October 8th, 2022 Conference

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  • Next conference on Saturday Jan 21, 2023. Starting at noon, via remote participation.
  • Check out space in Lowell on Sunday Oct 16th, 3:30pm.
  • Mass Pirate party will elect officers in November. If you're interested in helping to shape the direction of the party, this is your chance!

Starting Local Chapters

You can ask your city/town clerk for a list of registered voters; this is an effectve way to find the Pirates in your community. Send them a letter or postcard, suggesting you meet up.

Some city/town websites have public records portals (i.e., for submitting public records requests). This is another way to obtain a list of registered voters.

Discussion of doing state party conferences quarterly, rather than annually. As a way to get people more involved. Had tried monthly for a while, but that seemed to be too frequent. We'll try one on 1/21/2023, starting at noon, online format.

Joe has access to a warehouse with a decent amount of space. We'll check it out at some point, to see if it would be a good meeting space. Space is near Industrial Ave in Lowell, not far from the Lowell Commuter Rail station. We'll check out the space in Lowell on Sunday Oct 16th, 3:30pm.

The State of RCV in Massachusetts

(Greg Dennis, Voter Choice MA)

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) eliminates the issue of vote splitting. Without RCV, a candidate can win an election with less than 50%. RCV involves voters ranking their choices. To count: start by counting only the first choices. If no one gets a majority, then eliminate the last place candidate, and go to the second choices.

Current system encourages tactical voting. Or, voting for your least unfavored candidate. First past the pole systems disadvantage third party candidates. Voters tend not to vote for third-party candidates, because they're afraid of wasting their votes. This also discourages third party candidates from running in their own designations.

When major party candidates are the only ones running, it reduces the opportunity to hear other voices in debates.

Without RCV, minor parties are deprived of candidates, votes, media coverage, and debate options. We hope RCV helps to break this cycle, and enable voters to vote their conscience.

Maine has RCV, and collaboration with people who worked on that campaign helped start Voter Choice MA. In 2020, there was a ballot question to adopt RCV statewide, but the effort fell short. At least in part because the pandemic limited opportunity for voter education. Alaska won RCV in 2020, though.

In 2021, Arlington town meeting adopted RCV and sent a home rule petition to the legislature. Easthampton also adopted RCV.

In 2022, Northhampton and Concord voted to adopt RCV, and their home rule petition is current before the legislature.

Local implementation of RCV helps to strengthen the case for statewide adoption. They normalize ranking.

Voter Choice MA (VCMA) works with advocates in cities and towns to help further local efforts to adopt RCV, starting with education and (hopefully!) ending with adoption.

Q: does VCMA have trainings online?

A: Yes. VCMA usually starts by meeting advocates, and introducing them to a playbook for educating, organizing, and getting to adoption. Goal is to help local activists be successful in their communities.

Q: Cost is a common argument against RCV (e.g., "we'll need all new voting machines"). How do you counter?

A: All modern voting machines that are authorized for purchase in MA support RCV. There are two vendors, and both vendors machines are used in RCV. About 3/4 of cities and towns already have these machines. Cost is only an issue for communities that are still using legacy equipment that they should have replaced (for reasons unrelated to RCV). For cities, RCV allows them to eliminate preliminary elections, and the costs associated with that. Ballot printing costs might be slightly higher for RCV. Price conversation is much easier than it was, say, 20 years ago.

Q: Is there a timeline for bringing RCV back to the state ballot, or is the focus on more local adoption.

A: By state law, if a ballot question fails, it can't be reintroduced for six years. 2026 is earliest the question could come back. VCMA continues to re-evaluate this, but local efforts are the main focus right now. RCV continues to pick up momentum across the country.

Q: Who are the opponents of RCV, and what are their arguments?

A: Mass Fiscal Alliance were the main opposition. When it comes to ballot questions, the default position is no (and there's research to back this up). In a sense, the main opposition is a lack of knowledge/awareness. aka "no change is better than some change I don't completely understand". Maine adopted RCV, after five years of having it in Portland, ME, which is 5% of the state's population.

