flwyd: (Trevor glowing grad macky auditorium)
We have forgotten that the proper function of the school is to transmit the cultural heritage of one generation to the next generation, and so to make them capable of absorbing ancient learning and applying it to the problem of its own day.
– Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative, “Some Notes on Education”

Senator Goldwater expressed many points of view in The Conscience of a Conservative which I approach from a very different perspective, yet perhaps none as concisely as this one. He wrote this passage in the context of arguing that the federal government should divest itself entirely of involvement in education, leaving the matter instead to states and local school districts.

The transmission of cultural heritage from generation to generation happens naturally and effectively in the home, at religious and social gatherings, and as young folks interact with their communities. The unique value offered by a school is the opportunity for children and young adults to learn ideas and techniques which were unavailable to their parents. A child sent to boarding school in the 1820s might return as the first person in the history of the family who could read. A young man in 1870 who went off to a land grant college could return home two to four years later and teach his father and their neighbors newly developed techniques in farming. In 1900, a student could leave a town without electricity and pursue a degree as an electrical engineer, learning things in his senior year which were not known to the world when he arrived as a freshman.[1] And in the 1980s and 1990s, my generation played with computers in our public school classrooms and went on to teach our parents, with varying levels of success, how to use the most crucial tool of the modern age.

Goldwater makes clear that he is arguing against John Dewey and progressive education:
Subscribing to the egalitarian notion that every child must have the same education, we have neglected to provide an educational system which will tax the talents and stir the ambitions of our best students and which will thus insure us the kind of leaders we will need in the future.
In our desire to make sure that our children learn to “adjust” to their environment, we have given them insufficient opportunity to acquire the knowledge that will enable them to master their environment.
Earlier in the book, Goldwater said that he was in favor of school integration (I believe that it is both wise and just for negro children to attend the same schools as whites, and that to deny them this opportunity carries with it strong implications of inferiority) but he didn't think the federal government should bring it about (I believe that the problem of race relations… is best handled by the people directly concerned.). The belief that integration is desirable, yet it's fine if entrenched state political interests deny it, can be easily understood when Goldwater explains that his interest in schools is for the development of future leaders–and the unspoken conclusion that black children in the South would not be the future leaders of those states.

In the intervening half century the Dewey educational position, particularly the emphasis on adaptation to a changing world rather than mastering a static one, has been held widely in colleges and universities. Deans and chancellors are likely to craft mottoes like “preparing students for the challenges of tomorrow” and liberal arts departments emphasize that they teach critical thinking, not just classic knowledge. Yet in many locales primary school (which answers much more directly to local and state political pressure) is shifting away from a path where each generation knows more than their parents, requiring instead that children be taught the same misconceptions that their parents believe. The designated future leaders, of course, are still afforded access to accurate facts through private schools, thanks to their parents’ ability to succeed, whether through a privileged position or personal skill. One of the biggest failings of public education in the last two generations is that it’s funded and run at the local level while the rich and middle class have fled integrated areas, taking their tax revenue and school board engagement away from areas with poverty and students of color and into suburbs with higher school ratings. (There's a great two part piece from This American Life on this topic.)

[1] I’m using male pronouns in this discussion because secondary education was at that time overwhelmingly meant for men, another major failing of the traditional approach of schools whose goals were to educate a pre-screened set of future leaders.
flwyd: (xkcd don quixote)
The turn will come… when Americans, in hundreds of communities throughout the nation, decide to put the man in power who is pledged to enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic. Who will proclaim in a campaign speech: “I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promotte welfare, for I propose to extend freedom… And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that case I am doing the very best I can.”
– Barry Goldwater, The Conscieence of a Conservative, "The Perils of Power"

Folks on the left are often surprised when Republicans support economic policies which negatively impact a majority of their constituents. Some folks use this observation as a rhetorical barb (e.g. these tweets). But for politicians inspired by Senator Goldwater and the last half century of conservatism, policies which favor liberty (freedom from) at the cost of opportunity (freedom to) are the goal, not an accident.
flwyd: (Om Chomsky)
Any progressive activist and anyone involved in the Democratic Party who has not read Don't Think of an Elephant! should put it very near the top of their to-do list, above any political action that's longer-term than "this week." It's short and practical, so it can be read in a day or you can read an essay-chapter each day and be done in two weeks. Many of the key insights also appear in articles on the author's blog, so you can start there.

George Lakoff is a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at UC Berkeley. I first encountered his work in Metaphors We Live By, a fairly academic book which argued that metaphors aren't just manners of speech, they actually provide structure to how we think and form a framework through which we perceive the world. This led him to research on frames, "mental structures that shape the way we see the world" and investigations on how liberals and conservatives think and the frames they use. He published Don't Think of an Elephant in 2004 as an accessible and practical guide for progressives to understand how people make political choices, why conservatives are much better at framing than progressives are, and what the left needs to do in order to activate progressive frames in the minds of voters. The All New Don't Think of an Elephant! is a 2014 edition which adds chapters and updates many of the essays to cover political developments during the second Bush term and the Obama presidency.

