the unpredictability of revolution. I see little difference between nationalism and racial or religious hatred. No party quite fits my shopping list but at the recent General Election, I decided that the current Green Party comes closest, so far.

Richard M. Stallman, instigator of the GNU Project, who kicked off the the GNU GPL (General Public Licence) and indirectly, the CopyLeft movement has turned his attention to politics in recent years. Arguably, his life’s work, Free Software, is the practical application of ‘social ownership of the means of production’ but RMS is the ‘Marmite’ of the Free Software community. His almost total lack of pragmatism and slightly abrasive personality towards anyone who disagrees with him divides opinions but I have learned over the years to never question his basic logic. He has a habit of being right, even when it is inconvenient.

I have become increasingly suspicious of large corporations and hierarchical power structures. RMS’s idea on ‘too big to fail’ is the best economic solution to monopolies I’ve ever seen: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/02/04/fixing-too-big-to-fail/

In his ‘political notes’, at (https://www.stallman.org) on the day of the UK election, RMS wrote this:

“18 May 2015 (Revitalizing the Labour Party)

Making the Labour Party good for something depends on bottom-up community organizing. Acting like a right-wing party produces a right-wing party.

Perhaps instead of revitalizing the Labour Party, Britons should go Green.”

I also noticed that his preferred US presidential candidate is an independent who describes himself as a ‘Democratic Socialist’. This is surprisingly different to the ‘Social Democrat’ “…view of reform through state intervention within capitalism” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_socialism

“Decentralised socialism”. “…seeing capitalism as incompatible with the democratic values of freedom, equality and solidarity.” Maybe I’m a Democratic Socialist now. Are you?

If RMS thinks the British Labour Party has lost touch with socialism, then I’m a little more comfortable about having thought the same for the last few years too. I was unhappy with the LibDems prioritising economic growth over environmental danger and perhaps I understand better now where my intuitive reaction to that came from.

Election 2015 – Keeping Things in Proportion

When you hear the heads of three political party leaders hit the floor on the same day, you know it’s been an eventful election. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said before the results were announced that the most likely victim was to be the First Past The Post electoral system. Many of us are waiting for this fourth head to drop.

There are experts at the Electoral Reform Society who could explain the different alternative systems and their respective advantages and disadvantages, if politicians wanted to know but of course the winner is rarely keen to change a system under which they have just achieved victory. On this occasion, we may have to insist. This election was too chaotic to count as democracy. Poorly coordinated tactical voting based upon opinion poles that are now known to have been wrong, is a very risky way to make an important decision.

  • Majority

Out of the people who voted, the winner is the option that gets more than 50% of the votes. There can be a draw and with more than 2 options, there won’t necessarily be a winner.

  • First-Past-The-Post (FPTP)

The winner is the option that gets most votes. When there are more than 2 options and the spit is fairly equal, there can be arguments over ‘legitimacy’, as there were at this election.

UK elections are run under a combination of these 2 systems, FPTP to decide which party’s leader tries to form a government but if there is no majority then further horse trading and agreements with other parties to work together to achieve a majority.

Does FPTP ever work? It can, if there are only 2 choices (and no-one is hiding a third option that many people would have preferred, as happened in the Scottish Independence referendum) and there is no dispute over the borders of the appropriate constituency or who should be entitled to vote (another pair of hurdles the ‘Scottish question’ did not clear cleanly.)

Until last night, the Conservatives seemed likely to get the most votes but not to have a majority. We heard the SNP argue that an ‘alliance of the Left’ would have a greater share of the vote that would have more legitimacy. The unexpected Conservative majority saved us from that entertainment.

What do we want from our elections? There has been a lot of talk of “PR”,

  • Proportional Representation

A set of systems that would select MPs from a group of candidates, in proportion to the number of votes they receive. At first sight, this seems fair but what if there are candidates that have some support from a small section of the population but are extremely unpopular with another part of the community, possibly everyone else? Systems that allow ‘NOT preferences’ to be expressed exist.A

  • Transferable Votes system

is used in Australia. You put a “1” against your first choice, a “2” against your second etc. After voting, if your first choice has not won then it is transferred to your second choice. It is designed to maximise the satisfaction, or at least minimise the dissatisfaction, across the population.

Would an example help? Imagine there is an election in Israel. An election is held to choose 2 councillors from 4 candidates. You might get 1 PLO candidate, 1 from a Zionist group that wanted to build on Palestinian land and two moderates who want to respect the traditions of the two communities but to build shared first schools so that kids get to know each other before they learn to hate.

Under Proportional Representation, it is not inconceivable that the Palestinians would vote for the PLO candidate first and the Israelis would vote for the Zionist.

Under a Transferable Votes system, they might choose 2 moderates who are no-ones first choice. Is this compromise, social engineering or satisfaction optimisation? Is it better to make a few people very happy and a few people  very unhappy with each choice?

An exercise to the reader: UKIP seem likely to favour PR but they are very worried about immigration by Muslims and the possibility of Islamist extremism within those communities. Under PR, might there ever be enough fundamentalist Muslims spread around the UK to elect there own MP?

Remember when we had a FPTP referendum and chose not to move the only bad PR system we were offered, in case we got coalition governments? What about when most Scots probably wanted greater devolved power within the UK but were offered an In/Out referrendum?

Democracy is not simple. Decisions have consequences. We should not change voting systems in a rush. I think Natalie Bennett knows this, so we should listen to what she says.

Politics, engage

I am heartily sick of whinging about politics and you are probably sick of it too.

I’d whittled down my voting choices so that LibDems and Green were to meet in the final but this week I disqualified LibDems for saying something inane. It was the last straw. I also discovered that rumours of safe Conservative seat ‘Staffordshire South’ having a Green candidate were not a bad April Fool joke. I THINK Claire McInvenna had the misfortune to have a holiday in Australia booked, as soon as she had made her last minute declaration that she was a candidate. She may arrive back jet-lagged for election week but she will also be hugged-up on marsupials. How can she not win?

Ignoring the koala strategy, I hate an unfair fight, so last night I volunteered to make a WordPress site until the Green Party web-spiders spin her an official site. Hopefully, it’s because they’ve been too busy dealing with a #GreenSurge of support. Anyway, I made this, so please stick it on your fridge to prove you love me: https://southstaffordshiregreenparty.wordpress.com/

I don’t agree with everything the Green Party says but I think they are less wrong than all the others. I could vote LibDem to make Conservatives not burn 11+ failures as fuel or to make Labour take out a lone for a new calculator but really, what is the point? While they all think ‘Growth’ is the answer and blame the immigrants but don’t care that the planet is running out of natural resources, they are wasting valuable oxygen; if only on me hyper-ventilating.

I plan to waste my vote against the Conservatives through The Green Window. The view is better.