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First POST: System-Gaming

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, October 30 2014


  • Don't miss Simon Van Zuylen-Wood's excellent and detailed look in National Journal at how a bevy of tech entrepreneurs have been trying, so far with limited success, to hack Capitol Hill and fix what ills Washington. The feature is built around a close-in profile of "video-game tycoon and budding campaign finance reformer" Jim Greer and his CounterPAC, but it also reveals the reasoning behind libertarian Peter Thiel's quirky investment in Lawrence Lessig's MayDay PAC and nicely captures the contradiction between the massive investments major tech players are making in political lobbying and the against-the-grain efforts of some independent tech money to game the system for good. He writes:

    …when the tech world does inch successfully into the realm of politics and policy, it manages only to nibble around the edges, bent on promoting good government or transparency with sites like SeeClickFix and MapLight.Or it gets called into D.C. for Geek Squad clean-up jobs, as when was in the toilet. Despite the piles of cash and eternal grievances, it seems to lack both the political savvy and, more important, the appetite to make a meaningful dent.

  • If your first name and last name matches that of another voter in another state, you may possibly get disfranchised by a massive, Republican-led effort to purge state voter rolls involving 27 states, according to this in-depth investigation by Greg Palast for Al Jazeera America. That's all it takes--"not only are middle names commonly mismatched and suffix discrepancies ignored, even birthrates don't seem to have been taken into account," he reports. Also, minority names are highly overrepresented in a master database supposedly pooling states' data. A different matching system, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, uses a much more stringent set of requirements to flag someone as a potential "double voter."

  • Updating their earlier report with hard data, NGP VAN reports that the number of Democratic/Progressive voter contacts flowing through their platform is up a whopping 54% over this time period in 2010. Door knocks and phone calls are 74% higher in October 2014 than in October 2010.

  • Social Movement Technologies is offering six months of online support to six organizing groups around the country ($2500 per group), for small non-profits. Apply here; the deadline is November 15, 2014.

  • Building on Sunday's 40,000-strong demonstration, more than 100,000 Hungarians marched through Budapest Tuesday night to protest a proposed tax on Internet traffic, reports Daniel Nolan for Vice News. In just four days, more than 200,000 Hungarians have joined a "100,000 Against the Internet Tax" Facebook group. The Internet is good at stop; not as good at go.

  • Brazil is becoming an "increasing networked society" that is enabling "new mechanisms of accountability," writes Alex Howard for TechRepublic.

  • This is one very pretty interactive guide to the European Parliament on Twitter.

  • Here's a nice write-up of the work of OpenCorporates, which now has pulled together data on more than 83 million companies worldwide.

  • An abandoned 62-acre town in eastern Connecticut is being auctioned to the highest bidder, and at the crazy behest of well-known online madman Dan Sinker (he of @mayoremanuel), the Internet is trying to buy it. So far, 66 people have pledged $120,000, while the current top bid for the property is $900,000. Maybe Sinker should try for a condo first?This beats a Kickstarter for potato salad, I suppose. Bidding closes at noon today ET.