Monday 26 January 2009

Linux conf in Hobart

Had a great time in Hobart:

  • Climbed all over Mt. Wellington and drove to the top. Saw the octopus tree and ran into some climbers at sphinx rock lookout - awesome view.
  • Went to wrest point casino for a function.
  • Danced at 'The Observatory', a pretty cool club near Salamanca Place.
  • Caught up with friends at Mezethes Greek Taverna, had a great seafood platter.
  • Hung out at bars and restaurants in north hobart.

  • Walked around the botanic gardens and the domain.
  • Went on the cascade brewery tour. Our tour guide was hilarious. I liked the idea of the 'First Harvest' beer - using freshly harvested hops rather than pellets, but not the taste.
  • Made friends with some bogans while playing pool at the 'Welcome Stranger'

Wednesday 7 January 2009

The 2008 US Presidential Election

This one has been a while coming - I started writing this almost a year ago. We lived through the craziness of the 2008 US Presidential election, returning to Oz just before the election. I followed the whole thing with a keen interest and we even managed to see Obama give a speech.

Most Australians have a pretty low opinion of the whole process, so I thought I'd run through some things I learnt and try to give both perspectives.

AUS: The whole process of having primaries is flawed (especially caucuses), unfairly favours the early states, "Democratic" nominations can be overturned by super delegates, and effectively means you have two elections. Why not just let each party internally decide who they think their best candidate is? It would cut a big chunk of time off the 2-year process.
US: Because the process is so stage-managed and every position carefully polled, it needs to go on long enough that Americans can glimpse some reality through the campaign armour. The state order thing is stupid, but we are trying to fix it. If we get it wrong, campaigns will cost even more money.

AUS: The process requires so much money that only multi-millionaires can be president. Is that democratic?
US: Yeah, it sucks.

AUS: Why do newspapers endorse candidates? Doesn't that kind of go against the impartiality ethic? Seems wrong, but I think I like it.
US: I guess the editors are expressing their opinions as private citizens.

AUS: How will ex-criminals who have done their time ever feel like part of society if in lots of states they are permanently barred from voting? What is wrong with letting everyone vote regardless of whether they have been in, or are currently in, prison? Is it because they are most likely to be poor and African-American, and therefore vote democrat?
US: We're supposed to be punishing criminals: those who break the rules don't get a say in the making of the rules. What if all criminals voted for an anarchist?

AUS: In the elections of 1876, 1888, and 2000, the candidate who won the nationwide popular vote did not become President. Buh? The electoral college system seems to have created a really expensive way to end up with the wrong rich dude.
US: Read the wikipedia article. There are some good reasons for it. Really.

AUS: Why is voting optional? This seems to give the media and pollsters too much power: "CNN says Obama is going to win, so I don't need to go vote". Americans (actually, most people in most countries) love complaining about the government, but Americans don't even bother choosing who they will complain about for the next few years.
US: Why would you want people who don't care voting in the election?

AUS: Why the gap between the election and inauguration? You picked a guy, why not let them do the job?
US: Hey, the gap used to be 4 months, be grateful for small mercies.