Recently back from my summer roadtrip, I'm back in Boston now, and have Tuesday reserved for Nedvolunteering in Connecticut. Hopefully with my friend Aldon, if that works out, but I'm not sure yet (where he'll be, or where I'll be).
This summer as I was travelling around the country (and to DemocracyFest, among other things), I pondered trains and why we don't use them much in America, despite the advantages of speed, comfort, and efficiency.
As usual, I thought with annoyance of the way we seem to insist that train systems be self-supporting. If they need "subsidies" from the government, that's a sign they're not worth it, people don't want them, and we let them go bankrupt. Imagine if we thought of the interstate highways that way? If we forced roads to sustain themselves through user fees, the way we expect rail to? This is infrastructure, it's supposed to be funded by the government, so that all of us benefit from it.
But this time, my thoughts went in some different directions. Basically, when I'm going around the country, I do it by car for a variety of reasons:
I can take all of my stuff, without having to pack sparingly and lug it all by hand
I can easily carry other people for portions of my trip (this time, I conveyed a friend from Boston to Colorado where she had a summer job, for example)
I can plan a route with stops in a wide variety of places, and change my mind at any point, add a stop or remove one.
I set my own schedule, so I can stay a day longer somewhere, or skip somewhere else I'd planned to go
At each place I stop, I can go exactly where I want, visit people, carry stuff, take people with me, etc.
Despite all that, there are long stretches where I'm simply crossing land, alone and inefficiently. For the overall benefits, it's well worth it, and I think most people who drive around the country make similar calculations. But what if we could do a hybrid trip, with train for the parts where it makes sense, and car for the parts where it makes sense?
Imagine a car-ferry train system linking distant points along the country that are common destinations. For example, Chicago to Denver, Denver to San Francisco, Atlanta to Dallas, Dalllas to Chicago. You buy a ticket for one car, and the ticket costs you less than the price of gas for the distance in to be travelled. The ticket covers the car, its contents, and as many people as are in the car when you drive onto the train, up to standard limits by car type (typical sedan ticket = up to 5 people, for example). ou disembark from your car and spend the ride sitting in a booth or cabin as you do on a regular long distance train. When you reach your destination, get back in your car and disembark, just like with a ferry boat. Trains run at least twice a day, and average 100mph or 120mph - definitely feasible for long trips across mostly unbuilt country.
I bet a train system like that, once built, and running frequently enough, would be in great demand. People would get to skip the long drives between places, yet still have all of the advantages of taking their own car. You get some rest or work done or hang out with friends on the way, save money, and get there faster. And you can still see the view.
I think this is the sort of train travel that fits into American culture, and that people would adopt with glee rather orphan and disparage. I think the amount of oil saved, and emissions reduced, would be tremendous (have you seen how many cars there are on roads like I-80 and I-70 in the middle of the country, day & night?).
I don't think there's any official video, but my friend got video of about half of it and I think she plans to post the video on her DFA group's web site, so I'll send her here and if she does have it maybe she'll reply with a link.
Dems can be "delighted" only if the VRA does get reauthorized soon, because this delay will just further reinforce how little the Republican party cares for voting rights. Either way, for partisan advantage and for just plain doing the right thing, we need to push for it to be renewed.
Regarding redistricting, what we need to do is create nonpartisan redistricting commissions in every state, Iowa-style. Otherwise the party in power will always take advantage of redistricting for their benefit. In the meantime, let's become the party in power by winning more state legislatures.
But in the larger scheme of things, we need to win the big ideas that will swing a hundred districts over the next few elections, not piddle with districts to gain a few slightly more favorable seats at the cost of giving up what we stand for (and giving up on the big ideas that will make realignment possible). We're the Democratic party - we promote democracy.
I think reading political blogs at work may be very relevant to some state employees, but putting that aside...
... this is sort of like a company enforcing its "no personal calls from the office" policy by programming their phone switch to block calls to a particular exchange that's in a residential community. With the added element that in this case, they happened to target a blog that was very critical of the Governor.
We don't know why particular employees are reading blogs, but it certainly doesn't take me much time to come up with a plethora of reasons why they might be. A lot of state employees, for example, are legislative aides and staffers, being asked to do research on public policy, public opinion, find press clippings, and keep their legislator informed. If a particular blog is targeted and blocked, hat obviously affects what information is easier or harder to get, and can affect how government policy will be carried out.
On a related point, I was very happy to see John Bonifaz, the candidate for whom you blog, release this statement declaring "no confidence" in the CA-50 race. I wish more people would follow his lead.
