Category: Politics

Low Carbon Footprint Future

A friend asked what people thought a sustainable lifestyle for Americans would look like.

Hopefully we go the route of larger, centralized change. Power producers move to renewable sources. I thought work-from-home would be a big thing from a resource usage reduction standpoint — I drive a couple of miles a week on average. Technology is there to support it for a lot of people, but it took a pandemic shutdown to actually get people working from home. Hopefully that sticks as a post-pandemic norm. Food production is a huge one to me — even if the entire population drastically reduces meat consumption, mainstream agricultural practices are still destructive.

On an individual level? There will need to be a lot of adjustments to what constitutes “normal”. More preserved foods (I mean naturally like the canned/pickled stuff) to reduce the need for refrigeration (there are 34 cubic ft refrigerators that pull like 850kWh a year!!!). Product availability too. I like banana and mango; but, short of figuring out how to have a banana tree in a walipini, that’s silly stuff to be eating regularly in Ohio.

What people envision as a “lawn” changes. The amount of resources, time, and effort it takes to sustain non-native grass plants … such a waste. Long term, I hope to see taller plants becoming socially acceptable … but I’d love to see a move away from the broad spectrum herbicide / fertilizer / constant watering approach to turf management even if someone is still mowing it every week.

Expectations around landscaping change to focus on edible landscaping — I’ve seen some people create visually stunning landscaping that produces fruits, nuts, and veggies. Since a lot of resources go into growing, transporting, and storing foods … anything that increases local production seems like a good direction. And it’s not like it’s harder to maintain a wall of flowering vines that happen to produce beans than a wall of vines that happen to produce … non-edible seeds for more flowering vines.

Single-stream recycling goes away. Yes, it’s a pain to separate colored and clear glass, metal cans, different numbered plastics, etc. But what we’ve got now is a lot of broken glass shards, unusable paper and cardboard, and plastics littering up a lot of other countries. No more kaolin clay on paper either — piles of that anywhere that’s been buying up Western recyclables. But seeing a glossy page in a magazine or a glossy advertisement in your mailbox will make you wonder how that company could be so irresponsible.

Used goods become more socially acceptable. The resources to manufacture something are a sunk cost. Maximize the useful life of products and the benefit from that fixed cost goes up. I remember my sister getting snippy with my mom for gifting her kids “used clothing”. It was clean, undamaged … perfectly serviceable clothing. Babies outgrow clothing too quickly to wear stuff out. Stain it, sure. But that’s easy enough to avoid. The resources that go into making a little shirt that a kid can wear for three months is astonishing if you think about it. And it makes total sense for six different kids to get use out of that resource expenditure. The one dealership around here has a 20 year warranty on their cars — and people drive the thing for a three year lease! A corollary to this is the eliminating the expectation that something’s going to fail in a year or two. Consumer pressure on manufacturers to spend the extra buck to make a long-lasting product that works for a decade or three (or will have a decent resale value if I only use it for a year). Same for fixing things — which may mean the return of local repair shops (when was the last time you got a vacuum repaired?) or may mean people learn to fix stuff themselves.

Commercialized re-use — I got an arctic fleece that’s made from plastic bottles & the company is set up to take back their fleece material, melt it down, and run it back through the production line. IIRC, they would cover shipping it back. Totally doing that with the jacket I made my daughter when she outgrows it. She had a little blurb in one of her school books last year about a company collecting used gum in containers along the streets and making stuff (rain boots!) from the used gum. I got a whole ewwwww! thinking about it … but realistically, it’s processed. I’m certain a lot of companies could have us ship back their products, do something, and turn it around into a new product. My ideal world would have people recycling plastic at home into 3d printer resin … but that’s a long way from mainstream.

Shared resources are something I don’t see becoming popular for most items. Unfortunate since the seven houses in my neighborhood could all share a single set of yard tools. But normalized work/weekend times mean *everyone* would have needed the mower on the sunny Saturday this week. Routine maintenance is one thing – predictable and easily divided out. But you go to pull the chainsaw out of the common shed and find the chain broken … buying your own chainsaw looks more appealing. Hiring out more services achieves a similar material reduction. Transporting the mower around is a resource drain, but one person with one piece of equipment can cut the lawns of a few dozen people. I could see service providers start advertising the environmental benefits of using their services — and people happily picking that up as the Right Thing To Do (with bonus extra free time).

