Category: politics

Political Fallout

Well here we are on the day after election day, 2018. I had a later night than I ought to have had last night, but I just can’t help watching all the results as they pour (or trickle) in. I was following three news sources simultaneously last night. CNN for television results (because I continue to find them the most middle of the road network), FiveThirtyEight for online national analysis (seriously, their liveblog and results graphs were really informative and spot on, particularly after they fixed their model that was giving me a heart attack at the beginning of the evening), and the Bangor Daily News site for local results (which came in far too slowly, but welcome to Maine.)

I wanted to do a couple of things with today’s post. First, to go over some of the things that happened yesterday, because the day proved memorable for a few reasons. And second, to go over the results themselves and give a rundown of my thoughts. First, the events.

In my twelve elections here in Maine, I’ve never had to wait in line longer than 2 or 3 minutes to cast my vote. Yesterday I ducked over before my reference desk shift, thinking I had 25 minutes, so plenty of time to walk over, vote, and come back. It ended up taking me almost an hour. I waited in line for 45 minutes. I counted more than 200 people in line when I left. I’m not sure how much of that was due to higher turnout, and how much of it was due to a more complex ballot. (Maine was doing Ranked Choice Voting for some elections, so we ended up having three different pieces of paper we had to turn in at the end.) In any case, it was surprising.

As I walked up to the voting location, there was the customary crowd of people around the door, asking me to sign petitions or wanting to shake my hand. I’m always, frankly, irritated by this. I don’t want to meet or talk to people when I vote. I feel like they’re being nosy, and I want them to mind their own business. This time there was also a tent set up with a big banner hanging from it. It was pretty text heavy. I scanned it for a moment, then just kept walking. No one was there, so I didn’t think more on it.

Later, I found out the tent was being staffed by a person who was out trying to talk to people he thought might be students registering to vote. His goal? He wanted to “educate voters” about the consequences of registering to vote in a place you don’t permanently live. While nothing he was saying was false, the fact that he was targeting students and listing off potential laws they might end up breaking leaves little to the imagination of what his goal was. I got steamed about it, posted his picture to social media and called him a less-than-flattering word (which I subsequently apologized for, because I shouldn’t have done that). Still frustrating. I suppose I can sort of kind of see what he thought he was doing or how he justified it to himself, but the net result is trying to get people to not vote, which feels pretty sleazy to me.

Despite all of that, we now have results. Over all, I’m quite pleased with how the election went. A few notes:

  • Nationally, it played out about how it was predicted. Republicans took more of the Senate than I’d like, but Democrats came on strong in the House. At least there’s a break on the runaway train that’s been the Trump administration up until now. I would have loved to have seen a big ol’ blue tsunami rush through everything, showing to the country and the world that America won’t stand for continuous racist behavior, but apparently enough Americans are okay with it to support it, either believing A) racism is okay or B) it’s not really racist. Whatever. I’ll take what I can get.
  • Locally, the Democrats cleaned house. We have our first female Governor in Janet Mills, and they took the House and the Senate. I’m happy to see the LePage administration finally exit stage left, and I’m excited to see what the new government comes up with.
  • The bond measure for the university system passed as well, meaning my library will get a renovation in some form, which makes me happy personally.
  • Ranked Choice Voting is actually going to come into play for the Poliquin/Golden House of Representative race, which also is exciting. I’m glad to see it put to use already, and I hope people stick with it. I’d love to see it extended to all Maine elections.

In any case, today feels much better to me than two years ago. While my faith in our country isn’t full restored, I’m encouraged by the process and feel much more optimistic for the future. Again, I don’t have anything against the Republican principles I grew up with. I can get behind a lot of their goals. It’s the methods they’ve been using to achieve them, the ideologies they’ve been embracing, the rhetoric they’ve used, and the leader they’ve chosen that has led me to reject them as a political machine. Until they switch things up, I’m for anything that takes them out of power.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Political Burnout

In case you’ve been living under a rock, tomorrow is election day in America. And I debated writing a post today about how I’m going to vote and why. Except when it came time to actually write it, it seemed . . . redundant. I mean, I’ve been banging the drum around certain topics for what feels like forever. Did I really want or need to write yet another post about it?

What in the world could I say that I haven’t already said before?