Frames help us make sense of the information we receive. For instance, the frame "Countries are rational actors" provides us tools for interpreting international relations and actions of governments. Given that frame, a speech by a particular politician or an attack by an army is evaluated as though it's a single person (the country) following a considered strategy. An alternate frame, say "Countries are herds of animals," would lead to a different conceptualization of the same presented facts, like an assumption of acting on instinct and a focus on the power dynamics within a government.

Frames are wired into our brains: the more often the language associated with a frame gets activated, the stronger the neural linkages become. When information is presented which doesn't jive with the frames in our brain, cognitive dissonance results. Cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable, so we tend to resolve the situation by rejecting the information or selectively reinterpreting it so that it can form a narrative supported by the frame.

The most important insight in the book is that people don't vote based on a list of policies and they don't necessarily even vote for their rational self-interest. They vote for candidates whose message activates the frames that drive their values. People aren't swayed by facts, they're swayed by narratives that resonate.

Lakoff identifies the major frames for political values as the "strict father model" and the "nurturant parent model." The former leads to values like law-and-order policing, military power, and "tough love" economic policies. The latter leads to values like restorative justice, soft power diplomacy, and opportunity-focused economics. Everyone has both frames in their brain to some degree, and political ideology reflects the frame which is stronger, or is present in more aspects of their life. He also talks about "biconceptuals," folks that have a balance of both models, the cognitive version of "swing voters."

The family models do a great deal to explain why positions which seem to be logically unrelated are so correlated in the political sphere. Why do so many folks both oppose gay marriage and support use of military force to achieve foreign policy objectives? Corporal punishment (or the threat thereof) is how order is established in a strict-father family, and gay marriage violates the whole premise of a strict-father family, because there's either no father (two women) or no single father figure (two men). Why do so many folks oppose firearm ownership and support public education? In a nurturative-parent family, providing opportunity to kids has a very high value (free public school provides opportunity even to kids whose parents don't have any resources) and guns represent violence, which is anathema to the protection and nurture values.

Conservative elites, starting with Barry Goldwater and the Powell Memo, have spent several decades carefully experimenting with ways to frame their policy goals so that they will resonate with the values frames of American voters. Progressives and liberals, on the other hand, have not had an organized approach to framing and tend to run on a set of specific policies, not on a set of values. Since the left haven't developed language to activate frames, they tend to use the frames provided by conservatives. This is self-defeating, because repeating the conservative framing of an issue activates the same neural pathways, even if the idea is negated (hence the title of the book). For instance, conservatives developed the phrase "tax relief," which activates a metaphor of taxes as a burden. If a liberal says "I'm against tax relief," it reinforces the idea that taxes are burdensome and the voter is left wondering why the politician is in favor of burdens. If the liberal instead recast the issue in their own frame–"I think the wealthy should contribute their fair share"–it would activate the frame that tax is a shared investment in society.

Lakoff advocates for progressives to rethink how they present their ideas. He urges the left to shift from talking about facts and policies to talking about values, principles, and policy directions. He instructs people to affirm the progressive world view rather than use the negated language of the conservative world view. He tells politicians to stop focusing on policy polls and start presenting a coherent narrative. And he recommends the left invest–intellectually and financially–in creating organizations (think tanks and so on) devoted to finding ways to frame progressive values in ways that resonate with American voters. This is a long-term investment: the right has spent over four decades building their current ideological power position and the left can't suddenly adjust the neural circuitry of the public next month or even this year. But the longer progressives wait, the more they'll lose ground and the harder it will be to make progress.

The book's final chapter, "How to Respond to Conservatives," has some solid tactical advice, including showing respect, remaining calm, and positively reframing the issue. It ends with the crystalized guidelines: "Show respect; Respond by reframing; Think and talk at the level of values; Say what you believe." His approach is good for spreading the progressive world view, but I think there is occasion to use the frames of the "other side." When you're working on a specific policy measure like climate change or health care, it's important to have allies on both sides of the spectrum–this eases passage of an initiative and makes it less likely it will be repealed when the legislative balance of power shifts. Shifting a Republican member of congress from a strict-father model to a nurturative-parent model is a long game indeed, but convincing the same representative that climate change is a threat to national security or that it will create an undue burden on business might get an important piece of legislation passed. This is also communication that can be more focused: a letter to a legislator can be tailored to resonate with the specific framing a person has demonstrated whereas a letter to the editor tries to activate the framing of thousands of different people.