There’s certainly efficiency to a lot of people living in small apartments — we could construct, maintain, heat, and cool the same 50k sq ft of space and support 25 people with 2k sq ft flats or 100 people with 500 sq ft flats. Possibly moving to more shared spaces coupled with efficiency-style flats — bit of a cultural shift to be relaxing, cooking, etc in communal spaces, but it’s certainly a more efficient use of space. Breaking buildings up into smaller flats may well increase population density. Potentially straining infrastructure (Atlanta traffic in the early 2000’s), water resources (may not currently be a problem in a lot of cities, but think about Cape Town with *more* people crammed in there) … and increased population density within cities might appeal to those already living in an urban environment, but it’s a nightmare scenario for people who like living in rural areas. Can make a sales pitch for living in a rural area too: some of an individual’s environmental impact comes from their food consumption. Not much is growing in the tiny flat, even if the complex does a community garden on the roof. The proliferation of “victory gardens” is big in my picture of reduced carbon footprint life.

I’m thinking developers start to include shared utility systems — most people I know who live in the suburbs don’t have enough space for geothermal HVAC or solar/wind farms. But the HOA could own a loop field run along roads and green-space areas. Hook up to the loop field like you would water or gas. The HOA could own alt energy facilities that produce energy for the neighborhood. Including a community garden in the development plan. Then again, I thought HOA’s would take over channel assignment for WiFi networks … I may vastly overestimate both the things about which people are willing to cede control and underestimate the number of things the HOA board wants to enforce. To some extent, apartment complexes could do the same thing — solar roof and windows, geothermal under the carpark (yeah, you run the risk of a leak meaning the carpark is ripped up … there are logistics to think through). Far more efficient construction either way — half of my house is underground & I basically cool it to cut down on humidity. Stays around 50 without heat in the winter too … which is uncomfortably cold, but I’ve always been curious what I could maintain with no energy input if the *whole* house was underground.

Problem is … I doubt many of these changes are ones people will make voluntarily. It’s less fun, less convenient, costs more (and I don’t mean to say time and money aren’t legit concerns — just that they are barriers to adopting a less impactful lifestyle). Which brings me to the apocalyptic (non-voluntary and quick) return to pre-industrialized interactions with the planet after massive environmental catastrophe option. Which is essentially the “do nothing” approach. I mean, I can blow 50k on solar/wind/batteries, run my geothermal heat off of said alt energy sources, drive the same electric car I’ve had for a decade, convert my property into a sustainable farm. Not buy any new stuff — maybe start growing cotton and get some sheep so I’m making my own clothes. 3D print with plastics I pick up from recycling centers. All sorts of extreme changes. Drop in the bucket as far a global environmental impact goes. And it’s not like it’s a set of changes that scales well. No changes for some time … then no one will be buying stuff because there’s no store. Or petrol to get there. Or electrical grid to power it. You’ll be eating what’s scavenged or produced within a few miles of your house because that’s all that’s available. Patching up that old sweatshirt because the alternative is no shirt.

What matters

Problem is that the ‘all lives matter’ response encompasses both the rational assertion that, yeah, all lives matter and the unhinged belief that, systemically and institutionally, all people get the same treatment.
The best response I’ve heard to ‘all lives matter’ is ‘no one needed to be told that *your* life matters’. Spent some time contemplating that idea. Historically, lives have not been ascribed the same value — healers, religious leaders, kings had more value than peasants, criminals, mentally ill, physically ill. Romans enslaved defeated nations and demanded tribute. I’m sure the best hunters in prehistoric tribes got preferential treatment. Academic agreement that all lives matter is fairly modern. It takes time for people’s beliefs and default actions to change.
Strange comparison, but I had a maths professor who had started Uni when electronic calculators first went mainstream. You’d do the problem and, if you had time, use the calculator to check your work. It took years of conditioning to get a “the calculator is going to be right” mindset. By the time he finished his PhD, a lot of people would use the calculator and then check the calculator’s work. He mentioned the story because, by the time I was in Uni, encountering a long addition problem had any student grabbing their calculator instead of a sheet of paper. Default state, over 30 years, had changed. And it would never have occurred to any of us to *check the calculator’s work*. Sounds silly even saying it. Which gives me hope that people’s default actions will eventually actualize the idea that all lives matter.

