Categories
political science

Why is Norway is expanding its armed forces now?

The Norwegian government posted this brief video explicitly for the benefit of English-speaking audiences a few weeks ago. The YouTube comments are turned off, but the description reads as follows,

“We asked the question: Why do we need the armed forces and a military? In the end what do we, as a nation, want to happen? This is the answer.”

Categories
political science

Internet Voting in the U.S.

The tone of urgency in this newly published article Internet Voting in the U.S. in the Communications of the ACM* (October 2012) is striking. The article doesn’t waste any time with niceties. The unusual urgency was, in its own right, a signal of the importance of the issue to me.

Internet voting is not trustworthy

Use of the internet is not recommended at this point in time because the possibility and variety of errors and security breaches that can occur are myriad. They are not hypothetical, but were demonstrated recently, in a large test in Michigan, which the article describes.

Sources of error can be human or electronic mishap. There is also the possibility of malicious intent. 

Is Internet voting, despite problems, superior to alternatives?

In fact, the answer is “No”. Internet voting is shown to be less secure than traditional paper voting and less secure than electronic voting.

The point is that voting at a physical polling location, despite vote collection method, is more trustworthy. This is true, given the current status of internet security.

Internet voting under unusual circumstances

Many registered voters are geographically distant from polling places, whether within the U.S.A., or more dramatically, when overseas, e.g. as part of a tour of duty in a war zone. Other examples include U.S. citizens working for the State Department or Peace Corps public service, or ex-patriots who happen to be in less accessible parts of the world, for any reason.

These scenarios were researched. Absentee ballots were dispatched by means determined to be most expeditious and secure. Ballots that were completed and returned by even the slowest and (probably) least reliable methods, international overseas mail, arrived intact and in time to be counted, based on the ACM article’s findings and review of electoral research.

Why worry?

Why is this of such importance? Because there are already some counties in the U.S. that have transitioned to internet voting, with others contemplating it.

It is vital to keep the decision to use or not use internet voting distinctly separate from external influences. Regardless of opinion about voter identification requirements, Internet voting is unwise, and subject to numerous errors at this time.

* The ACM is the Association of Computing Machinery. It is non-partisan, apolitical and acknowledged throughout the world as the primary professional association for scholarship in the field of computing.

Categories
political science

Threat assessment of Iran

Iran is no more likely to use nuclear weapons than any other nation that has such capabilities.

Comparisons

Iran is not riddled with out-of-control corruption. Consider Nigeria. Nigeria is an oil-rich nation but operates most of its petroleum production facilities at only 40% of capacity. Nigeria must even import refined fuel for its own consumption. Iran doesn’t do that.

Unlike Afghanistan, Iran has a decently educated population. What of matters such as state-imposed religion, negligible women’s rights and censorship? Regardless, it is highly unlikely that the people of Iran find the prospect of war, in the Middle East or elsewhere, to be a desirable outcome. The cascade of destruction from ANY country using nuclear weapons would be disastrous, whether it were the U.S.A., France, India, Israel, Russia or others.

Policy

U.S. foreign policy has been unclear to me lately. I do not see motives of self-defense, nor of imperialism. But the “war on terror” is not going well. The U.S. cannot sustain a constant state of foreign conflict. Yet that appears to be the case, continuously since 2002, and intermittently throughout the preceding 40+ years. 

When necessary, there will be intervals of war. These must have a conclusion. The delineation between peace time and war time needs to be finite, discrete.

Peace and war and peace

I am a U.S. citizen and I love my country. I don’t want us to be in wartime conflict on two or three fronts for years at a time, particularly since the “fronts” are not adjacent to our sovereign territory. Terrorist actions on U.S. soil, e.g. the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, elsewhere, on September 11, 2001, must be responded to decisively. That doesn’t necessarily mean going to war though. Let the CIA, or military counter-intelligence do what they are intended to do.

The first three months of 2012 have seen tensions in the Strait of Hormuz, nearby international waters, the sovereign waterways of Iran, and of neighboring countries. The same issues were a concern last year at this time, though. Barbs were exchanged in the international press. Nothing awful happened. Not last year, not this year. Iran recently held military exercises and announced production of highly enriched uranium fuel. What of that? 

Iran seems to be participating in the world community much as other countries do, and have done for centuries, with saber rattling as a show of strength.

Categories
political science

US Mint ends production of one dollar coins

Last Tuesday, 13 December 2011, The U.S. Mint announced that current production of one dollar coins is ending. The Mint will continue to produce a few one dollar coins for collectors, as required by law. But these will have numismatic value, and cost more than $1.00.

instead of producing 70-80 million coins per president, the Mint will now only produce as many as collectors order.