My goal in reading this book was to improve my ability to communicate with people who don't share my worldview, and it definitely helped. I'm someone who's immersed in facts and tend to overcommunicate details. This is important when figuring out how to create software or working with scientists to learn how the world works. But it's a hopeless technique for reaching non-experts, and by necessity most politicians, and certainly most voters, are not experts on a vast majority of subjects. I intend to do work to verbalize my own values and organize them into a coherent story, one which I hope can inspire folks who are already on my side, resonate with folks who aren't there yet, and help folks with a strict-father model empathize with the nurturative values.
flwyd: (darwin change over time)
Programs are a major problem for attempts at unity. As soon as a policy is made specific, the differences must be addressed. Progressives tend to talk about policies and programs. But policy details are not what most Americans want to know about. Most Americans want to know what you stand for, whether your values are their values, what your principles are, what direction you want to take the country in. In public discourse, values trump policies, principles trump policies, policy directions trump specific programs. I believe that values, principles, and policy directions are exactly the things that can unite progressives, if they are crafted properly. The reason that they can unite us is that they stand conceptually above all the things that divide us.

Having those shared values, largely unconscious and unspoken, is not good enough. They have to be out in the open, named, said, discussed, publicized, and made part of everyday public discourse. If they go unspoken, while conservative values dominate public discourse, then those values can be lost–swept out of our brains by the conservative communication juggernaut.
Don't just read about these values here and nod. Get out and say them out loud. Discuss them wherever you can. Volunteer for campaigns that give you a chance to discuss these values loud and clear and out in public.
– George Lakoff, The All New Don't Think of an Elephant!, “What Unites Progressives”

Put another way, values, principles, and policy directions are how you build a movement. Policies are how you implement the vision once the movement has critical mass. When building a movement you don't worry too much about folks with a drastically different world view; you're just trying to find all of your friends. But when it comes to policy, it's important to work with folks from “the other side.” A policy which is supported by many members of some movements has a better chance of surviving than a policy which is supported by all and only one team.
flwyd: (Om Chomsky)
Unfortunately, all too many progressives have been taught a false and outdated theory of reason itself, one in which framing, metaphorical thought, and emotion play no role in rationality. This has led many progressives to the view that facts–alone–will set you free. Progressives are constantly giving lists of facts.

Facts matter enormously, but to be meaningful they must be framed in terms of their moral importance. Remember, you can only understand what the frames in your brain allow you to understand. If the facts don't fit the frames in your brain, the frames in your brain stay and the facts are ignored or challenged and belittled.

When George W. Bush arrived, we got "compassionate conservatism." The Clear Skies Initiative. Healthy Forests. No Child Left Behind. … This is the use of Orwellian language–language that means the opposite of what it says–to appease people in the middle as you pump up the base. … Imagine if they came out supporting a "Dirty Skies Bill" or a "Forest Destruction Bill" or a "Kill Public Education" bill. They would lose. They are aware people do not support what they are really trying to do.

Orwellian language points to weakness–Orwellian weakness. When you hear Orwellian language, note where it is, because it is a guide to where they are vulnerable. They do not use it everywhere. It is very important to notice this and use their weakness to your advantage.

– George Lakoff, The All New Don't Think of an Elephant!
flwyd: (earth eyes south america face)
President Trump is expected to sign an executive order today which restricts visas from seven predominantly Muslim countries. I sent the following message to my senators and on the White House's contact page (since apparently the Trump administration has declined to answer the phone when Americans call).

I am a lifelong Colorado resident and I’ve voted in every election since I turned 18. I am writing to express concern over the executive order regarding visas that President Trump is expected to sign today. This order would restrict U.S. entry for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia, even for people who already live in America. I oppose this ban for three reasons: it’s bad for American business, it won’t make us safer, and it hurts families. I urge you to call President Trump and let him know that this order is not consistent with the values of America or our people.

Life in all of those countries has been quite challenging in recent years and many folks have decided to seek a better life in America. Many of the people who have fled are highly educated and have been making valuable contributions to the American economy as scientists, engineers, doctors, and more. From Iran in particular the United States has benefitted from over three decades of contributions from expats. Several highly skilled Iranians have helped my company deliver billions of dollars of value in the American economy.

This policy would not make America any safer. In the list of terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Wikipedia the only perpetrators I found connected to those countries were two by ethnic Somalis and one Yemeni man; all three cases had small impact. Meanwhile, the 9/11 attackers were predominantly from Saudi Arabia, which is not covered by this ban. The people who emigrate to the U.S. are typically opposed to these countries’ governments and are seeking a more stable life than the chaos at home.

