Thursday, March 31, 2005

Minutes From SF No Confidence Workshop

Thanks to Pat Villano for arranging the space to do this workshop. He also recorded the following minutes:

3-25-2005 NO CONFIDENCE Resolution workshop (at SF Green Party HQ on Howard st. in San Francisco)

Meeting minutes:

Reasons for No Basis for Confidence in US elections:
1Machines unreliable
a.Source codes are privately held
b.Hacking issues/manipulation of tallies
c.No paper trails/receipts
d.Partisanship (private, often right-wing companies create and operate voting machines and software)
f.History of flaws (Overvotes in many precincts; Unusual results like GOP wins in predominantly democratic districts)
g.No audit requirements

2 Election officials incompetent/corrupt
3 Security of Ballots
4 Disenfranchisement
a. Two-party system inherently corrupt, stands to gain by disenfranchising certain groups (minorities)
b. Number of machines available not adequate in many precincts
c. Intimidation and misleading information given (suppression of votes)
d. Purging of voter rolls
e. Number of permissible IDs
f. Registration takes too much time
g. Felons barred (justice issues)
h. Burden of proof of voter eligibility is on citizens instead of government

5 Corporate personhood
a. private corporations have little to no accountability

6 Fraud perpetuates further lower voter turnout/apathy
7 No genuine representation
8 No transparency (witnesses not present during vote-counting)
9 Making voting days into national holidays (workforce can’t take time off for voting purposes)
10 Media access/coverage of elections
a. Equal time not assured
b. Cost of access for candidates

Conditions Needed to Restore Confidence in Voting (points for the “Be it resolved” section of a new draft of the resolution):
1 Proportional representation and multi-delegate districts
2 Paper ballots counted in their own precincts (non-centralized), with WITNESSES present
3 Same day voter registration
4 Expanded number of permissible IDs
5 Public financing of elections
6 Constitutional amendment to protect voter rights (universal suffrage)
a. Automatic registration

7 Open source code on software (or NO electronics involved – Punch card systems only)
a. No proprietary software/machines

8 Due process to challenge voter rights/denials
9 Full accessibility
a. Adequate number of voting machines in all precincts/no 1-8 hour waiting lines

10 Non-partisan election officials

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Report on SF No Confidence Workshop

Last night I conducted a workshop on the No Confidence Resolution at the headquarters of the San Francisco Green Party. This was not an official meeting of the Greens, but several people who attended are active and influential with the Greens of either SF or Berkeley.

Unlike all of the presentations I've previously given, the workshop was 90 minutes rather than a brief item among other topics on a group's meeting agenda. As a result, everyone in attendance was there exclusively to talk about No Confidence.

I brought with me copies of version 5.1 of the resolution (archived) , probably a small mistake given that the Humboldt County Green Party has endorsed version 5.2 which is currently shown at the GuvWurld blog permalink:

As far as mistakes go, this was inconsequential since the resolution is a template. To illustrate this, I gave far less set-up for the workshop group discussion than I typically offer during a presentation. Instead, I jumped right in, asking for the conditions that have damaged confidence in U.S. federal elections. The points were mainly offered in terms of anecdotes so I attempted to get the bullet points up on the white board. We also had a scribe who is supposed to e-mail me the notes for posting here. Suffice to say the points have a lot in common with the template.

Soliciting ideas in this way kept everyone engaged and allowed the group to generate the material for its own version of the WHEREAS clauses found at the top of the resolution. In facilitating the collection of their talking points I simply wrapped them in the frame of "basis." By using this frame, I explained, potential opponents can be challenged to explain their basis for maintaining confidence in this obviously broken system. No one I've met has ever tried to argue for the existence of a basis for confidence. This is also a winning frame when we say the comprehensive election reform platform we advocate sets out to create a new basis for confidence.

When we had labeled the major criticisms (disenfranchisement was the most emphasized through various types of examples) we moved on to what would become the RESOLVE clauses found at the bottom of the resolution. For a context, I asked them to imagine we were building a whole new political system from scratch - what would it take to create a basis for confidence? Here too the suggestions were mostly familiar but generated by a group of people who now have ownership of creating their own draft version of a No Confidence Resolution.