Yes, I was happy about that too. Actually, I posted it for him :) A couple of us stayed up late that night as he was writing it, giving him feedback and helping him edit it. If it makes you happy, please send that link around!
opposed to paperless electronic voting with people who withdraw from the process instead of working for change.
And yet... I'm clearly a person opposed to paperless electronic voting. Why would I write a post lumping myself in with the attitude I'm trying to persuade people not to have? I don't understand where this is coming from.
As I said, I understand the problems with electronic voting, and I've worked hard to fix them. What I don't support is cries that discourage people from running for office or working for candidates.
What's so confusing about that? Why must I necessarily be lumping those two things together? Where did that incorrect assumption come from? And how is it at all reasonable to compare what I wrote to Rumsfeld claiming that people who criticize American policy are disloyal?
I think it important that this poll include people who didn't vote, but were eligible to. People should be asked why they thought it was important to vote, or not important to vote; why they did vote, or why they didn't. We need to get a picture of the correlations between persuasion and motivation. That is, did the different priorities people had, and their different opinions, that affected which candidate they supported, also affect how motivated they were to vote.
Can you show me an example of someone who is well thought of in political spheres, who said or did this? Someone who got some kind of mass media attention?
I'm not judging who is "well thought of in political spheres", nor am I talking about mass media attention. I'm talking about comments I see people making on political blogs and email lists in election reform communities and the new grassroots groups (DFA, PDA, etc.) that I participate in. There's a lot of energy in these groups that can get a lot of good things done, and a lot of it comes from individuals with no fame, no mass media attention, and no reputiation in "political spheres". I think these people matter, and I think anything a good number of them say, is worth addressing when I disagree with it.
I don't know how anything in my post or in my comments suggested to you that I was talking about the mass media (who aren't paying nearly enough attention to election reform) or people of high political prominence.
"If we don't [fix this, then] all our work for candidates will be for naught," it fuels that fire. Whether you intended it or not."
Objections to that kind of speech remind me of those in the Administration who equate criticism of it to aiding and abetting the enemy.
I'm sorry, but I'm a firm believer that the solution to ignorance is more communication. Not less.
That's unwarranted and uncalled for. I hope you'll re-read what I wrote, and what you wrote, and understand why. If we disagree on something, and you really want more communication, try to persuade. I presented a point of view I think is wrong, said so, and explained why. To respond by saying it's not legitimate for me to criticize that point of view, in the name of more communication, and especially with that Rumsfeld quote, is deeply ironic. I wasn't calling you disloyal, but by implying that I was, you're not promoting communication, you're trying to shut it down with rhetoric.
I stick by my opinion, though: I think when we talk about election reform in ways that imply that competing in elections is a waste (or may be "for naught"), we hurt our cause. I wrote this post partly to persuade people not to do that. Competing in elections is a critical part of working to fix our elections, and I think we ought to make that clear when we talk about it.
On your overarching point that there doesn't have to be a contradiction between working on election integrity and pushing for change through electoral politics, complete agreement. That, after all, is the point of my post: That we need to do both.
In the election integrity community we believe that if we don't get to work on fighting these corrupt and frauduent and pathetically inaccurate and inefficient voting systems, or let the media continue to ignore the problem, all our work for candidates will be for naught. But nobody ever said to stop working for candidates. We need to work on both things at the same time.
The problem is that many people have said to stop working for candidates. Or to not bother running for office.
And when election reform advocates, even well meaning ones who pursue change through elections, say things like "If we don't [fix this, then] all our work for candidates will be for naught," it fuels that fire. Whether you intended it or not.
Yes, we have a serious problem with election integrity. We need to learn about it, and work on fixing it.
Yes, we can win elections by getting more votes. We do win elections by getting more votes.
Yes, the most powerful way to get anything done is to win elections - or to credibly challenge and come close.
We need to do all of these things. To be effective, we ought to make sure not to present them as being at odds with each other. We ought to avoid rhetoric that suggests electoral politics is futile - because many people believe it.
I'm trying to combat the same false dichotomy you are.
I don't think the issue is "conspiracy theorists", or whether there are few or many of them. The problem I see is this attitude, which comes out a lot in discussions of election reform. As I said above, I think a lot of the time it's from people venting frustration, or who are temporarily demoralized - it's not the people who are a problem, it's the attitude. And it is unfortunately very common in most of the election reform online communities I watch or participate in, and in many in-person meetings I've been to.
The point here is to encourage discussion about keeping elections fair, open, and verifiable, while at the same time tamping down the idea that because elections are flawed, competing in them is a waste of time. Because those two are at cross-purposes.