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August 20, 2004

Diebold Voting Machine Help Desk Call

Someone who has access to a time machine sent back a Diebold help desk call recorded on Election Day, November 2nd, 2004.

Listen to it here.

For those of you who haven’t been clued in, Diebold sells electronic voting machines. There have been a number of questions raised as to how securely and accurately they count votes because of backdoors in the software, the lack of a paper trail for recounts, changes to the software in the middle of voting without getting it certified by authorities, etc. While other companies making electronic voting machines have had many of the same issues raised in regards to their products, Diebold has been picked out in particular because of comments made by the CEO of Diebold that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.”

My grandpa and I still don’t understand what’s wrong with the optical scanning systems the State of Minnesota uses in many locations. Quick tabulation, ease of use, paper trails, seems like everything you’d need to avoid the “hanging chad” debacle of the 2000 election cycle.

August 27, 2004

An Amazing Essay

This is an example of one of the reasons I’m on the Interesting People mailing list run by David Farber. You get some really thought-provoking things in your inbox.

This is an amazing essay by Garrison Keillor, according to the notes included in the message, which is excerpted from his new book, Homegrown Democrat.

Looks like I’ve got another book to pick up at Border’s in the near future.

Continue reading "An Amazing Essay" »

September 29, 2004

"Don't Vote"

Tonight I’m driving up to my parents’ house for dinner, and I see this billboard just north of downtown Minneapolis on Interstate 94. Had I not been in a rush to get up there for dinner I would have stopped and grabbed a picture of this billboard and inspected it for some kind of “Paid for…” notice. It read, in a very patriotic red, white and blue:

Don’t Vote

A particularly good billboard. The largest voting block in the nation remains the portion of the electorate which doesn’t vote. Maybe some reverse psychology will work on them. Certainly all the signs reminding/asking them to vote don’t do the trick!

October 8, 2004

"Don't Vote" Part 2

In a previous entry, I talked about this curious sign which can be seen around the Twin Cities. The subject of the previous entry, as well as this picture, is taken at the intersection of Washington Ave and Lowry Ave, just north of downtown along Interstate 94. I’ve also seen other billboards with similar messages in downtown Minneapolis across from the Dome and in Saint Louis Park near Highway 169 along Highway 7.

I mentioned my fascination with these signs to my mom tonight, she referred me to a Star Tribune story from October 3rd, 2004. In the article, we do indeed find out these billboards are not sponsered by a political party or candidate. (Which would explain the absence of a “This Message Was Paid For By The Re-Elect So-And-So Committee) All will be revealed on October 11th, according to Lee Ann Muller of Clear Channel Communications, which owns the billboards.

"Don't Vote" Part 3

Well, the riddle brought up in this entry and this entry has been answered early.

According to this article from the Star Tribune the “Don’t Vote” billboards were part of a radio ad campaign for KDWB-FM.

At least one of the 15 billboards was updated Friday in downtown Minneapolis. It now says, “Don’t Vote for Dave,” a reference to morning radio host Dave Ryan of KDWB-FM.
The sign tells viewers to “Make your vote count!” next to a photo of Ryan, wearing an Uncle Sam outfit and giving the thumbs up.

Kind of disappointing, if you ask me. There is certainly a small segment of the non-voters out there that might have been pushed to vote just on account of someone telling them not to do so. Oh well!

November 1, 2004

I'm A Republican?

So, I laughed quite a bit earlier in the year when I got an “autographed” picture of the shrub and his wife in the mail unsolicited. It was a “gift” I was told, as a token of appreciation for my support of his campaign. Then, in the very next breath I was asked to donate money back to them as a pledge of support.

Now, consider that I do find some situations where I support Republicans. I supported Arnie Carlson for Minnesota Govenor years ago because I felt he was the best candidate, even tho he was running as a Republican. (Well, at the time, he was an “Independant Republican”, just like his challenger was a “Democratic Farmer/Labor” party candidate)

But in no way shape or form could I ever support Bush no matter who was running against him. I find his policies awful, his decision making lacking, his sense of morality flawed and his choice of bedfellows downright scary.

Anyone who “knows” me knows this. So I couldn’t help but chuckle that the letter was written as if I were Bush’s best friend.

I thought about sending the postage paid response back with a brick, but in the end just threw it away.

So, somehow I got sorted in some big database as being a Republican supporter. I’ve decided that it was just based on where I lived - an upscale luxery apartment complex in the western part of Bloomington.

But a curious thing happened over lunch today. My phone rang, I didn’t recognize the number so my rule is I don’t pick it up. I check the voice mail afterwards and low and behold it is some volunteer calling me to remind me to go out and vote for Bush/Cheney tomorrow.

I never give out my cell phone. If anything, my work number goes down on the slip so that I don’t get annoying telemarketers calling me.

And they called me by my name. So I know they aren’t just randomly calling.

Somehow, I got on a list of Republican supporters. They’ve got my name, my address and my unlisted, unshared cell phone number. How crazy is that? Do I tell ‘em next time they call, or do I just let them waste their money trying to contact me?

OK...I'm Not A Republican!

OK, I just got my second phone call today from the “Vote for Bush” folks.

The previous call, mentioned here came from 651-785-6244. This most recent call came from 651-785-3082.