This workshop was only attended by what seemed like seasoned public servants (nee activists). At the end of presentations I typically offer specific action steps that people can take on the smallest levels. This time, that was not necessary. Instead, I offered the macro frame outlined in the No Confidence Movement Strategy and Talking Points Primer calling for repeatedly asking the question "has the Consent of the Governed been withdrawn, yet?" with the passage of each No Confidence Resolution.

The Greens are very active in both SF and Berkeley and they know how to conduct an issue campaign and get it to the Supes or City Council. Now both groups have members prepared and planning to make the case for their entire membership to back No Confidence. That is the best I could have hoped for last night. Expect more Bay Area updates coming soon.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

UPDATE: Voter Confidence Committee Workshop Bumped Up One Hour

The Voter Confidence Committee will be tabling and doing a workshop on IRV/RCV (Ranked Choice Voting) at The Edilith Eckart Community Involvement Day this Saturday (3/26) at the Arcata Community Center. The event is from 10 AM to 5 PM and the workshop is now set for 1:15 in the Senior Dining Room. Our next regular meeting will be Monday (3/28) at 7pm at the Liquid Cafe in the Burre Center in Eureka. Everyone is welcome. You can expect to leave with a precise sense of what to do next to move forward with election reform in Humboldt County.

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Humboldt County Supervisor John Woolley Considers No Confidence

Humboldt County Supervisor John Woolley and I met for about 25 minutes on Wednesday. As he had cautioned me to expect, he had not yet made his way through Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections or the No Confidence Resolution, both of which I gave to him and each of the other Supes on 3/15.

Since I had never met John before, part of the experience was forming first impressions. I definitely believe him that he intends to read what I provided, and more, to educate himself on the decision the Board will soon have to make about buying new election machines. I wouldn't want to characterize how little or much familiarity he may have with the many thousands of reported issues from the 2004 general "election," but I can say that he was not in denial and very open to hearing what the No Confidence Movement is about.

When I presented John with another copy of the resolution, there was a sense of recognition that I took as a good sign. Perhaps it was just due to having glanced at it when I gave him the earlier copy, or maybe all the media exposure really is elevating awareness.

At any rate, given all the circumstances, I felt like my mission was less about encouraging support for the resolution and more about making the case against buying new machines, and in particular Diebold machines. It is not the strongest of all the talking points, but I emphasized that corporations have inherent conflicts of interest in administering elections because the results have a direct bearing on their only reason for existing which is shareholder profits. Further, with the track record of the machines, the partisanship of the machine makers, and the convicted felons they employ, how can Humboldt County countenance doing business with such companies?

John's response seemed less a counter argument and more of judgment of how that particular argument would fly. He doesn't seem inclined to use this frame. We made mention of framing several times, including my offering about "basis" for confidence being a keyword, and also Consent of the Governed. John didn't exactly pick up "basis" but he did talk about making a positive statement describing the elements of a new and better election system. This, of course, is exactly the way the resolution is structured and absolutely supports the concept of creating a basis for confidence where none currently exists.

Another element of the resolution that we discussed was the call for Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). Like several others before him, John acknowledged the achievement of getting Eureka City Councilmembers Chris Kerrigan and Mike Jones on the same page. The pair will co-sponsor a town hall forum on April 28. I realize as I write this that a good habit to take up is asking people flat out what their position is on something. I don't know John's take on IRV although he specifically mentioned Humboldt County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams being "agnostic." John gave me the impression that he would like to be pragmatically curious.

Supervisor John Woolley was entirely approachable and easy to talk to. He had a gentle way of saying it was time to close the topic, but let's chat like people while we finish our beverages. I will definitely follow up with him next week. Of the other four Supes, Bonnie Neely is the only other one to have returned my initial phone message. Unfortunately we've played phone tag. It seems the Supes' staff are able to schedule their appointments so perhaps I'll just politely ask my way to more government access.

That will all wait for next week because I'm off to San Francisco to do a No Confidence workshop at the headquarters of the SF Green Party. My friend Pat was able to secure the office space but it is not an official Green event.