Finally, this order would hurt families. Folks living in America–many of them U.S. citizens–would be unable to visit their families or have family members visit the U.S. This could break up marriages, strand children, and keep Americans from attending family weddings and funerals.
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken heels over head)
Part of me wants to stop listening, turn away, and get America's unpopularly elected president out of my head. But he's got an uncanny narcissistic knack for getting people to pay attention to him. So here's some commentary on pieces of Trump's inauguration speech.

In a speech whose overall tone was jingoistic nationalism, this stood out to me:
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
It sounds like Trump misunderstands friendship. When a good friend is in need, we put aside our own interests to help them out. We lend our friends money at no interest when they're in a jam. We put our own reputation on the line to vouch for a friend's character. We sit our friends down for an uncomfortable conversation when they need an intervention.

Friendship is a long-term relationship that often involves personal sacrifice to help the other. We do this because at some point, at a time unknown and with no guarantee, the friend might be in a position to return the favor. Trump's line does not describe friendship. Perhaps the term he was looking for was "business partner."

Trump launched his campaign by impugning Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers and made anti-immigrant bluster a cornerstone of his rallies, so it's no surprise it was a key point in his inauguration speech.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.
There's actually a really elegant solution to this. If you make it easy for immigrants to become citizens, more Americans will be employed and more American families will contribute to society.

Trump continued on one of his favorite topics, borders. (Although the U.S. only has two, and Trump only seems to care about one of them, so perhaps he should make it singular.)
We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs… We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.
"We will bring back our borders" is an odd choice of wording. Make America 48 Again? Maybe he wants to renegotiate the Louisiana Purchase as a public-private partnership.

The first sentence is somewhat surreal too, and not just because "ravages" seems out of place. Despite corporations counting as "persons" under U.S. law, a foreign intelligence agency can't kidnap or steal a company. And I'm not aware of major American companies disincorporating and moving to another country, perhaps because Delaware is such an effective tax shelter. (There have been some notable international purchases of American companies, perhaps none more ironic than Budweiser being produced by a Belgian firm.) Additionally, the United States is still the top manufacturer in the world, we just mostly make stuff with really fancy machines and not a lot of people (high capital, low labor). Finally, a lot of wealth has stayed in American accounts: since the companies are still American, their stocks are traded on American exchanges, and the corporate executives haven't been outsourced, wealth gains from globalization haven't fled the country: they flowed to the American 1%.

Finally, Trump is personally an odd champion for trade protectionism and a call to bring jobs back to the U.S. He makes a lot of money from hotels and resorts around the world, employing thousands of non-Americans. It would also be nonsensical to fill those jobs with U.S. citizens: you can't outsource cleaning a hotel room in Manilla to someone in Toledo. These properties also put Trump in a compromising position in his quest to put America's interest before its friends: will he put the U.S. first if, say, Trump Towers Istanbul becomes a pawn in negotiations with Turkey? Would he stick to his protectionist stance if his family was offered the chance to build Trump Tower Guangzhou?
flwyd: (1895 USA map)
I am a lifelong Colorado resident. My grandfather represented the San Luis Valley in the legislature in the 1950s and my great grandfather gave the first sermon on Pike’s Peak. I have voted in every election since I turned 18.

I am writing you on the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to express support for immigrants and disenfranchised citizens and because I am concerned about the political tone in the United States. Dr. King expressed a dream, based in the ideals set forth in the founding documents of our nation, that everyone in America would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. And while major strides were made in the second half of the 20th Century, this dream often seems a long way off. The president elect and many other prominent voices have proposed a vision for America which seeks to deny the American dream based on demographics, denying people the chance to prove their inherent worth.

America has been built by half a millennium of immigrants, creating wealth and innovation like the world has never seen. The first of my ancestors to arrive came from England in the 1600s; the last arrived from Norway and Wales near the end of the 19th Century to farm and mine in America, working hard to support their families and, in the process, helping America grow. Today’s generation of immigrants contributes immeasurably to American society and the United States economy, from migrant farm workers to the CEO of Google.

Mr. Trump and many other prominent voices have tried to foment xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment for political gain. Mr. Trump has proposed signaling out members of specific religious groups for enhanced government surveillance, building a fence to rival the Great Wall of China at a cost around 40 billion dollars, and deporting children (future American entrepreneurs and laborers) for whom the United States is the only home they’ve ever known. This plan not only goes against the American values that Martin Luther King elucidated, it also works against our economic interest. For the U.S. economy to thrive in the coming generations, the country must grow. The native-born American population is aging and shrinking. Immigrants tend to be young and work hard, filling important roles, spending money in the American economy, and fueling job growth. The United States risks an economic and budgetary crisis as our population ages if we do not welcome the innovation and determination of immigrants seeking the American dream, fleeing war and economic despair abroad, just as immigrants have done for the last four centuries.