Q: The pirate party supports RCV. How can we help?

A: Go to VCMA's web site, get involved, or make a contribution.

Why Pirate Parties and the best choice for the everyman

(Mitch Davilo, ILPP, USPP)

Pirate parties are the truest representative of being for the people and by the people. This is true across the world. There are some big ideals, but lots of local individuality. USPP is a group of people from different states united under multiculturalism and democracies. State parties are tailored to the needs of their states. We have different viewpoints, but can discuss them and make a decision based on that. We're an ever growing, ever changing people.

Pirates are working people. We have jobs, work in all professions, and have the ability to work together. We have the best grip on what will bring the most good. We're willing to discuss ideological differences. We're ever growing and ever changing.

The USPP is a united group of state parties. There is local uniqueness, but we still want what's best for the people (though the specifics of "what's best" varies across states). We aim to have a more democratic system in place. We're not a homogenous entity. Anyone can be a pirate.

You can't change the party based on one person's ideal. There has to be a conversation in order to come to consensus.

In MA, privacy, transparency, and people before corporations have been important ideas, in addition to the cores of intellectual property reform. We're not bought by wall street. Where we don't have positions, we're open to listening.

We don't exist in an echo chamber. Being able to change, evolve, and adapt is one of the most important characteristics of the party.

Looking at where US economy has gone since the fall of the Berlin Wall - we've seen more power accrued to the very rich. People should have more say in where we want the world to go, not just the very rich.

Climate change is one of the reasons for the rise in prominence of third parties; they're not happy with what the two main parties are doing. Congress has a 13% approval rating, and that says something about them, and about our system.

Lawmakers have a track record of listening to wealthy individuals, and less of a track record of listening to their constituents. We have a system where people become politicans so they can get rich. That's becoming increasing unacceptable to many people.

The way primary elections work, who gets on the ballot and who gets listened to by the media really depends on who's able to raise enough money. Pirates position of devolving power down to the local people is the more solid position.

Current libertarian party has started to decry democracy as mob rule. We are one of the few parties that want to strengthen democracy. If you believe that government is the problem, then you also don't believe in the decision-making power of people.

Freedom is not the freedom to exploit. It's about having the ability to express/pursue your own desires, as long as they don't harm someone else.

Q: How can folks help the national party?

A: Feel free to reach out to the USPP, or to your state party. We have a list of states that are trying to form state parties, and we can put you in touch with them. Feel free to attend our video or IRC meetings. We're available and happy to answer your questions.

Q: How can people find the USPP?

A: https://uspirates.org. And, check out the websites for our state parties. MA, IL, CA, Indiana, PA, Kentucky all have active state chapters, and there's a pirate running for congress in Kentucky (KY-4).

The pirate party is about being cooperative rather than competitive.

The maritime democracy of actual pirates wasn't a consideration when the PP first formed in Sweden, but it's an important concept to think about. They were the most revolutionary, democratic folks of their time. They voted on who their captain was, and could replace them at any time.

Privacy and Free Software

(Micky Metts, Chris Thompson, Keegan Rankin)

Micky stumbled on to the Free Software Foundation, and found it very beneficial. Agaric is a Cooperative that does a lot of web development with drupal.

Chris got into free software after discovering Linux, then learned about the political goals of the movement.

Free software is well-positioned for protecting user rights and privacy. Packaging and selling bundles of free software that meets a need is a viable way to make a living. Freedom and privacy are inherently linked.

Keegan is a web developer with Agaric. Before that, really wanted to stay as far away from computers as possible - was more interested in environmental studies. That turns out to be very hard - nearly every job involves computer use to some degree. Knew about GNU/Linux as a more ethical alternative to Windows and MacOS, before understanding what free/libre really meant. Eventually learned how some proprietary software attacks you as a user, by (for example) tracking and collecting data about, without being transparent about what it's doing. Discovering free software has been a liberating journey.