Election Reform Workshop - The No Confidence Movement
Friday, March 25 @ 7:30pm
SF Green Party HQ - 1028 A Howard Street, between 6th and 7th

One last thing for now. On Monday night the Voter Confidence Committee had its first meeting. This is the organization we are building to pursue the creation of a basis for confidence in U.S. federal elections through the specific reforms outlined in the resolution. We are the other co-sponsor for Eureka's town hall forum. VCC will be tabling and doing a workshop on IRV/RCV (Ranked Choice Voting) at The Edilith Eckart Community Involvement Day this Saturday (3/26) at the Arcata Community Center. The event is from 10 AM to 5 PM and the workshop is at 2:15 in the Senior Dining Room. We are also having another organizing meeting on Monday (3/28) at 7pm at the Liquid Cafe in the Burre Center in Eureka. Please join us.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

GuvWurld Named Media Liaison For Humboldt Peace Ambassador

In mid-April, retired Arcata educator Linda Sorter will fly to Washington D.C. in her capacity as Humboldt County's first Peace Ambassador. On Tuesday evening, Linda requested that GuvWurld serve as her liaison to the media of Humboldt County during her travels. Madam Ambassador will be filing at least one report daily with GuvWurld which will then coordinate with the mainstream press. According to Linda, Estelle Fennel, news director of KMUD radio, has already asked to arrange daily contact with GuvWurld.

The Peace Ambassadorship is on an open rotating basis. Individuals wishing to serve at least a two-week term including a visit to Washington D.C. should contact me and I will put you in touch with the leaders of Communities For Peace. CFP is planning to devote considerable resources to support and sustain Ambassadors, including stipends to cover most or all expenses, educational briefings on issues, and legwork to arrange meetings and media coverage.

According to both Ambassador Sorter and CFP organizer Ellen Taylor, the program will aim to spark the launch of similar Ambassadorships in other communities. While the emphasis and priority will be to stop the war, no issue exists in a vacuum and the effects of war can be can be presented in the contexts of other concerns. For example, Linda, the former teacher, intends to gather statements from teachers representing every school district in the county in order to show the budget fallout and to provide feedback on No Child Left Behind. Upon arriving in D.C., we can expect Linda to spotlight the poverty found within sight of the White House, as well as to visit military hospitals and cemeteries. Meetings have already been arranged with Rep. Mike Thompson and Sen. Barbara Boxer.

For more background on the Peace Ambassador project, see this GuvWurld blog entry from last Friday. I can now confirm it was written by Ellen Taylor and published that same day in the fledgling conservative newspaper The Eureka Reporter. Similarly, Kathryn Hedges' brilliant letter to the Arcata City Council, also posted in the GuvWurld blog on Friday, has apparently been published in the latest edition of the weekly Arcata Eye though it is not available online.

Everything mentioned above comes under the heading of advocacy journalism, an oft affirmed GuvWurld secondary mission. I am invested in the outcome of events and report on the news I am able to help create. To that end, on Wednesday afternoon I'll be meeting with Humboldt County Supervisor John Woolley to discuss the County's impending decision on purchasing election equipment, as well as the No Confidence Resolution (I hope). I'll post an update on that here tomorrow night.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Judge Finds Secret Service Violated Protester's Rights

There are several interesting things about this story (GuvWurld News Archive). I first found it on BuzzFlash. When I put an AP story in the Archive I always use Google News to find two or more websites running it. In this case, there were only three total and they all used the same headline: "City says it can't afford security for presidential, VP visits." I chose quite a different headline for this story-within-a-story.

Here are the sites:

Even though the story is in Evansville, IN, all three of those sites are in Kentucky. Much more interesting:
U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney ruled Thursday that police violated [arrested activist John] Blair's First and Fourth Amendment rights. The size of the no-protest zone "burdened speech substantially more than was necessary to further the defendants' goal of safety," McKinney wrote.
This so-called "no-protest zone" is the flip side of the more commonly mentioned "free speech zone." Free speech zones are of course Orwellian in that they actually abridge free speech, plus the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Shredding the First Amendment is just for starters. Consider that the Consent of the Governed is neither accepted nor sought, it is denied and deemed irrelevant. So on the one hand, John Blair's exoneration is certainly a measure of justice; but on the other, Judge McKinney validates the general principle of the zones. Blair's real victory is a false win for the rest of us.

