Sunday, October 21, 2007

Crude Ideas - from Fast Company

From the Editor of Fast Company: Crude Ideas
This post is interesting as it seems as if the concept of the end of cheap oil is finally becoming mainstream as oil hovers around $90/bb. Finally the people who have been warning us about peak oil for decades are being seen as the true prophets that they are.
Now the question is - what are we going to do about it? Are we going to transfer a lot of corn production to ethanol, fueling rising food prices, so that we can drive an ethanol-guzzling big SUV? Or are we going to look to reduce our consumptioon of energy, as well as transferring the generation of that energy away from the non-renewable, carbon-based sources and into "clean" generation, like wind, wave, solar?
I don't think that the shift to alternative fuel will make any sense without a serious reconsideration of the way we use power. Architecture needs to be more suited to the climates in which the buildings are situated. Remember the tropical architecture in Trinidad in colonial days? Houses were built with thick walls, verandas, jalosie windows that blocked sun but encouraged breeze. Nowadays, we build block houses that block breeze with lots of glass walls that trap adn intensify heat and we counter this with freezing cold air conditioning.
This doesn't make sense in an era when fuel costs are more expensive,, does it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

On T&T elections - Local issues vs national issues

One thing we need to really start to think about is the role of national government vs local government. National government should be working on macro issues, with the representatives picked to consider the good of their constituency within the policies of the government with respect to things like economic development, national security, highway building etc.

Local government should be the people who deal with things like getting a piece of road paved. However, as our local government is powerless (note that we haven't voted for them and it is overdue by 2 years) the national govt is (in our paternalistic society) looked to for everything. That sucks.

The fact that the Min of Works said in public that they will be taking over certain roads form the local govt because the local govt can't manage road maintenance and repair is wrong. We should be giving the local govt the skills to manage the roads and other items that are their mandate, not taking them over because they can't do it well! That just reinforces the negativity.

The flooding in POS - the City Council hasn't cleaned the drains. That is the mandate of the City Council not the Ministry of Works. So why aren't we picketing the mayor's office, and threatening to remove him from office? OP right - we have no idea when we will be voting for councils!

But the things we need to ask our parliamentarians are things like - why did you vote to postpone the local elections for 2 years? Why did you vote against the evidentiary bill to allow sworn testimony to be read in court when the witnesses have been found to be threatened? Do you have a personal stake in the outcome of this bill? Will it make your private project more profitable?

But we don't ask these questions, we judge our national politicians based on patronage (yes, getting a parliamentarian to get a road paved is patronage!)

We blame the wrong people. We vote for a national election based on local issues, and not the larger national issues that should be at stake and should be debated, and on which we should make our decisions. And even so, we don't bother with facts, we use anecdotal "evidence". Every -ve anecdote can be countered with a +ve one, or vv! Where are the actual facts?

Healthcare - where's the survey for wait times in emergency rooms broken down by severity of injury? Is it that emergency rooms are a total mess and everyone has to wait 4 + hours or is it that triage means that accident victims are treated before others? We don't know for a fact, as this data isn't public, if it has at all been collected.

So - let's ask John Rahael why we don't have that data. That's what they need to be held accountable to - verifiable facts about whether the policies that they have implemented are doing what we want them to do - saving lives, increasing jobs, etc.

BTW - anybody see a plan or manifesto yet from ANY party? Look at the US.

Over a year away, and already all the potential candidates are publishing big detailed plans for healthcare, for national security, etc. We are 4 weeks away, how long are we going to get to evaluate the plans for national policies, debate them and make up our minds?

Actually - we don't do that at all, so they don't even have to tell us what they plan to do, far less in detail.

We'll go off and fish, or vote blindly for the party of our parents or of our race, or we'll vote for or against a person because we like how they look. We won't ever vote on actual policies with verifiable results, against which we can judge the government when the time comes around in 5 (or fewer) years to vote again.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Government Election data on a commercial site?

Election fever has hit Trinidad and Tobago. One good thing is that all sorts of people have been working on a registration drive - make sure you're registered, only a few more days left to register, etc. That's great. The Election and Boundaries Commission set up a telephone hotline and has been putting ads in every media outlet to get people to make sure they're registered to vote.

BUT

Recently there have been a lot of emails along the lines of the following:

Please have all persons check the following site to check their registration
http://www.votett.com/

Now - I have a problem with this. This is not an official Government website. When I registered to vote, I gave my information to the Government. Not to a commercial website. The EBC has publicly indicated that they don't know anything about this site. So HOW did they get the ENTIRE election database?

And more disturbingly, why is no-one asking this question? Why are Trinidad and Tobago nationals blithely logging on to a website that has their national identification information without asking them - hey - whoo are you and how did you get MY INFO?

If the Govt gave it to them, then we need to know under what law are they allowed to hand over something as important as the election database, how do they determine who gets it, and what information do they get? The EBC has my ID number, my address, my age, my date of birth. In other words, more than enough information for anyone to open a bank account in my name, take out a credit card, even a loan or a mortgage.

Who are the people behind this website and what precautions are they taking with my data? What do they intend to do with it besides allow me to find out if I am registered to vote? Will they use it later on to spam me? To steal my identity? To interfere with my life?

Do our laws allow the Government to had this information over to just anyone? Dry so?

Has anyone heard of identity theft? This website and the process that allowed this data to fall into commercial hands needs to be investigated, and precautions put into place to prevent such access to sensitive data and posting it online!

The site is currently offline and I hope it stays that way. It's important for people to have an easy way to check their electoral status, but not at the risk that this poses.