As my voice in Washington, I call on you to speak out, both privately and publicly, when Mr. Trump, his associates, and other members of the political establishment make judgments of people based on the skin color, national origin, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. Furthermore, I urge you to sponsor and vote for legislation which reforms the U.S. immigration system, paving a path to citizen ships and creating an egalitarian and welcoming nation. I also urge you to take action to stop discriminatory policing, reform racially biased sentencing guidelines, ensure equal pay for equal work, and end government interference in people’s selection of restrooms.

Thank you for your service to our country,
Trevor Stone
flwyd: (McCain Palin Abe Maude Simpsons)
I just finished figuring out how I'm going to vote on ballot measures this year. I'm not sure I've had this high a percentage of NO votes before. The abbreviated explanation: 60, 61, and 101 are for people who think it would be fun to have California's budget problems with the additional constraint that we can't borrow money to keep things running. Or, if you prefer, 60, 61, and 101 is like cutting off your arm to lose weight. In synchronicity news, there's a meme going around to find a post you wrote "on this day in your first year on LiveJournal." Here's a 9-year old insight on libertarianism. In the fall of 2001 I also apparently invented flash mobs, made personal insights that remain largely true, and revised Pascal's Wager.
Amendment P – reorganization of bingo oversight – YES
This sounds pretty reasonable. That gambling and bingo are handled by different parts of the state government is probably a historical accident. Merging these functions should lead to government that makes more sense. Yay!
Amendment Q – a process for setting up temporary government operation if Denver gets hit by a hurricane – YES
Sounds like more housekeeping. If someone's gone through the bother of figuring all this out, we should let it in.
Amendment R - eliminate taxes on small herds of cattle grazing on BLM lands - YES
The key to this one is the phrase in Arguments For reduces the administrative burden of collecting a tax that in many cases costs more money to collect than it brings in to local governments. When the government says "Collecting this tax is more bother than it's worth," that's a good sign it's time to phase out. Also, given the scale of tax cut proposals on the ballot this year, the $46,000 of accounting rearrangement is peanuts. Or pinecones, since it's government land.
Amendment 60 – override voter-approved tax increases, add tax elections to more levels of government, cut property taxes (for individuals and businesses), and create property taxes (for universities and airports) – NO
One nice thing about TABOR is it's shown that people will often vote for higher taxes if they think they're getting good value for their money. This measure would undo some of those changes, reducing voter power. It also reduces local property taxes. But anti-tax zealots have learned that their biggest enemy is parents worried that lower taxes will lead to worse schools for their kids. So the former tried to entice the latter by replacing lost school district revenue with money for the state without creating any additional revenue for the state. Good thing to, 'cause if the kids don't get a good education, the state won't have any budget to provide the low income, health care, or prison services folks with poor education often need.

This measure also requires state-owned enterprises (universities, airports, etc.) to pay taxes. But these taxes won't make up for the lost revenue caused by the rest of this amendment! The taxes will go to pay for a further property tax reduction for people in the county (who typically get a property value boost due to the enterprise). CU became an enterprise so they'd have more budgetary flexibility while keeping tuition manageable since it was a pain in the ass to get money out of a tight state budget. If they have to pay taxes, students all over Colorado will pay higher tuitions to fund lower property taxes on expensive houses in Boulder. If they're lucky, landlords might drop rent by a few bucks.

The one redeeming feature of this amendment is letting citizens create ballot initiatives for lower (or higher) taxes at all levels of government (except federal). However, that perk isn't worth creating budget crises over.