The real title of the article describes an equally interesting situation:
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - After being "used like a pair of work gloves" by the Secret Service, Evansville no longer can afford to provide security for presidential and vice presidential visits, the city attorney said.

Evansville City Attorney David Jones also criticized the Secret Service for refusing to provide evidence, testimony and witnesses to help defend the city against a lawsuit brought by environmental activist following a 2002 arrest outside a fund-raiser featuring Vice President Dick Cheney.

A federal judge ruled Thursday the city must pay undetermined damages to the activist for violating his free speech rights.
That this city can't afford a visit from our naked emperors made me wonder how many others can't afford it either? Do any of them have a context for announcing such a thing? What context is needed? If none, what is there to be gained by announcing it simply as civil disobedience? Could there be advantages to doing the opposite, to aggressively announcing invitations to visit when they would never be accepted anyway?

I'm going to take this up with Peace Ambassador Linda Sorter when I interview her Tuesday night. I intend to renew yet again my ongoing commitment to advocacy journalism by trying to help her on her journey and promote her work.

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Saturday, March 19, 2005


I've made lots of little changes starting with the mundane switch of the links from the right to the left. Recently added links include: a new radio interview on No Confidence; a 12 minute video of the presentation that got the Humboldt Greens to endorse the No Confidence Resolution; and I added a link to a new section of the GuvWurld News Archive reserved for materials on Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). This is inside another new and broader section created for election reform. You'll also now find a No Confidence Movement heading in the archive nav bar. It is unfortunate that I placed the original folder under Campaign 2004. It is not visible all the time and I can't move it or hundreds of links would break. Now there is a shortcut in the main list of topics.

Fred Mangels is now a fellow Humboldt County blogger so I want to welcome him to the blogosphere. In his first week or so of blogging he wrote an entry about the No Confidence Resolution. I appreciate any attention drawn to it, criticism and all. I'll write an actual response in the next few days. Meanwhile, Fred's now among the links in the nav bar.

Due to complaints about the Comments feature being quirky I ditched what I had and threw in Blogger's totally suitable system. This did unfortunately cause me to lose the comments that were here.

And last, I was re-reading the strategy and talking points Primer and realized two things. First, I've done a lot of what I wrote up there in November. Sometimes I feel like I'm making it all up as I'm going along here but actually I did write a plan and I've stuck to it.

The other thought was that I hadn't updated the Primer as I imagined I'd be doing. So I've tweaked it a little and added a few new thoughts. It really is the blueprint for everything happening through this site. The most important new item:
I can not overstate the importance of understanding that the No Confidence Resolution posted on this site is a TEMPLATE. This needs to fly in town after town and they don't all have to call for exactly the same reforms. The key frames that make the No Confidence Movement work are BASIS and Consent. As I recently learned in Rebecca Solnit's "Hope In The Dark," revolution is not a mere change in leadership but a shift in the balance of power between the people and their government. Of course, if we are not having a say in elections, in influencing changes in leadership, then how could revolution be anything less than restoring the franchise, and how could that not be a shift in the balance of power?
This has emerged as a way to address groups that get bogged down arguing over precise wording while discussing the No Confidence Resolution, despite an overall sense of approval. It is a hallmark trait of progressives and the notoriously fractured so-called left. It is sabotage and I see it and I'm calling it as I see it and I'm making a win-win offering that allows us not to defeat ourselves. Even if you've read the Primer previously, give it another glance.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Communities For Peace Introduces Peace Ambassador

At the Eureka peace rally scheduled to start in just a few hours, Communities For Peace will announce Linda Sorter as the first designated Peace Ambassador. For more details, read on. I think the author of the following is Ellen Taylor but I will post a correction if necessary. This was submitted as an opinion piece for the Eureka Reporter but I don't think it has yet been published.


U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East is a moral and legal imperative. In pursuit of this objective, local peace organizations have invited everyone to a rally this Saturday, March 19th to oppose the war in Iraq, joining other community demonstrations throughout the nation and around the world. Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose the war, yet, in spite of massive and repeated protests, the occupation is entering its third year, with no sign of ending. As of today, 1516 of our soldiers have died and 11,220 been wounded. The casualty rates are increasing: 58% more deaths, 178% more wounded in the occupation’s second year. Damage to Iraq, of course, is incalculable.