I’ve been against Trump since before he was elected. I hate what he’s done to the tenor of politics in this country, and what he’s done to the tone and focus of the Republican party. I know people who say to look at the legislation he’s passed. The *things* he’s done, and not the things he’s said. I can’t separate it out like that. As long as he’s in office, I will personally do everything I can to stop his agenda from moving forward.

Of course, this is made more simple by the fact that my other big push is for tighter gun laws. I’ve said before that I’ve made it my litmus test for a candidate. “Do they support tighter gun laws?” If the answer is no, then I won’t vote for them. I think it’s shameful that we’ve done nothing as a nation to try and solve the problem of gun violence in this country other than thoughts, prayers, and hand wringing.

So the question of “who to vote for” is made pretty simple, especially since I’m still a registered Republican, and the party is sending me all these mailers that talk about how their candidates will “protect your guns.” Each mailer I get like that only reminds me who *not* to vote for. (Especially since I hate political mailers as well . . .)

In the end, the only really “up in the air” questions on the ballot for me are the ballot questions:

  1. Tax the rich to pay for home health care for the elderly and disabled
  2. Wastewater bond
  3. Infrastructure bond
  4. Public university bond
  5. Community college bond

I’m for better public infrastructure and education, so I’m for 2-5. (#4 is something I can particularly advocate for, as I know firsthand just how needed the funding is for the public university system in Maine. Please vote yes!) So then we’re down to Question 1, and I’m honestly still up in the air about it. On the one hand, I want to help out the elderly and disabled, but on the other, I’m generally against spending other people’s money to solve problems. With the other bonds, it’s the state taking out money, which will be passed on to all tax payers, and so I’m part of the payment program. With the first, it’s just limited to taxing people who make a certain amount of money or more.

They make more money, so they can arguably afford it, but if you make the state a place where the rich just get taxed more than elsewhere, they’ll move. They’re not idiots. So . . . I generally feel this is the wrong solution to a real problem. I’d like to see it handled differently. I’ll likely be voting “No” on that issue.

But in general, I’m just tired. Tired of having all these political debates. Tired of the fact that some issues are still up for debate. I’m tired of making arguments over and over for or against the same things. Tired of confronting people. If someone is still voting for Trump and his ilk at this point, I don’t see anything I can say that will change their mind.

So in the end, I suppose this is just a “please vote” post. We’ll see how it all settles out on Wednesday. My hope is that the tide of nastiness finally begins to really turn. I’d love to see the House retaken by the Democrats, and for a Democrat to return to the Governor’s mansion in Maine. Which still feels odd to me to say, since I’ve been a Republican for so long. But the party I really believed in . . . doesn’t exist anymore, in my mind.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Stochastic Terrorism

I came across a new phrase recently: stochastic terrorism. (My post today is my own reaction to Kottke’s excellent post on the topic.) I’m a fairly well-read individual, so if it’s new to me, I imagine it’s new to a lot of you as well. It’s a term that was coined back in 2011. I think we all know by now what “terrorism” means. “Stochastic” is “having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.” In other words, it’s something that that can be predicted on a large scale, even if individual instances themselves are random.

To put it in boardgame-speak, think of it like the probability of getting a certain number when you roll two six-sided dice. Sure, each individual roll is random, and might result in anything from a two to a twelve, but you do enough of those random rolls, and you’re going to see sevens get rolled way more often than twelves.

When you apply this concept to terrorism, it gets really disturbing. Think of Osama Bin Laden back in the day, releasing videos to the world that called for violence against Americans. Was Bin Laden personally causing that violence? Well, no. He wasn’t going out there with a bomb or a gun to get it done, but his call for violence resulted in people deciding to become violent.

In other words, make a call for action to enough people, and you can reasonably expect some of those people will follow through on that action.

When this phrase was coined in 2011, it was used to accuse some of the right-wing media of inciting Americans to violence. Bill O’Reilly went on an extended tirade against a doctor named George Tiller, and then an anti-abortionist extremist killed Tiller, for example. To be able to practice stochastic terrorism, you need big enough platform to reach a wide audience, and then you need a call to action, however vague that call might be.

So let’s play the “is this stochastic terrorism” game. In each case, assume the person speaking already has the platform covered. The question, then, is “is this a call to action” that would incite someone to violence?

  • “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know.”
  • “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell … I promise you I will pay for the legal fees.”
  • “You know, part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right?”