Minority Rule

‘Having more Reps than any other state’ does not mean “the population is equitably represented”. The number of people represented by those Representatives (or electoral college delegates, for that matter)? Each House member represents ~702k Californians. Each electoral delegate represents ~677k Californians.
Congressional apportionment isn’t fractional, so there’s over- and under- representation — the distribution just advantages different states. Rhode Island had just over a million people in the 2010 census but have two reps — each of those individuals represent some 500k Rhode Islanders. There are states that fair worse in the HoR — Montana had just under a million and have one rep.
Taking the American government as a whole — low-population density states are over-represented in the Senate and Electoral College — which also means they are over-represented in SCOTUS. Asserting “the majority have a chance to win one half of the Legislature … a chance to create an impasse where nothing gets done” isn’t the most functional form of government imaginable. I understand and appreciate the “minority rights” idea behind over-representation. And, obviously, those in the minority will view the situation differently. But there’s a difference between the minority having enough power to force compromises toward their position and minority rule with … well, seemingly “fuck you”. Or minority rule with a majority who are able to prevent legislative changes (leading to the prevalence of Executive Orders).


Number of people represented by each rep in the Senate:

This is where I’d know small populations are over-represented. Two senators regardless of population — a state with a hundred residents would have two senators. Obviously we don’t have a state with a hundred residents — but the least populous states are the ‘best deal for residents’ list — lowest number of people represented by each Senator

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Senators # Represented per Senator
52  Wyoming 563,626 2                                     281,813.0
50  Vermont 625,741 2                                     312,870.5
49  North Dakota 672,591 2                                     336,295.5
48  Alaska 710,231 2                                     355,115.5
47  South Dakota 814,180 2                                     407,090.0
46  Delaware 897,934 2                                     448,967.0
45  Montana 989,415 2                                     494,707.5
44  Rhode Island 1,052,567 2                                     526,283.5
43  New Hampshire 1,316,470 2                                     658,235.0
42  Maine 1,328,361 2                                     664,180.5

And the most populous sates are the ‘worst deal for residents’ list — highest number of people represented by  each Senator

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Senators # Represented per Senator
1  California 37,253,956 2                               18,626,978.0
2  Texas 25,145,561 2                               12,572,780.5
3  New York 19,378,102 2                                  9,689,051.0
4  Florida 18,801,310 2                                  9,400,655.0
5  Illinois 12,830,632 2                                  6,415,316.0
6  Pennsylvania 12,702,379 2                                  6,351,189.5
7  Ohio 11,536,504 2                                  5,768,252.0
8  Michigan 9,883,640 2                                  4,941,820.0
9  Georgia 9,687,653 2                                  4,843,826.5
10  North Carolina 9,535,483 2                                  4,767,741.5


Number of people represented by each rep in the House of Representatives:

But the apportionment in the House of Representatives isn’t as equitable as one might assume. It’s a different list of states under- and over- represented … but one rep from Rhode Island represents half a million people. One rep from Montana represents just short of a million people!

Best deal for residents — small number of people represented by each rep

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Reps # Represented per Rep
44  Rhode Island 1,052,567 2                             526,283.5
52  Wyoming 563,626 1                             563,626.0
39  Nebraska 1,826,341 3                             608,780.3
38  West Virginia 1,852,994 3                             617,664.7
50  Vermont 625,741 1                             625,741.0
43  New Hampshire 1,316,470 2                             658,235.0
24  South Carolina 4,625,364 7                             660,766.3
21  Minnesota 5,303,925 8                             662,990.6
42  Maine 1,328,361 2                             664,180.5
13  Washington 6,724,540 10                             672,454.0

Worst deal for residents — high number of people represented by each rep:

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Reps # Represented per Rep
45  Montana 989,415 1                           989,415.00
46  Delaware 897,934 1                           897,934.00
47  South Dakota 814,180 1                           814,180.00
40  Idaho 1,567,582 2                           783,791.00
27  Oregon 3,831,074 5                           766,214.80
31  Iowa 3,046,355 4                           761,588.75
25  Louisiana 4,533,372 6                           755,562.00
28  Oklahoma 3,751,351 5                           750,270.20
18  Missouri 5,988,927 8                           748,615.88
32  Mississippi 2,967,297 4                           741,824.25


Electoral College:

The combination of which yields the over and under representation in the Electoral College (and the reason I think the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is such a good idea).