What is free software? We'll define open source first -- there you have the source code. Free software allows you to modify and share your changes. It's more dedicated to the moral standing of the software. The author of free software is saying that the software won't mistreat you. Free software accentuates the freedom value, where "open source" doesn't necessarily. Free software tends to be covered by copyleft licenses, to preserve the freedom of the package.

There's a diference re: whether to build something community-centric, or building something solely to fill your bank account.

Rob Braxman tech podcast, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYVU6rModlGxvJbszCclGGw/videos. Worth listening to. One episode talks about some of the ways apple has addressed software vulnerabilities. Rather than fixing the problem, Apple just gave users a way to turn that particular feature off.

A de-googled phone can do everything you need. One of the hurdles in knowing/learning how to do this. You have to collaborate with other people, rather than calling the IT person, or going to the genius bar.

Re: difference between free and open software. Open source might be better suited for startup cultures. It's usually easier to attract investors when you're building proprietary software. Startup builds something, gets acquired by a big company, and then the big company has ability to start adding the spyware.

The free software tools Agaric uses daily -- https://agaric.coop/blog/daily-business-operations-using-free-software. Finding and vetting tools can take detective work.

How can i find free software alternatives? http://switching.software

We don't have free hardware yet, although the FSF is trying to encourage this.

Q: Lots of people don't understand difference between open and closed source software. How can we go about helping people understand the difference.

A: The difference is really in the license, which most people don't do. Suggest people to just search the licenses for the words "third-party", and read a little bit around them.

Maybe visual licenses might be way to express the differences.

Software isn't sold, it's licensed. Free Software is about letting users use the software for any purpose. Other variants prohibit use by the military.

A person who's never used free software generally doesn't have the framing to understand what they're missing out on.

Proprietary software vendors are in control of the user. They decide what the user can and cannot do. Free software is more about giving users the ability to make those decisions.

RMS's 15 minute talk on Free software - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag1AKIl_2GM

Some of the proprietary vendors (like apple) make expensive products, and the cost of their products does a disservice to anyone without the means to afford it.

Free software doesn't fix all the problems. It gives you autonomy over what your doing on your device. But running software over a network reguires more care (e.g. security), free or not. There are other things you need to do in order to protect data.

Hosted software is often covered by the AGPL. It's important to have the source code for these services available, so people can understand how they work.

There's also an issue with javascript. The language is very powerful, and it runs inside of your web browser. It's important to understand what this software does as well. While it's sent from a server, it still runs on your machine.

Why we need ethical webhosting to achieve privacy and freedom in our computing - https://media.libreplanet.org/u/libreplanet/m/why-we-all-need-ethical-technology-and-web-hosting/.

Who have access to data stored by a service, is a whole different conversation, and enough to do a whole other talk about. Encryption (to protect data) is another important topic.

There are companies that use free source software that amass huge amounts of data about people (about google).

Free software projects need our support. OpenSSL is a good example. Small number of developers, whose software is used in a huge range of places. It's important for us as individuals to help in the maintainance of these packages and support the people working on them.

IEEE Standards are important - get involved here: https://standards.ieee.org/initiatives/opensource/. This one deals with developing standards for free software development. Anyone can get involved with this standards initiative; you don't need to be a developer.

It's important to get to know your service providers. Get to know the people who are running your server; build connections with them.

Free software in public use (government and school) https://theopenschoolhouse.com/

Proprietary software often carries an element of lock in. This can be lock in to a single product, or lock in to an ecosystem of products (e.g., google).

Projects and ideas that could be helpful.

  • Education. Lots of schools are deeply integrated with google. There are alternatives. Big blue button was originally written for teaching people in a virtual classroom. Agaric has a big blue button, which was used for some test prep courses in Boston schools, and worked very well for that. The BBB students had test scores 15% higher than ones who took the courses over zoom.
  • Making free software part of the public infrastructure as a whole. For example, data portability, use across government, open standards
  • AI regulation. Where AI is used, what it's used for, and the kinds of training models that are used.

Q: Where can folks find agaric?

A: https://agaric.coop

Agaric builds platforms using free software like Find It - built with the city of Cambridge MA https://www.finditcambridge.org/