All this is is a heavy responsibility for us as citizens to bear and the effectiveness of rallies in ending the war was naturally called into question. Especially for communities as remote from the seat of power as Humboldt’s, there is a sense of helplessness, of total inability to influence the flow of events. Moreover, our news sources are increasingly propaganda-tainted, with information prepackaged by State Department PR firms, and distributed by local TV stations as if it were real news. It is on this dubious product that most of us are obliged to form an opinion.

Communities for Peace therefore made the decision to send to Washington a permanent Peace Ambassador. Our Ambassadors will be ordinary Humboldt County residents with no special expertise in diplomacy. They will employ their virtue and common sense to counter the lobbyists whose only loyalty is to the special interests that pay them. The Ambassadors will work for peace, assisting our elected representatives toward this objective. They will be meeting with the government agencies affecting policy and funding for local services, such as education, fire and police, all drained by the war budget.

The Ambassadorship will be filled on a rotating basis, with service for two weeks or more. Anyone is eligible to serve, and urged to apply. Expenses will be paid, if needed, with funds raised by Communities For Peace.

Many people say they are not interested in politics. What they probably mean is that politics frightens them. They certainly do not mean that they are not interested in their own quality of life, their financial security, their health, their children’s education, all matters which depend on politics. Traveling to Washington as Peace Ambassador, however, might seem a formidable undertaking. Communities For Peace will prepare any Humboldt County resident for the office, providing background on relevant issues, scheduling appointments, Thus, the program will provide a civic education and empower members of our community as citizens in a working democracy.

The trend toward secretiveness in government demands more participation, not acquiescence. We anticipate other communities to follow our lead and send their own citizen Ambassadors.

As the great jurist-king Hammurabi wrote in 1800BC in a land now known as Iraq, "The first duty of government is to protect the powerless against the powerful." Peace Ambassadors are an important step in returning to this fundamental principle of justice, and restoring peace.

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Kathryn Hedges (P)responds To GuvWurld Comments on War Resisters Resolution

On Wednesday morning I received a great note in response to my last entry. Kathryn Hedges wrote to say she shares my views on Arcata's proposed war resisters resolution. In fact, just prior to Monday's town hall forum she authored a terrific letter to the Arcata City Council on this subject. It mirrored so closely what I wrote Tuesday night that I asked for and received Kathryn's permission to publish her letter here (it was also submitted to the Arcata Eye).

> To the City Council:
> Although I agree that the war in Iraq is morally unsound and there are
> grounds for considering it illegal, I do not believe that Dave
> Meserve's City Resolution is a productive action.
> Such a Resolution should only be adopted if there is consensus in the
> community. We did not have consensus at the City Council meeting, and
> I doubt the Town Hall meeting tonight will convert the non-believers.
> Consider the unintended consequences of the Resolution: this is a slap
> in the face to those who served in the armed forces, and to those who
> disagree with Dave Meserve's view on the war. If we want our minority
> opinion to be heard in Washington, it is hypocritical to ignore our
> community members who disagree with the opinion of the week. We have
> enough polarizing issues in the community, such as the homeless
> situation, logging, and Town vs. Gown, without inventing one.
> I am also dismayed that consideration of this Resolution has postponed
> debate on a matter that stands a better chance of gaining consensus:
> the No Confidence Resolution. Although I, and most people I've spoken
> with, agree the local elections are operated fairly and legally,
> nobody is satisfied with the national situation. Electronic
> touch-screen voting is a very cost-ineffective way to count votes--it
> isn't even particularly accurate. Unfair allocation of equipment has
> become a means to discriminate against minority voters in some areas
> of the country. I was concerned when I heard that Humboldt County is
> considering adoption of the infamous Diebold touch-screen ballot
> machines, which makes the No Confidence issue time-sensitive. We need
> to be sure that our votes count the way we cast them, even if we don't
> need to worry about discrimination at the polls. Consider that if the
> 2000 election had been completely fair and aboveboard, George W. Bush
> may not have become President, thus preventing the Iraq War. It also
> makes more sense for a City government to be concerned with the
> workings of democracy than of military or foreign policy.
> Although the City Council certainly spends more of its time taking
> care of normal community business than it does on Resolutions, these
> national issues tend to occupy a disproportionate amount of people's
> energy and attention. We need to consider carefully what causes we
> support in this manner, lest we trivialize our City Resolutions into
> the "issue of the week," diluting any effect on our national audience.
> Thank you for reading my opinion on this matter.
> Sincerely,
> Kathryn Hedges