Best deal:

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Electoral Delegates # Represented per Delegate
52  Wyoming 563,626 3 187,875
51  District of Columbia 601,723 3 200,574
50  Vermont 625,741 3 208,580
49  North Dakota 672,591 3 224,197
48  Alaska 710,231 3 236,744
44  Rhode Island 1,052,567 4 263,142
47  South Dakota 814,180 3 271,393
46  Delaware 897,934 3 299,311
43  New Hampshire 1,316,470 4 329,118
45  Montana 989,415 3 329,805

And the worst deal

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Electoral Delegates # Represented per Delegate
1  California 37,253,956 55 677,345
3  New York 19,378,102 29 668,210
2  Texas 25,145,561 38 661,725
4  Florida 18,801,310 29 648,321
5  Illinois 12,830,632 20 641,532
7  Ohio 11,536,504 18 640,917
10  North Carolina 9,535,483 15 635,699
6  Pennsylvania 12,702,379 20 635,119
11  New Jersey 8,791,894 14 627,992
8  Michigan 9,883,640 16 617,728

Divide by Zero Error

None of which speak to the almost five million people who are unrepresented in the Legislature. Or the just short of one million people who aren’t even represented in the Electoral College.

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Reps # Represented per Rep Senators # Represented per Senator Electoral Delegates # Represented per Delegate
29  Puerto Rico 3,725,789 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!
51  District of Columbia 601,723 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 3 200,574
53  Guam 159,358 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!
54  U.S. Virgin Islands 106,405 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!
56  Northern Mariana Islands 53,883 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!
55  American Samoa 55,519 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!


And the spreadsheet, in case it’s useful to someone else.

On Rioting

A friend issued a challenge to substantiate the position that protesting police brutality isn’t justified. I was on a debate team in 1992, and there was a similar debate topic the Autumn after the Rodney King verdict / LA Riots. I won by convincing people that the LA rioting wasn’t justified. But I also won by advocating *other* rioting … which I doubt was what the debate sponsor meant when assigning the sides as “The rioting that occurred in LA following the Rodney King verdict was (not) justified”. And my position was not something the other debater was prepared to rebut. Instead of the easily defensible position that disruptive protests are correlated with change and change is obviously needed (which he was well prepared to rebut), the other debater had to defend destroying the property, businesses, and persons of uninvolved parties.
My argument at the time, which generally holds today, is that general rioting is understandably cathartic — ironic because I suspect the police brutality we’ve witnessed has been cathartic for the officers involved. The system is corrupt; burn it down! But understandable is not the same as justified or right. In 1992, some half of the damage was incurred by Korean-American businesspersons in a particular section of LA. Some half a billion dollars! People fob off property damage because “insurance covers it”. Being reimbursed for damaged property does not erase the harm. People are still physically hurt. There’s time rebuilding, lost business. Insurance rates are calculated to ensure profits for the insurance company. Increased risk means increased premiums. Property underwriters, in 2020, are rethinking their risk calculations because civil unrest had been fairly uncommon in the US. But it’s becoming more common and something they need to price into policies. Increased expense is a widespread, long-term damage that erodes the viability of small businesses.
Just short of 14% of the LAPD were classified as Asian American in 1990. The force was over 60% white. The officers who assaulted King were 100% white. The jury included ten whites (one bi-racial male, one Latino, and one Asian American). That’s more than 75% white and not quite 8% Asian American. How are the people whose businesses were destroyed in a position to remedy either the proximal or distal problems fomenting the riots? Larry Tarvin is white; Reginald Denny is white. Beyond the misfortune of sharing a common (and very broad) ancestry, how are these men representative of racist policing practices? Of a judicial system that tells police officers that it’s OK to beat someone? But they’ve been terribly injured just the same.
War used to involve a lot of generalized destruction. There’s a reason governments were generally housed in the center of their territory. The king is safe because you need to march through a hundred miles of peasants to reach him. And the king doesn’t really concern himself with a bunch of dead peasants. With the advent of air-delivered ordinance, the methods of war have changed. Attacks can be targeted to military and government installations to reduce collateral damage. Rioting can similarly be adapted to reduce collateral damage. To some degree, I’ve seen more targeted destruction this year. CHAZ in Portland, burning police cruisers, torching the police station in Minneapolis, attacks on federal buildings when Trump started deploying his DHS army to attack on protesters? I cannot mount an argument against those actions. Technically, it’s illegal. But I despair as Democrats politic in good faith whilst Republicans undermine the Democratic system to ensure victory … same here. If one side decides to descend into lawlessness … the “we go high” approach has not historically worked, and I have no reason to expect it to work in the future. But there’s still a lot of collateral damage. The rioting is frequently mis-targeted, and this renders the protests less effective. Will looting my clothing store spur me to your cause? No! This is one lesson from the American invasion and occupation of Iraq — you can turn people against you by maiming their uncle and destroying their business.
Changing the criterion from “is rioting justified” to “is protesting justified” … a few months ago, a friend asked why Kaepernick had to make such a spectacle. I find the a priori assumption that *he* made a spectacle of it flawed, but accepting the premise and asking the more general question “why do these protesters need to inconvenience *me* in order to make their point?” … well, were you aware of their point before they slightly inconvenienced you? How inconvenienced were you *really*? OK, had to listen to Trump be a jackass about it … but that was more on Trump & co that Kaepernick. How inconvenienced do you think being harassed by the police is? Or killed!?! So you are objecting to an action that was incredibly effective at communicating a message in a way that barely inconvenienced you. WHY??
I’ll grant that encountering a peaceful protest is more inconveniencing than seeing (or hearing about) someone kneeling along the sideline of a sporting event. You needed to get back to work and traffic was a mess. You were late to an appointment because you had to make your way through protesters downtown. Still, it’s a trivial thing that happens rarely (OK, maybe not rarely if you’re making your way home from work through a protest … but still, not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things).
The only objection (apart from denying there’s a problem, which is rather absurd) I could see to the peaceful protests is that the most effective approach would be run for office. Become the city council and demand police reforms from your position with authority over policing. It’s not a viable approach, though — it’s expensive to run for office, and not everyone has the time and resources to devote to that endeavor. Far better to ensure local government officials know this is what constituents demand from them. Write letters, call the offices, protest — make sure you are seen and heard.

