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Mitt Romney was a homophobic bully in high school, say former classmates

REUTERS: Romney speaks at a campaign event in Wilmington, DE.

In the Washington Post, testimonials by prep school classmates of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney paint the former Governor of Massachusetts as a homophobic bully. So, basically— he hasn't changed much. Snip:

John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

With help from other bullies, the story goes, Romney then tackled Lauber, pinned him to the ground, and while the young man was weeping, cut off his hair with scissors.

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Pirate Party wins seats in second German state

The German Pirate Party has won four seats in Saarland, one of the smallest regions in Germany, described as a "conservative area." The PP campaigned on greater transparency in government. I'm speaking at the Pirate Party Congress in Prague on April 14, and I've been giving a lot of thought to the relevance of the party and the movement it represents. This is the second state-level German election that gave seats to the Pirates, and there are two Pirate MEPs in the European Parliament. Clearly, there's something bubbling in party politics and information politics.

Strong showing for the Pirate Party in German elections (via /.)

(Image: Piratenpartei Saarland Wahlprogramm)

Independent watchdog says Canada's 2011 elections may have been corrupt

The independent nonpartisan NGO Democracy Watch says that Canada's elections regulator has failed in its duty to prevent fraud in Canada's elections. This comes on the heels of a voter-suppression scandal in which "robocalls" were placed, allegedly to voters likely to vote against the (now ruling) Conservative party, telling them that their polling places had changed. One whistleblower claims to have worked on the phone-bank that handled complaints from the robocalls, and says that she was instructed to tell people that she was working on behalf of the Conservative party, and to give out misinformation about where to vote. Jeff David of Postmedia News writes in the Montreal Gazette:

"Here we are 144 years since Canada became a so-called democracy and no one can tell whether Elections Canada is enforcing the federal election law fairly and properly because it has kept secret its investigations and rulings on more than 2,280 complaints since 2004," said spokesman Tyler Sommers.

The Harper government scrambled to keep pace with the burgeoning scandal during Tuesday's question period, after Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen unveiled new details of the election calls that had been routed through a Tory-linked firm.

A total of 1,334 complaints were filed with Elections Canada in the 2004, 2006, and 2008 federal elections, according to the agency's post-poll reports. Concerning the 2011 election alone, however, Elections Canada received 1,872 complaints about accessibility problems, 2,956 emails complaining of voting rule confusion in the Guelph area, and 1,003 complaints about other issues.

Elections Canada not doing its job: Democracy Watch

Open source tool to evaluate redistricting proposals and stop gerrymandering

Dave sez,

The redistricting process is one of the most important -- yet least understood -- aspects of the US political system. It's full of smoke-filled back room dealmaking by political insiders with little public input. The result? Districts are often drawn by the policial parties themselves -- usually the majority party -- AKA gerrymandering. Because of this, district lines are altered by lawyers and politicians in ways that don't accurately reflect the citizens. It's a rigged process and the public has the power to get involved and keep government in check, but we need to first learn more about how it works.

The Public Mapping Project is an open-sourced software tool created to help the public better understand the redistricting process. It also enables users to make their own congressional maps which can be submitted to local government. Users as young as 10 have been drawing maps that are widely recognized to be better than proposals from the state. The tool was designed by Michael McDonald of George Mason University and Micah Altman of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at, Harvard.

Colleges and universities throughout the country are now using this software to launch student mapping competitions. For example, next month Fordham University will host a New York state redistricting competition where teams of students throughout the state will design their own congressional and state legislative districts. These maps will then be judged by a panel of experts, the winning ones sent to Albany for consideration.

Public Mapping Project (Thanks, Dave!)