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

New Fronts Open in Humboldt Election Reform Efforts

Late Monday evening I received a call from Humboldt County Green Party Chairman Greg Allen informing me that the Board of Supervisors was going to be discussing buying touch screen voting machines at their Tuesday meeting. By 8:30 Tuesday morning I was at Kinko's making several copies of Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections (.pdf) and by 9:15 I was at my first Supes meeting. (Incidentally, is tracking a national effort to get this document in the hands of every single election official in the country).

I hadn't seen this at the time, but here (.pdf) is a letter submitted to the Board by Clerk-Recorder Carolyn Wilson Crnich. It makes it seem like the Department of Elections isn't exactly sure what it wants to recommend to the Board. In this way, at least, the Board may not be feeling pressure related to the deadline of Jan. 1 2006 when "The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires that every polling place have a disabled-friendly voting device." The Dept also presents its machine options amid a murky collection of uncertainties about which ones have proper certifications. I did not really grasp how seemingly uncommitted the Board was when I stood to address them.

Just before I took the podium, Supervisor Jill Geist made a comment about the "sanctity of the vote". I seized on this and immediately thanked her for that, suggesting this was exactly the orientation their deliberations ought to take. This is worth noting because the headline in Wednesday's Eureka Times-Standard was:
"New county voting system required by 2006: Supes: 'Sanctity of vote' important in search for replacement system"
I am quoted towards the end of the article, taken directly from my public comment to the Board. It also says that Crnich wants to include Greg Allen, myself, and others in the selection process.

This is a welcome sign and an opportunity that I will certainly embrace. In fact, not only did I give each Supe a copy of the 35 page double-sided Myth Breakers, it was just too easy to work in the argument for No Confidence and provide them all with copies of the resolution.

I have no read yet on how it will be received but I will try to make a round of calls on Friday. Meanwhile, the Board took no action and will not revisit this until April 5. If this is indeed a new front, we've got to put together a turnout to show that there is a meaningful number of people not content to accept bogus elections, and certainly not the knowing expenditure of our funds on discredited technology (aka "fraud boxes").

Pass this on: That George W. Bush won an election is a conspiracy theory.

Tuesday was a really long day. In the early afternoon, Scott Menzies and I met with Eureka City Councilmembers Chris Kerrigan and Mike Jones. The planning is now quite detailed for the April 28 Town Hall Forum on Ranked Choice Voting. We are currently working on developing a timeline of milestones between a successful forum and actual implementation of RCV. The forum will get repeated mentions from the main stage during this Saturday's peace rally in Eureka. We are also going to divide the post-rally workshop into 15 minutes on No Confidence and 15 minutes for Scott to present RCV and promote the forum.

The election reform table at the rally will bear the name Voter Confidence Committee and it should be set up by 10am (in Halvorsen Park by the Adorni Center) should you want to help "man" it or grab a stack of leaflets to hand out to the assembling crowd. In addition to the workshop and promoting the forum our main goal has to be getting people activated for volunteer work. I'm working the phone list of those subscribed to the GuvWurld blog mailing list, but please don't wait to hear from me.

And there is still more from Tuesday.

By prior agreement, I was supposed to make public comments at the Eureka City Council meeting. The point was to report on the Board meeting from that morning, to provide a copy of Myth Breakers, and to again plug the forum in a public arena. Chris Kerrigan has promised to make a more formal announcement at the next Council meeting so that he can get the forum mentioned in writing on the agenda. A lengthy discussion about a church playground preceded public comment. Because I had also been invited to address the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee that evening, Scott wound up addressing the Council in my place.

Less than a mile away I joined the Dems' meeting already in progress. In a small room of about 20 people, I tried to begin my No Confidence rap by checking in to see where the group was at - did anybody there have total and complete faith in our elections? I greatly appreciated being told to get on with it, that everybody's on the same page there.