Not a golf shot, but …

I should know better than to apply logical thought to Trump’s blathering, but … the scenario of a golfer choking is that they miss an easy shot under pressure, right? Like the ball is three foot away from the hole, the golfer has a putter in hand, a reasonable stance, and the club is aimed to hit the ball in the general direction of the hole. Aaaand then they hit it a little hard, or a little soft, or have a little spin that throws off the shot. The Kenosha cop? In golf terms, that’s trying the three foot shot with a 9mm instead of the putter.

Concerns About Defunding

A friend asked why phone bank organizers have been encountering liberal suburbanites who are concerned about the ‘defund the police’ movement. Why? Branding! Republicans are particularly good at it, and Democrats are stunningly bad at it. The de- prefix connotes removal and privation. They should use a re- prefix for the “again” connotation instead — reimagine, renovate, even restructure. It’s more difficult to come out against a positive-sounding slogan (think of the difficulty the BLM opponents have). I can explain why the death tax was a good thing, but I’d have to get someone to sit for ten minutes and listen to me. Someone advocating removing inheritance taxes just needs to yell “death tax” really loud. Saying ‘defund the police’ lets someone else say ‘save the police’.
And that encounters a problem of personal perception. There are a lot of people who are lucky enough to only encounter police as helpful public servants (or at least the pleasant/helpful experiences far outweigh the unpleasant one, creating the ‘few bad apples’ argument). Directing traffic when a tree fell across half of the road, cruising by when I was the only car in a park on Tuesday afternoon then letting me borrow a phone because I’d locked myself out of my car and my phone in it, coordinating the effort to return runaway cows to their field while the owner was on holiday, double-checking that my car seat was installed securely, getting in touch with the local business owner whose music was still blasting at 2AM because the employee cranked the outdoor sound system for closing tasks and forgot to shut it off when they left, providing road condition updates in the winter, letting me stop by and ask questions about the car-seat / booster seat regulations in a two-seater automobile, feeding and sheltering the dog someone found running down the street until the owner could stop by the station and pick it up, helping push the cars off to the closest car park after an accident, swinging by my house when a few motion detectors started going active while we were out of town for a weekend, alerting residents that a power line was down / truck in the ditch / multi-car accident on the main road, getting FexEx to stop delivery for an elderly neighbor who was rung up by Great-Nephew Timmy who needs bail money (cash of course) sent to this Nigerian prince (maybe I’m mixing my fraud, but you get the idea) thus returning the chap’s money. That last one? The Police Chief offered, for anyone rcv’ing such a call, that an officer would happily ring up the other police department, confirm the charges, and verify the appropriate way to send bail.
Those are all things I know about the Township police having done in the five years I’ve lived in my current house — many for me personally. No, you shouldn’t assume everyone else has your experience; but your personal experience will inform your beliefs. And I’m happy my tax money is used to offer these services within the community.
Now, if you tell me that you want to restructure the police so there’s not an armed response to pretty much any of those scenarios? That’s a perfectly reasonable idea. Or, from a fiscal conservative’s standpoint, that it would be more cost effective to have some less-credentialed response unit available for non-dangerous situations. Certainly some police action should be eliminated. I used to get stopped just for driving into the “bad neighborhood” in my “nice car” as part of the perpetual war on drugs, and that’s about the nicest race/class profiling interaction you’ll ever hear about. But I’m also fairly unique in my social circle in that I ever had bad interactions with police. I call this the ‘few good apples’ problem — even when someone is aware of systemic problems and abuse, they want to save the good apples that they’ve personally encountered.
There needs to be a pithy phrase that conveys “You will still have someone to ring up if the home automation system says there’s motion in your house while you’re all out at dinner. But you’ll also have someone with mental health experience to ring up when grandma has a manic episode and is brandishing a large butcher knife because she happened to be slicing up a watermelon. You’ll also have someone with social work experience to ring up if your teenage kid runs away from home.”
Because, fortunately or unfortunately, the general public aren’t going to take half an hour and read through a nuanced proposal to address the issue (nor are they apt to put more time into understanding the extent of the problem than the videos they’re encountering in their FB feed). They’re *going* to judge the situation and solutions based on slogans.