Categories
political science

Risk perception and reality

This is an excerpt, selected by Moi, from the article Risk perception, a recent post that appeared on the Soapbox Science Blog, Nature Publishing Group.

Sometimes, no matter how right our perceptions feel, we get risk wrong. We worry about some things more than the evidence warrants (vaccines, nuclear radiation, genetically modified food), and less about some threats than the evidence warns (climate change, obesity, using mobile phones when we drive). That produces a Perception Gap, the gap between our fears and the facts.

The Perception Gap produces dangerous personal choices that hurt us and those around us (declining vaccination rates are fueling the resurgence of nearly eradicated diseases). It causes the harm to health of chronic stress (for those who worry more than necessary). And it produces social policies that protect us more from what we’re afraid of than from what in fact threatens us the most (we spend more to protect ourselves from terrorism than heart disease)… which in effect raises our overall risk.

We do have to fear fear itself…too much or too little. So we need to understand how our subjective risk perception works, in order to recognize and avoid its pitfalls.

Here was the take-away for me: Societal risk management has to recognize the risk of risk misperception–  recognizing the risk that arises when our fears don’t match the evidence. This is truly the risk of The Perception Gap. It has always been relevant, and becomes so once again in light of the recent E-coli outbreak in northern Europe. The Guardian UK used that as a starting point for a well-written and up-to-date article about the hazards of risk misperception and the consequences of irrational behavior.

Kahneman and Tversky did extensive research on this topic. I am not concerned whether articles like the one referenced above are derivative, in the sense of revisiting past work. Possibly it is an application in the context of current events. Or it may be entirely original new work. My concern is solely that there is an awareness of the reality, and that it be acted upon.

Categories
political science

Political Risk Exposure and Social Media

URL shortening was rarely seen anywhere other than micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter and Status Net’s identi.ca. Shortened URL’s are not prudent from an information security point-of-view, as one takes a leap of faith by clicking on a link that is not descriptive. Descriptive links are also preferable for economic reasons, as they are reputed to figure positively in the mysterious world of search engine optimization (SEO) for page rank.

Yet shortened URL’s are gaining acceptance. They are very convenient.

Libyan Hawk of Qureish via Wikipedia

Twitter introduced its own shortening service in September. Facebook did too. Google provided URL shortening with its goo.gl product in December 2009. Google expanded the range of goo.gl for use on any domain, as it was restricted for use with Google product pages before October. However, there is a new and surprising consideration when making a case for, or against, URL shortening: Political risk exposure.

Top-level domains (TLD’s) are assigned by ICANN. Generally speaking, each sovereign nation has its own TLD. For example, websites registered in Australia use the .au suffix, German sites are .de , while Japanese sites are .jp . The Libyan Government is the official registrar, as designated by ICANN in 2005, for all .ly sites, which are also the domain-of-choice for leading URL shortening services bit.ly ow.ly and vb.ly .  What will be the consequences of Libya’s domain seizure of vb.ly on October 6, reported by Econsultancy- When All Your Shortlinks Belong to the Libyan Government, on these .ly URLs?

RowFeeder is a social media oriented web analytics service. It stands out from the glut of other Twitter-verse services by delivering reports directly to a spreadsheet. In the RowFeeder company site’s latest post, lead developer and co-founder Damon Cortesi described a new feature for RowFeeder customers: availability of URL shortener bit.ly.

RowFeeder Offers URL Shortening with bit.ly

You can now put a bit.ly link in the tracking field, and have a new column in your downloads with bit.ly click counts at the time of each post… [storing] the click data along with the Tweets and Facebook posts about a specific piece of content.

In light of the recent disruption in the .ly domain space, I enjoyed the closing lines of the announcement:

Please note: This feature has not been approved by the Libyan government, so count clicks at your own risk. Our vb.ly integration is on hold pending recent news.

*Emphasis is NOT mine.

Categories
political science

Don’t Bring Your Guns to Town

From The New York Times, October 5, 2010:

Handgun permit holders who have recently seen their rights greatly expanded by a new law — one of the nation’s first — that allows them to carry loaded firearms into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol… Tennessee is one of four states, along with Arizona, Georgia and Virginia, that recently enacted laws explicitly allowing loaded guns in bars. Previously, states like Tennessee did not allow its residents to carry concealed weapons unless they had a special permit from the local authorities.

Categories
political science

U.S. Foreign Policy: State or Federal?

I was reading my hometown paper, The Las Cruces Sun News online version a few days ago and was unsettled after a glance at

Headline: Border governors meeting set for Sept. 19-20 in NM

Why are five governors of Mexico, our neighbor to the south but a foreign power nonetheless, meeting with governors of bordering states in Albuquerque? Doesn’t foreign policy fall under the federal aegis?