Has Trump ever come out and said “I hope someone sends mail bombs to my opponents”? Definitely not. Has he said “I hope someone goes to a synagogue and opens fire”? Another obvious no. But I believe you can argue the rhetoric and stance he has taken on numerous issues at numerous times count as “calls to action,” or at the very least could be interpreted as such by people who are already playing with a full deck of cards.

It’s one thing to disagree with people. To call them liars or crooked or whatever. What I really object to is this new trend of opening the door to violence. “Somebody should really do something about ___________,” which might as well be followed with a “Wink wink, nudge nudge.” With great power comes great responsibility, and I’m disappointed that responsibility is being ignored.

I didn’t write anything in the aftermath of the mail bomb incidents. I didn’t write anything after the horrendous synagogue killings. I veered away from both because it’s just too depressing at this point for me to continue to engage with every single event. They’re coming too quickly, too close together. And in my view, the fact that some of our leaders are involved in inciting the violence is unforgivable.

It’s stochastic terrorism.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Separating Parents from Children is Wrong

I get that life is complex sometimes, and we all have to make decisions that can be incredibly difficult. But at the same time, I’d like to think almost everyone can recognize when something rises above the quandary to show itself as being strictly a question of right or wrong.

Much of what the Trump administration does somehow remains solidly at the quandary level. Some of this is because he or his spokespeople claim anything that paints what he does as bad is nothing more than Fake News. If it makes you look bad, say it’s a lie. It doesn’t matter how clear the evidence is that it’s true. Claim it isn’t, and stick to that claim regardless of what may come.

This approach works. It works because we live in a world where people will question anything. A world where people honestly believe the earth is still flat, and never mind the mountains of proof to the contrary. For many, belief has superseded verifiable fact. As a religious person, I can see where there are areas belief might win out. But there’s a big difference between belief and politics, or at least there should be. But the conservatives tied themselves tightly to a number of religious groups, and over time it appears to me like those ties have bled through, inserting Belief into politics to an unhealthy extent.

Of course, the vicious rhetoric around politics also makes it problematic. When DeNiro comes out and says “F*** Trump,” and everyone goes wild and says it’s great, that does nothing to actually solve problems. It further enflames both sides of the argument. When comedians and bystanders point out (correctly) that Fox News lambasted Obama when he proposed meeting with North Korea, but praised Trump when he decided to do it, they miss the natural other side of that coin. What liberals were all for Obama bringing peace to the world but now say Trump is terrible for sitting down with a dictator?

Remember the views you have now, and try to keep them straight, regardless of which party is in power. Because there are some things that transcend politics. Basic questions of right and wrong. There must be.

Trump meeting with Kim Jong Un and deescalating a situation that was looking worse every day is a good thing. Sure, both Trump and Kim are in large part to blame for how bad the situation had become, but it’s okay to celebrate the fact that we’re further away from nuclear weapons being used today than we were a few days ago.

But at the same time, we can’t let that cloud our view of other things that are happening in our country. Immigration issues that are huge, and seem to be flying under the radar for so many of us, judging by my Facebook feed and the relative little attention I see to it on national news sites.

Wonder what I’m talking about? Read this article and wonder no more.  Or read this one. Or read any of the other slew of articles out there on this topic.

The Trump administration has decided to take a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration. If someone is caught entering the country illegally for whatever reason, they are prosecuted. If they have children with them, the children are taken away and put with a foster family or in a detention center. In large part, it appears this separation is being used as part of the deterrent. Don’t come here illegally, or else we’ll tear apart your family.

I can understand some of the thought process behind this. Taking a hard line on illegal immigration and protecting the border is exactly what Trump said he’d do when he ran for office, so he’s delivering on a campaign process. But the way this has been put into practice is brutal, and it needs to stop. Surely there’s a way officials can continue to enforce the law without needing to rip families apart. Detain illegal immigrant families in separate complexes if they must. Or make exceptions for children under a certain age.

But don’t think this is an isolated incident, either. Do some research into the tactics currently being used by ICE against immigrants in this country, illegal or otherwise.

Illegal immigrants have been dehumanized by many politicians. Their identities stripped away to the point that they can be handled however the government sees fit.

I understand some of them broke the law. But I don’t care if you broke the law or not. You still deserve to be treated like a person, not a playing piece. It’s when people stop being seen as human that real atrocities begin. And from where I’m standing, those atrocities have already started.