Amendment 61 – stop government borrowing – NO
What happened to the Republican phrase of ten years ago, "Run government like a business?" Short and long-term borrowing are important parts of most businesses' operation. This amendment would prevent the state government from borrowing money at all and require voter approval for any local government borrowing. This is an understandable knee-jerk reaction to perceptions of the recent financial crisis, but it's not very helpful. If the interest rate on long-term borrowing is less than inflation plus growth, it makes money for the state. Preventing short-term borrowing is asking for chaos at the legislature, forcing them to consider things like paying state employees IOUs until everyone's taxes come in. If your "make government more accountable" plan is anti-commercial paper, you really shouldn't be proposing tax law.
Amendment 62 – let fœtæ own property and access the courts – NO
For Halloween season, how about a zombie anti-abortion amendment that died 75% to 25% two years ago? Oh wait, they changed "moment of fertilization" the the far more vague "beginning of biological development of that human being." Well my biological development began 6000 a couple billion years ago. Oh, and everything I said about Amendment 48 is still a problem.
Amendment 63 – add health care choice as a constitutional right, but prevent the government from creating health insurance worth choosing – NO
This measure seems designed to counteract the sort of health care bill that Congress didn't have the balls to talk about in 2009. You could at least wait until there's some data on the success of a plan before deciding it sucks. A full essay on how I think health care should work will have to wait for another day.
Proposition 101 – slash vehicle taxes and fees and reduce income tax by over 1% – NO
This seems to be a reaction to Bill Ritter's move last year to increase vehicle fees in order to balance the budget. One of the downsides of TABOR is that only citizens can raise taxes, combined with a balanced budget requirement, means the government has to get creative in how they balance the books. One could argue that the budget process should have gone differently, but the solution is not to drop vehicle fees to approximately 0 and simultaneously reduce income tax (why are those part of the same measure? at least the anti-abortionists didn't propose "Change the definition of person and also cut taxes by half a percent."). Cars create significant social externalities and should be taxed accordingly. What is especially ironic is I suspect many of the supporters of this amendment opposed the cash-for-clunkers program.
Proposition 102 – require participants in pretrial services programs to also have bonded bail – NO
I might support this measure if it had an exception for all nonviolent misdemeanors rather than just the first. Since the judge already has the flexibility to require bonded bail, I don't see how this amendment is a win for anybody but bail bondsmen. Maybe this is the plan to fund the courts system if 60, 61, and 101 all pass.

So please go out and vote for reason and sanity in government. Or, since you're a fan of reason and sanity, stay in and vote by mail. Otherwise, there tea party will lead to a pretty terrible hangover.

Politilols

Friday, October 1st, 2010 03:22 pm
flwyd: (McCain Palin Abe Maude Simpsons)
I don't have a TV. I don't read the newspaper. I don't drive to work, so I don't catch news on the radio. My Internet reading has mostly been what my coworkers, co-volunteers, and friends have to say. So for the last year and a half, I've been mostly unaware of the major news stories.

However, I'm aware that teabaggers partiers managed to get several of their preferred candidates the GOP nominations for this fall's elections, so there are a lot of crazy people running this cycle. This isn't particularly surprising: the past several years have seen many of the non-crazy voters leave the Republican party while this year's right wing voter excitement has been driven by talk show hosts who don't consider cool temperment and experience running government effectively to be positive attributes. If ubiquitous-enough-to-catch-my-attention is a good measure, the most nationally notable crazy candidate is Christine O'Donnell. Here are some of her crazy sayings. My favorite: Now we’re using this to start cloning humans. … They are — they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.

I'd appreciate links to collections of crazy quotes from anybody else running for office this year.

Yes We Did

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 12:14 am
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
I did a very insignificant amount today to help the election of the most impressive political figure of my generation. It seems that almost everyone in Lakewood voted early this year, but the Obama campaign–through an incredible volunteer organization–left nothing to chance and pushed to the end. President-elect Obama is able to inspire a wide range of people to make significant personal donations -- of money, of vacation time, of weekend time, of spare time, of sleep, and of sanity to play a small role in doing what they feel is right for America. If he can spread this energy beyond his campaign into society as a whole, he may leave an immensely important mark on the character of a nation for generations to come.

I'm sure I'll disagree with many positions he takes, but I know that he will take those positions after careful consideration with input from people who know what they're talking about. And that's really the core of good leadership.

I was also heartened by John McCain's concession speech tonight. It was almost as if he was eager to flee the fear mongering and red baiting he's engendered over the last two months. Perhaps he wanted to do away with the last eight years and get back to the John McCain who ran for president in 2000: a true bipartisan concerned with honorable action for the good of the country. I hope he helps establish broad support for fundamental changes President Obama wants to bring through.

When Bush leaves Washington, I hope he takes with him not only cowboy diplomacy and faith-based science but also the practice of railroading policy through congress, legislating from the Oval Office (signing statements), and executive secrecy. If Obama is to excite me as much in four years as he does right now, he'll need to graciously divest the Presidency of the powers claimed by his predecessor. He'll need to bring about important reforms and new programs not just with the help of 300 of his Democratic pals but by convincing the American people that the plans are strong so that they can convince their elected representatives to get on board. This is how a great orator can become a great governor.

To everyone who became engaged in politics this year for the first time ever (or the first time in a long time), stay involved. Politics is one part exciting, three parts boring. But by and large, it's the boring stuff that has an impact in our lives. Several local races in my area were decided by a margin smaller than the number of people who didn't vote for that section of the ballot.

Democracy is government of the people by the people who show up.

Today, this month, and this year, Barack Obama's supporters showed up. In the few days I've spent with the campaign organizers, I can see them fight to keep the chaos in check, straining to make it to the finish line without collapsing from exhaustion. They deserve a chance to rest and a chance to celebrate. But democracy isn't just about one person on one day. It's our civic duty (some might call it a curse) to stay informed and voice our opinions. I challenge everyone to be more informed each year about the candidates and issues on the ballot. Democracy is government of the people by the people who show up and it's based on the hope that everyone will show up and know what they're talking about.

