March 27, 2011

U.S. DEVELOPS "PANIC BUTTON" FOR DEMOCRACY ACTIVISTS

SOMEDAY SOON, when pro-democracy campaigners have their cellphones confiscated by police, they'll be able to hit the "panic button" - - a special app that will both wipe out the phone's address book and emit emergency alerts to other activists.

The panic button is one of the new technologies the U.S. State Department is promoting to equip pro-democracy activists in countries ranging from the Middle East to China with the tools to fight back against repressive governments.

The United States had budgeted some $50 million since 2008 to promote new technologies for social activists, focusing both on "circumvention" technology to help them work around government-imposed firewalls and on new strategies to protect their own communications and data from government intrusion.

March 26, 2011

EARTH HOUR 2011

CAN YOU? Can you turn off your lights for one hour?

Earth Hour is a yearly event held the last Saturday of March, from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm (local time) and is celebrated by turning off the lights for an hour. It isn't meant to have a significant impact on our collective energy consumption but rather it's more about spurring conversations with friends and family about energy usage patterns in the family and in modern society.

More on Earth Hour here >

March 22, 2011

SAVING TAXPAYER DOLLARS VS. MAKING PEOPLE FEEL GOOD: Voting By Mail In Marin County Called Unpopular Despite the Fact that 60% Do It!

MARIN COUNTY Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold recently told the Board of Supervisors that requiring all county voters to vote by mail could save the taxpayers $300,000 or more a year while boosting voter turnout. Doing so, however, would require a change in state law as only Alpine and Sierra counties are allowed to hold mandatory vote-by-mail programs.

At the same meeting, Supervisor Charles McGlashan, said that compelling everyone to vote by mail is politically unpopular because of some voters' fondness for going to the polls on Election Day. He said, "It's incredibly unpopular right now..."

We'd like to respectfully ask the Supervisor a couple of questions and share some thoughts:

1. If vote-by-mail is so unpopular, how do you account for the fact that 60 percent of Marin County voters already voluntarily vote by mail?

2. As an elected official, doesn't taking unpopular stands sometimes come with the territory?

3. Couldn't the $300,000 or more dollars saved by switching to an all mail voting system be used in a variety of other important county programs?

4. For those residents of Marin County who felt the need to go to a polling place, it would seem reasonable that a few regional voting centers be set up so those folks could cast a ballot "in person."

5. In this era of cutback management, when government is being somewhat dismantled because of budget issues, doesn't it make sense that everyone give up a little? As the Registrar of Voters reflected after the Board session, "Can we afford to support polling places to make people feel good about going to the polls?"

Rather than making some voters "feel good" we should be asking how to make the vote-by-mail program secure, how to make it work for everyone and how to make sure that every ballot is counted the way the voter intended.

If Oregon can do it successfully - so can we.

March 21, 2011

POWER SHIFT 2011

IMAGINE A room packed with 10,000 young organizers, all driven to create a clean, just economy. According to organizers that exactly what you'll see at "Power Shift 2011," taking place April 15-18 in Washington, DC.

Imagine what would happen if every one of these organizers learns to use their own story to motivate others, build powerful teams, develop clear strategies, and then launches into action. Consider the ripple effect as they take their campaigns into every corner of the country. Well, the New Organizing Institute and the Energy Action Coalition are the organizers of Power Shit and working to make change.

In order to train 10,000 organizers at Power Shift, over 1,000 Facilitators to lead the trainings are needed. Facilitators will be invited to a regional training on April 2-3 and they will go through the movement building training - facilitators will learn to tell there own story to motive others, build effective teams, and create powerful strategies.

Learn more here >

March 15, 2011

NORTH KOREA'S DIGITAL UNDERGROUND

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the very archetype of a “closed society.” It ranks dead last—196th out of 196 countries—in Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press index. Unlike the citizens of, say, Tunisia or Egypt, to name two countries whose populations recently tapped the power of social media to help upend the existing political order, few North Koreans have access to Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. In fact, except for a tiny elite, the DPRK’s 25 million inhabitants are not connected to the Internet. Televisions are set to receive only government stations. International radio signals are routinely jammed, and electricity is unreliable. Freestanding radios are illegal. But every North Korean household and business is outfitted with a government-controlled radio hardwired to a central station. The speaker comes with a volume control, but no off switch. In a new media age awash in universally shared information—an age of planet-wide instant messaging and texted manifestos—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remains a stubborn holdout, a regime almost totally in control of its national narrative.

March 14, 2011

ARE SOCIAL MEDIA THE FUTURE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT?

LONDON -- Social media have already transformed how the private sector conducts commerce. And they are rapidly altering the way local governments do business as well.

Last week, an enterprising government in the English city of Walsall undertook an interesting experiment. For 24 hours,
a local council (county) posted all of its activities on Twitter. The tweets ranged from information on pothole repairs to efforts to combat racism in public housing to calls for cleaning up dog excrement.

The idea was to
give the community a sense of the problems its government confronts -- and tackles -- in an ordinary day. "People here are genuinely doing it because they believe in local government and what local government does, a lot of which goes unrecognized or unreported," said a council spokesman.