So, while feeling rushed but hoping to seem poised, I spoke about the resolution in general terms. I mentioned what has become a very standard talking point that I don't write much about. That is, the resolution is a template that any group or Council or whatever can modify to their liking and that this is preferable to debates over minutia. I emphasized that there are two parts to the template that are most important and shouldn't be changed, namely the frame around "basis" for confidence and also Consent of the Governed. I mentioned a few times that the power of these points lay in the framing. After not much more than five minutes the group voted to send the resolution to an action committee that would look at it more closely and consider putting it on a future agenda for discussion and possible endorsement. Call it new front #2. Tuesday was a long day.

One last thing for now, since it was so high profile this week, a few comments on Arcata's Town Hall Forum discussing the resolution (scroll down) "to support troops who refuse to serve in illegal wars." I went in ambivalent about the resolution because I like the spirit and intent of it but I see that it would have basic challenges of practicality and make a lot people mad. I doubt if the discussions at the forum changed anybody's mind, though it was definitely a positive thing to get people talking this way. It seemed to me that people mostly talked past each other without listening very much. The instructions would have been better had we been asked to find a single thing to agree upon and then use that limited consensus as a foundation for building upwards. Instead, tables of 8-10 people were each asked to produce two lists, reasons for and against the resolution. Instead of guiding people towards agreement, the exercise was oriented around dichotomy. We heard a split opinion which should surprise no one.

The Arcata City Council met Wednesday night and spent about three hours on this topic. I wouldn't want to try to account for everybody's opinion or position but in the end, Vice Mayor Dave Meserve was left with no other Councilmember willing to fully support the resolution as it stands. Dave will now be working on a massive simplification effort to pare down to a single paragraph at most. That will be brought back for further discussion and then ultimately a ballot measure will be created.

I realize now that part of my ambivalence prior to the forum stemmed from a feeling that the debate on this topic would turn up the heat so high on raising national issues that the Council would feel unable to keep their promise about bringing No Confidence forward. Or that it would come forward but under increased attack for it's national scope.

Seeing there was nothing I could do about being pre-empted (Meserve put No Confidence on the back burner until the war resisters resolution has played out), I now realize I had to suppress resentment connected to the anticipated likelihood of the forum's fallout. From my view, the nature of the resolution was inherently divisive, the approach to dealing with it exacerbated the differences rather than directly striving to overcome them, and I felt like the unlikely best case scenario could not compare with what we still hope for with No Confidence. That's a little more inside my head than the GuvWurld blog usually gets but this forum did become intensely personal and we do need to consider the way this original front was changed by it.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Upcoming Events and New Links

Monday March 14 - Arcata, CA Town Hall Meeting on the resolution (scroll down) "to support troops who refuse to serve in illegal wars." 6:30 p.m. Arcata Community Center, Senior Room, 321 Community Park Way, Arcata,

Tuesday March 15 - No Confidence Resolution/Ranked Choice Voting presentation for the Humboldt County (CA) Democratic Central Committee. 7pm. Democratic HQ, 129 Fifth Street, Eureka, CA.

Saturday March 19 - Election reform workshops throughout the day in conjunction with the Eureka, CA peace rally. 11am. Near Adorni Center (?), 1011 Waterfront Drive, Eureka (map).

Friday March 25 - No Confidence presentation. 7:30pm. San Francisco Green Party HQ, 1028 A Howard Street, between 6th and 7th, SF, CA.

Thursday April 28 - Eureka, CA Town Hall Forum on Ranked Choice Voting. 6pm. Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina Way, Eureka, CA.

Here are some resources for learning more about Ranked Choice Voting:

Also check out the great work happening in Davis, CA where the Davis Citizens For Representation have a site with lots of good election info and also an ongoing narrative of their efforts to adopt Choice Voting. The Davis Governance Task Force is currently drafting a recommendation for the City Council. This is a signifacant step for them and a path we will likely try to emulate in Eureka.

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Is America going broke?

A friend sent a "must read" article ("Is America Going Broke?") from the historic Canadian publication Macleans (which is celebrating its 100th year). The rest of my friend's preamble said:
"Excellent piece on the financial crisis our country is facing from the Canadian perspective. The author and the economists he quotes paint a very scary picture that effects [sic] interest rates, unemployment, real estate markets, the value of the dollar, health care costs, education costs, etc."
This article does tie these threads together, and as my friend also noted, does not require you to be an economist to understand it. It was both powerful and easily digestible.