On the Post Office

It bothers me every time I hear about how the post office needs to make changes to remain a viable institution. Back in 2006, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act specifically forbid the Post Office from offering non-postal services (Section 102). Previous Postmaster Generals had researched and documented all manner of other lines of business where they could leverage the fact someone was driving by every house in the US every day — the one I remember was wellness checks. If I paid the Post Office some fee, they’d knock on my mom’s door every day/week/etc and just check in. I think the idea of plastering advertising on the truck that drove through your neighborhood every day was floated (and I’m convinced privatizing the post office will yield ad-space on both stamps and the cancellation marks). Let cellular companies pay USPS to have cellular data collector units in trucks — I’d set up a system from Siemens at Alltel fifteen years ago and run up against an unexpected problem. We had assumed the data collector units would be installed in all of the repair trucks and collect data as the techs drove around to their repair jobs (and possibly we’d have to dispatch a ticket that was ‘drive out to XYZ tower’ just to gather data for an area where we didn’t have a good data set). The union rep, however, was adamant that these units that sent GPS tracking data would never be put into a truck to allow the company to micromanage the tech’s day. AFAIK, the whole installation got scrapped after a year or two because we couldn’t collect enough data to make it valuable. I expect we’d have paid the post office a few grand a month to provide transportation for cellular data collectors. Point being – there are a lot of non-postal services that could be offered at a small incremental cost to the post office. I understand the impetus of the law — if I were a company that’s business was contracting with cellular companies to drive their data collectors around, the post office would be able to underbid me. I’m paying someone and fuel to drive 50 miles — so an hour or two of time and a gallon or two of gas. At minimum wage, I’ve got 7-14$ in labor and another 2-4$ in fuel (which doesn’t include potential benefits for my employee, vehicle maintenance, administrative costs, etc). They are already paying for the person/driving/vehicle/administration, so their expense is 0. We’ve both got some advertising expenses to ensure the cellular carriers knew we offered this service. I’d be really upset to have my business go under because the Post Office was able to underbid me. But moving into lines of business that are specifically not profitable because of the labor/transportation expenses seems like a win all around.

The Post Office have been mandated to fund future retirement fees in a way no other company need to do. They’ve been prevented from diversifying their product offering to increase profitability. Funny how some people think the government should be run by a business — but, when it is run like a business and has the potential to provide beneficial services, pass laws to prevent operating like a business.

Ohio Remote Ballot Marking System Expansion Request

Email to Secretary of State DeRose, my Ohio State Senator, and my Ohio State Representative:


There appears to be a remote ballot marking system available if you have a qualifying disability under ADA. I would like to see the availability of this 11-G absentee request be expanded to anyone with COVID-like symptoms or asked to quarantine for potential exposure. This would allow such individuals to remotely mark their ballot and ensure their vote is counted. It’s not the resource strain that offering in-person pick-up akin to RC 3509.08 would be, and it allows people to ensure their vote is counted without risking heir health or the health of community members.