Good night, and good luck.
flwyd: (Trevor over shoulder double face)
It ain't over 'till it's over.
-- Yogi Berra
Don't get cocky, kid!
-- Han Solo
FINISH HIM!
-- Mortal Kombat and [livejournal.com profile] tongodeon

I believe that in a generation, we'll look back on next Tuesday as the day hope beat fear. But there's still a chance that fear wins yet again. Obama leads in the polls, but 2000 and 2004 showed the strength of Republican vote suppression techniques. Polls measure how people say they'll vote, but they may not account for the people who try to vote and are prevented. Vote suppression takes many forms: challenging voters (because their driver's license has a middle initial but their voter file does not), misinformation (many Democrats and independents in Virginia received a flier telling them to vote next Wednesday... when it will be too late), poor resource allocation (the big story from Ohio in 2004 was few machines and long lines in black areas but sufficient machines and short lines in white areas), and purges of voter rolls.

Even without intentional voter suppression, elections have a significant margin of error. Voters might have a family crisis crop up and not make it to the polls. Voters can get confused by voting machines or ballot layouts. Touch screen voting machines can be miscalibrated (the official story on why West Virginia voters find their selection of Obama switching to McCain or third party candidates). Mail-in ballots can get lost in the mail or never delivered to voters (Sequoia Voting Systems made an error and didn't print ballots for 11,000 of a batch of 21,000 Denver absentee voters). These are important issues, and may work to the advantage of one side. It's important not to assume malice when incompetence is more likely. It's even more important to make sure neither malice or incompetence has a chance to affect the outcome.

The 2000 election came down to Florida having a vote spread that was within the margin of error. (New Mexico was also that close, but didn't have enough electoral votes to change the outcome.) Even though Obama is leading in the polls, it's important to get as many supporters to vote as possible. The Obama campaign needs to run up the score in swing states to be sure they're above the margin of error so there's no opportunity for the election to be lost through malice (voter suppression, electronic vote hacking) or incompetence (machine or human error on the part of election organizers or voters). Don't let Colorado become The Florida of the West.

You can do your part to help hope win. Obama's website has lots of information about where and when you can volunteer. Their focus is making sure their supporters get to the polls. Volunteer tasks include walking door-to-door with a clipboard or sitting in an office and making phone calls. At this point, if you volunteer you will only talk to people you know support the same candidate. You won't get into an argument with someone who thinks your candidate is a terrorist. You won't have to convince someone who's undecided. All you have to do is ask people "Have you voted yet?" If they have, check them off and nobody will bother them further. If they haven't, make sure they know where their polling place is and that it closes at 7pm. I'm an introvert, but I spent part of my Sunday afternoon canvassing and had a great time. I'm uncomfortable talking to strangers and I can do this. So can you. The Colorado forecast for this is for warm weather and streets full of dry leaves. You'll want to take a walk anyway; contact your local Obama office to canvass. You'll spend three hours enjoying the weather, getting exercise, and helping make history. If you don't live in a swing state or don't like walking, sign up for phone banking. If McCain pulls off an upset, you won't be able to do anything about it next Wednesday. Let's not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

If you can spare a few hours on Tuesday (Election Day), even better. I just signed up to be a poll checker -- comparing the precinct list of people who voted with the campaign's list. If you want to volunteer for that sort of job, you need advanced training, so get in contact soon. They also need canvassers and phone bankers, so show up for a shift if you can. If you volunteer, you'll be able to tell your kids "I did my part to elect an amazing president." Not only that, you'll get one of the most charismatic and thoughtful presidents of the last sixty years. If you don't help get out the vote and a McCain victory in Colorado proves the pivot point for the whole electoral college, you'll spend the next four years with a nagging sense of responsibility every time you grumble about the state of the nation.

I don't agree with everything Obama wants to do and I look forward to opportunities to improve upon his plans. But I'm doing what I can to help him get elected because I think they're the best plans we've had in years. If Obama wins, I feel like the federal government will be on the road to getting better. If McCain wins, I fear the government will only get worse. I hope in a generation I'll have to make a tough choice between the Democrats, Republicans, and other parties. But the McCain campaign has continued the practices that are killing the Republican Party's credibility and value to society. They need to hit rock bottom so they can rebuild right. If McCain gets elected, it will only prolong the victim's suffering.

flwyd: (1895 Colorado map)
Here are my current positions on the initiatives and referenda on the Colorado ballot this year. Since I don't have a TV and haven't dug through the web on these issues, most of my information comes from the blue book. If you think there are considerations I've overlooked, please comment. If I learn something that changes my mind, I'll update this post. If you don't have time to read this post, please just vote NO on 48, the "personhood" amendment.