We should be deeply disturbed by this. We should demand that policies are changed. Instead, the articles I read on Fox News about it say essentially, “Obama did the same thing.” Okay. If that’s the case, he shouldn’t have done it then. I didn’t realize it was happening. I do now. Does my failure to know an evil is being done previously excuse the person committing it now?

This is beyond politics, and it has to stop.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

In Support of Ranked Choice Voting

I’m friends with a wide range of people on Facebook. Everyone from staunch conservatives to arch liberals. And as we’ve approached the vote tomorrow, I’ve seen more and more posts crop up around Ranked Choice Voting. For those of you outside the state, know that Maine will become the first state in the nation tomorrow to try out a new system of voting in America. Instead of just picking the one candidate you like the most, you can rank them in order of preference. As many as you like. Here’s a quick overview:

Let me state this right off: I voted for this back in 2016 back when it was on the ballot the first time, and I’m going to vote for it again tomorrow, since politicians have tried to insist they don’t want to let this voting system stand. (How many times do citizens have to vote on an issue before it’s finally approved and finalized? Apparently many more than I thought.)

Why am I in support of this method? Perhaps it’s easiest to run down the arguments I’m seeing against it, and why I find them without merit:

  • “Votes get thrown in the trash”–This is the argument I keep hearing louder than any other. Basically, some say that in this new method, if you just vote for one person and don’t rank anyone else, then your vote gets tossed entirely after the first round (if the vote goes to extra rounds). It’s as if you never voted in the first place. Honestly, I find that argument disingenuous and misleading. I voted for Romney in 2012. Obama got re-elected instead. I voted for Clinton in 2016. Trump won. In both instances, my vote got “thrown in the trash” as soon as my candidate lost. (Maybe because I clearly lack any sort of consistency when it comes to which candidates I choose to vote for . . .) Honestly, I’m baffled by this argument. The only way your vote gets “thrown in the trash” is if the only person you chose to vote for . . . loses. Which is exactly what happens under the old system. Your vote was dead at that point anyway. But under the new system, people who actually care enough to rank more candidates get to keep taking part in the process. This argument isn’t isn’t a reason to be against RCV, it’s a reason to be in support of it.
  • “It’s too complicated”–It’s a grid, folks. Candidates on the left, rankings up top. Fill in the circles. I get that it’s more complicated than filling in a single circle, but this isn’t rocket science. If people still want to just vote for one person, they can. Still, I can see how some people will be confused by the layout, and how they might end up inadvertently voting in a way that will invalidate their vote. I think the benefit outweighs that risk. (More on that later.) What definitely IS too complicated is deciphering the wording on the People’s Veto to keep RCV: “Question 1: Do you want to reject the parts of a new law that would delay the use of ranked-choice voting in the election of candidates for any state or federal office until 2022, and then retain the method only if the constitution is amended by December 1, 2021, to allow ranked-choice voting for candidates in state elections?” In case you were wondering, if you want RCV to stay, vote YES on Question 1. If you want it to go, vote NO.
  • “It takes too long”–It’s true. It takes longer to figure out who won under Ranked Choice Voting. Maybe as long as an extra week. But considering whomever is elected ends up being our leader for the next 4 years, I tend to think taking a bit of extra time is worth the wait. What’s the rush? It’s not like they become Governor the next day.
  • “It violates ‘one person one vote'”–The argument here is that no one’s vote should count more than someone else’s. But if Person A only ranks 1 candidate, and person B ranks 3, and person A’s vote ends up falling out because their choice received the fewest votes, then Person B’s vote gets counted more often than person A’s. Except this is nonsensical. All RCV does is start a runoff election if a majority isn’t reached after the first vote. In this case, it’s as if Person A chose not to vote in the runoff election, but Person B did. *shrugs*

This doesn’t have to be complex. Get to know the candidates in advance. Decide who you like the most. Decide if there’s anyone else you’d like if that person doesn’t win. Decide if there’s someone you really do NOT want to win. Reach your conclusion, and vote appropriately.

Republicans tend to be against RCV at the moment. Democrats are in favor of it. Something tells me that if Republicans had lost the Governor’s seat because their vote had been split twice in a row just barely, then that would be reversed. To me, this isn’t about political parties. It’s about taking steps to make the country less polarized. To allow actual centrist candidates a chance to win. To break the stranglehold the two party system has on our nation right now.

All of that is worth upsetting a few apple carts.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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