Ohio Absentee Balloting Nuances

Ohio RC 3509.05 lists approved relatives who are able to deliver a ballot on behalf of another individual (spouse of the elector, the father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandfather, grandmother, brother, or sister of the whole or half blood, or the son, daughter, adopting parent, adopted child, stepparent, stepchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece of the elector). So I cannot deliver the ballot for my neighbors, but their kids can. That’s a firm ‘no’ on dropping off ballots for anyone who is not related to you a way listed in RC 3509.05 at the Board of Elections. I won’t get into the probability of enforcement — that’s something an individual would need to decide for themselves. If the ballot isn’t getting submitted any other way, might be worth the risk having an unauthorized person drop it off and having your vote invalidated. To me, the law precludes a mass effort to get people driving around and collecting ballots for a neighborhood and dropping those off at the Board of Elections. Same with dropping off bunch of ballots over at the Post Office closest to the Board of Elections — “elector shall mail” isn’t the same as “elector shall cause to be mailed”.

Ohio RC 3509.08 option where the Board of Elections drops off the ballot and picks it up is currently only for those confined to nursing homes and jails. So if you know someone who is in a nursing home or jail … they totally can request the Board of Elections bring them a ballot, wait while it is filled out {even fill out the ballot if the person is unable to do so themselves — I’m thinking of my great-grandmother who could barely write an “X” in the signature line near the end of her life} and bring that ballot back to be counted. That’s a pretty awesome level of service. And I get that they don’t have anywhere near enough staff to broaden that service.

What you *can* do is drop off a ballot for parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, siblings, children, and nieces/nephews. So if you’ve got family members who don’t have time/resources/mobility/health to drop off the ballots in person, you can certainly collect *their* ballots and drop them off at the appropriate Board of Elections.

There also appears to be a remote ballot marking system available if you have a qualifying disability under ADA. (Cuyahoga and Medina). I’m e-mailing DeRose’s office and my local Ohio Congresspersons (“Member Search” in the lower left-hand corner of for the House, for the Senate) asking them to expand the availability of the 11-G absentee request. Anyone with COVID-like symptoms or asked to quarantine for potential exposure should be allowed to remotely mark their ballot too. It’s not the resource strain that offering in-person pick-up would be, and it allows people to ensure their vote is counted without risking heir health.

And if you request an absentee ballot but decide to vote in person instead, you can. You’ll need to submit a provisional ballot — this is to ensure you don’t both return an absentee ballot and vote in person.

Changing Your Mind Due To New Information Is A Problem?!

Back in 2004, John Kerry was roundly derided for being a “flip flopper”. In the political context, I never thought the term meant simply someone who changed their mind but rather someone who lacked conviction and changed their mind to match the prevailing popular opinion. Now, even that meaning, I had trouble seeing as problematic in a representative democracy. If 80% of the people I represent thought X last year and now think !X … wouldn’t they want me voting a different way this year? While Kerry attempted to explain his votes — approving military action but not a funding source — nuanced discussion isn’t effective in American political discourse.

I’m reminded of this as people protest wearing masks. I questioned the advice not to wear a mask in March — it was illogical except from a scare resource allocation strategy (i.e. if you’re sheltering in place at home where drive-through grocery pickup is the totality of your exposure … save the mask for someone with more risk). There wasn’t any research to support wearing a mask because there wasn’t much research about SARS-CoV-2 at all. But, in March, there was research on the transmission of other virus. Maybe we didn’t know if aerosol transmission was possible, but it’s basic risk mitigation to take not-too-awful precautionary measures to prevent an unknown risk. Several months later, there is research. But the odd line of thinking that means a politician who changed their mind about a vote or had nuanced reasons that their vote for “the same thing” differed seems to mean that emerging scientific research does not warrant revising one’s initial opinion.

Some in the Republican party remind me of my daughter’s default defiance. I’ve heard her refuse to eat ice cream because one of her parents told her to (and her automatic response to just about any request is “No!” or “Why?!”). The Republican party is currently objecting to the NY DA preventing the NRA from continuing to misappropriate donor funds (i.e. how dare you charge the guy who robbed me!?), refusing to wear a mask that at worst does nothing and at best prevents the spread of an infectious disease because they’ve been told to do it.