Note that amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 have been retracted in a deal to oppose amendments 47, 49, and 54. Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 will be on the ballot, but votes won't be counted. 47, 49, and 54 will be counted, but "business" has joined with "labor" in opposing them. If you don't vote in Colorado, use this opportunity to research your own ballot or convince a friend in California to vote NO on prop. 8. )

Quick Reference:

  • 46: No
  • 47: No
  • 48: No
  • 49: No
  • 50: Probably yes
  • 51: Unsure
  • 52: No
  • 54: No
  • 58: Yes
  • 59: Yes
  • L: Yes
  • M: Yes
  • N: Yes
  • O: Yes
Take that, longest ballot in the country!

My State is Purple

Saturday, October 25th, 2008 03:18 pm
flwyd: (1895 USA map)
I was wondering last night if the American association of "red states" and "blue states" is because the Republican base is stereotypically redneck while the Democratic base is stereotypically blue-collar workers.

It turns out the color scheme wasn't standardized until after the 2000 election. So it could be by accident or it could be that was the color association that subconsciously resonated. The article notes that in many foreign countries, red is used to denote communist/socialist/left-wing parties and countries (USSR and China quite notably) while blue is associated with right-wing parties. Has the Republican party really forgot that they used to use "red" as a smear?

Cartophiliacs are of course aware that two colors are insufficient for distinguishing a map. You need four colors to be sure one state doesn't become indistinguishable with the next.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
NOM NOM NOMINEE
from [livejournal.com profile] dieselsweet
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
The first election in which I participated, when I was just 18, featured twenty candidates for six city council seats. I spent about a day going through the excellent interviews by the Boulder Weekly, comparing their endorsements with the Daily Camera's, and generally considering what sort of city government my home town should have.

Boulder's a unique place. It's got an independent daily paper (with focus weighted to the University), a daily paper owned by a national chain, and (at the time) two independent weekly papers. I now live in Lakewood, the fourth largest city in the state, but its media situation is not nearly as meaty. There's a weekly paper with Lakewood in its name, but I think most of the stories are shared by papers in other suburbs. As part of the metro area, we can look to the major Denver papers (Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, published by a single company). Unfortunately, the endorsements editorial for Lakewood contained at most two sentences for any city council ward seat and their mayoral endorsement rested on a comparison to a football team. So much for hard-hitting journalism.

Fortunately, modern technology being what it is, I can watch the LWV mayoral forum on my computer at midnight while making a sandwich naked. Three-time candidate Linda Delay is working without notes and has something of a note-quite-with-the-program feel. Bob Murphy clearly has experience in city government, he's probably averaging at least two or three buzzwords or technical government terms per sentence. Rita Bertolli also has the vocab down, but with a fight-for-the-little-guy attitude compared to Murphy's "I'll keep up the good job I've been doing."

Bertolli had some entertaining turns of phrase. "Shove down our necks." "Cervic-minded." "If there was a solution to transit, Los Angeles would have found it long ago."

But the winner is is Murphy's answer to the final question: "[My vision for Lakewood is] a place where we can live, work, play, recreate, shop and dine all without leaving our cars in many cases." I think recreation and dining without leaving a car is the transit solution Los Angeles found.
flwyd: (asia face of the earth relief)
Man and TanksOn June 3rd, 1989, the Chinese army massacred an unknown number of pro-democracy supporters. The Chinese government remains unrepentive to this day, and arrested many people who tried to publicly mark the 15th anniversary. One strike each against peace and democracy.


Storming the Beach6/6/4 marked the 60th anniversary of D-Day. It was an incredibly bloody battle, so it's not the greatest anniversary of peace. However, it was a major turning point and led to the end of a warmongering and violent regime. A good day for democracy and not terrible on the peace scale.


Actin' PresidentRonald Reagan died on Saturday. His affect on peace and democracy was somewhat ambivalent. On one hand, he demonstrated that anybody can become president of the United States, even if you don't know what you're talking about. In all seriousness, though, he mastered the ability of getting people to like him, which is how democracy works. His administration supported anti-democratic governments or rebels in Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, Honduras, South Africa, Indonesia, and elsewhere. His election was helped by a secret deal to exchange hostages for weapons. A strike for both peace and democracy there. His primary contribution to peace was outspending the Soviet Union on nuclear weapons, though it takes the paradoxical (but well-reasoned) logic of nuclear brinkmanship to see this as a step for peace. That said, his death is neither a loss nor gain for democracy. After ten years of Alzheimer's may he rest in peace.


All in all a fairly bleak week. Let's hope this week is a better weak of peace and democracy.
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