The article does not shy away from allowing Mr. Bush or the U.S. to appear in a bad light. That is, it does not apply what now seems like the standard Americorporate media kid glove treatment that is bastardizing the objective recording of the events of these times. There was mention that recent budgets have been put forth fallaciously, lacking estimates for war costs, but there was no mention of the Pentagon as an inordinate suck on the U.S. budget. There was no accounting for the economic fallout of the supposedly inevitable terror attack we're told to expect here in America, nor was the connection made between Pentagon behavior and incentive to attack the U.S.

There is always going to be something that is outside the scope of whatever one is writing. As I read this article, I kept hoping I'd find a section on Peak Oil. The number of threads woven together was indeed comprehensive but not all inclusive. I thought of a phrase I'd recently used somewhere else: You can tell no lies and still not tell the truth. This is not about nitpicking but rather further defining ruthless honesty. No discussion of global economic factors is complete without Peak Oil.

The current hot topic within the economic sphere is Social Security. This manufactured crisis is forcing a frame of legitimacy around forecasts 30 or more years in the future. Current uncertainties, awaiting the tipping point of chaos, make adopting such distant predictions laughable at best. How can we have a serious discussion about the world in 2040 when our willful ignorance precludes considering the end of air travel (a real potential ripple of Peak Oil)? Or the privatization of water? Or the corporate control of crop seeds? Or the weaponization of space? Or the likelihood of unabashed totalitarianism or revolution or both in one or more major industrialized nation, including the U.S.?

Is America Going Broke? is an obvious question at this point and it is not an exaggeration. By anybody's definition, trillions in the hole is broke. The more apt title would have been How Long Can America Stay Afloat? or perhaps, At the Morgue of Nations, Who Will Claim the Bloated Corpse of America? This characterization is hardly more negative or extreme than the economic experts in the article. I'm merely broadening the context to include factors I see as most likely to precipitate the collapse we're otherwise told is inevitable.


Also see: Warren Buffett Betting Against U.S. Dollar

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Eureka Confirms Town Hall Forum on April 28

On April 28, Eureka City Councilmembers Chris Kerrigan and Mike Jones will co-sponsor a town hall forum on Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). The event begins at 6pm in the Wharfinger Building in Eureka. Participants can expect to learn about RCV by voting in elections that will be tabulated during the meeting.

One of the interesting things I've learned in the past two weeks is that Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), which I've advocated for several years, is really just one way of tabulating votes in the broader category of RCV elections. The two terms are not interchangeable. All IRV is RCV, but not all RCV is IRV.

I've done a bunch of reading lately, including the San Francisco Department of Elections report on their first RCV election; and I read about Condorcet, the pairwise method of RCV that pits each candidate against each other candidate within a race. Since we don't want to be discussing algorithms at the forum, we're going to keep the complicated details for another day. The single high-level goal is for people to leave clamoring for RCV.

On Thursday afternoon, Scott Menzies and I presented Councilmembers Kerrigan and Jones with a proposed format for the gathering. To my delighted surprise, there were no objections, and several positive remarks. I'm ordinarily inclined to write more detail but it feels premature, and oddly, like it could influence the efficacy of town hall forum.

In the wake of the dissolution of the Election Response Committee, I am hereby introducing the Voter Confidence Committee as a new unifying front for election reform. I'm not sure yet if this name will be associated with the forum but it will be visible at the March 19 peace rally in Eureka. Check out my workshop on election reform. Also, we could use two or three volunteers to help Scott with the table, please.

In a bit of stale news, last week Arcata Vice Mayor Dave Meserve informed me that the No Confidence Resolution would not come before the Council until April. This is because Arcata is now also preparing for a town hall forum on March 14. That gathering will be to discuss the conscientious objector resolution (scroll down) proposing protections for people who wish to avoid participating in illegal wars.

The energy of this community is a wondrous thing and it is awakening with a surge of empowerment. The supposedly intangible vibration has been impossible for me to ignore. Have you sensed it too? It's the realization that change is the most inevitable thing of all. So if you're going to have an influence on the future, what would that look like? Try to think without limits about what would be better?

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