They didn’t use my name this time…but how many times are they gonna call me? It is obvious it is the same call center. Don’t they realize they’ve already called me?

I’m thinking of changing my outgoing message.

Current Message

Hi, you haven’t reached Damon Durand at 612-xxx-xxxx. If you leave your name, number and a brief message, I’ll get back to you as soon as it is humanly possible. Thank you, and have a great day!

Proposed Message

Hi, you haven’t reached Damon Durand at 612-xxx-xxxx. If you’re calling me on behalf of the Bush campaign, this is on purpose. If you’re not, feel free to leave your name, number and a brief message. I’ll get back to you as soon as I exercise my right to vote. Thank you, and have a great day!

November 2, 2004

GO VOTE!

I Voted sticker I cannot stress this enough…

GO VOTE

If the idea that exercising your right to participate in the governing of the nation isn’t enough to convince you to go…go check out Wendy’s offer. (Especially now that she fixed it so she won’t go to jail)

Voting Today

I got a late start this morning, but still managed to make it to the polling location, my local firestation, by 9am. I’ve voted at this location for the past two years; this was the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen. (Which makes sense, of course, since this is the first presidential election I’ve participated in while in this precinct) The city, thinking ahead, covered all the “No Parking” signs along the main road. But the cars even spilled onto the side street.

Picture of Polling Place

I walked inside, expecting a long line, but found only a tiny little line. As I stood in the line to get my ballot (which didn’t take longer than 2 minutes) I noticed 3 people over at the registration table. All of them were younger looking; I’m sure from the looks of things this was the first time they had voted. After I got my ballot I listened to the instructions (I’m sure as bored as I am having to repeat the instructions the exact same way all day long is even worse!) and walked over to my “booth”.

Picture of me and my sticker After voting both sides of the ballot, I walked over to the optical scan machine, slid in my ballot, got my sticker and walked off.

Was in and out (including marking the ballot for some 20-odd judgeships) in under 15 minutes.

"I Voted" Contest

As mentioned previously, Wendy came up with a, um, “contest” which required you to go get an “I Voted” sticker and send it in for a chance at winning a prize. You don’t have to vote, of course, but you do need the sticker. (Anyone lame enough to want to cheat at this contest deserves the hit to their karma)

I had wanted to do something like this myself - but when I heard about the problems Michael Moore had when he offered college students a pair of clean underwear to go vote I ended up not doing it. But, Wendy came up with the idea of using the stickers, which I think is an acceptable way to get the reward across without running into problems with the law.

So, I’ve decided to up the ante a bit; I’ve contributed my own prize to the mix. So now there are two prizes up for grabs.

Go follow the instructions here to submit your photo. Good luck!

Presidental Election Recollections

  • Twelve years ago today I was a sophomore in high school. I remember wishing I could vote…my Dad and I would go out to dinner once a week to this Chinese place near our home while Mom was off doing something else. (I don’t remember what it was, sadly, maybe she can fill me in) It was great - I got to drive to/from the restaurant with my permit, practicing my driving through rain, sleet and snow. We’d sit there for hours talking about all kinds of things - I remember being energized about the election and asking my dad who he was gonna vote for…and being relieved at the choice he made.
  • Eight years ago today (give or take 3 days) I remember sleeping in like I often would do, with only the slightest concern for my timely arrival at work. I slept in, got dressed for work and voted on my way in. It had been 2 years since I had set foot in the high school - felt so akward walking in to vote with all these kids around me. I voted and proudly wore my sticker all day at work, even to the date I had that night.
  • Four years ago today (give or take 5 days) our day was just finishing up on the Wedding/Honeymoon cruise Briana and I took with the rest of my family. We had all voted absentee, since we’d be out of the country. Briana and I still hadn’t changed residence to Wisconsin, but I remember the dread I felt as I voted for what I thought was the last time as a Minnesotan resident. We went down to the large ballroom onboard the ship where the cruise company had thoughtfully setup a bunch of big screen TVs to show the coverage of the election results. Everyone knew the race was tight - but I don’t think we really thought it was going to be as tight as it was. We went down expecting to just spend a few minutes - instead we spent the next few hours down there watching the conflicting reports. The next day we turned on the TV in the stateroom to catch up on the results and found out just how big of a mess it had turned out to be. The cruise company replaced one of their channels on the closed circuit TVs with round-the-clock feeds of CNN in order to satiate the appetite for people on the cruise for their fixes on the recounts. Even with our return and all the distractions of closing on the new house, moving in, etc I still remember tuning in every day to get my recount updates.

What will it be like this year? We’ll soon know I guess.

First Ave Closing?

As I heard on the radio today, and mentioned in this Star & Tribune article, First Avenue closed its doors today.

For those of us who have been paying attention to the saga it comes as little or no surprise. I’ve been reading for months all of the bickering back and forth between all the parties involved. It seems that Fingerhut finally let go of the tug of war rope and everyone is trying to negotiate their new positions now that he’s taken his action.

This club needs to remain in operation. Its name and location have been connected to so many music legends and events it is impossible to imagine it can go away due to contract and ownership disputes.

Considering all the efforts Minneapolis has put forth to salvage the Hennipen Avenue Theatre District, one would think they would consider putting together some kind of package to keep the First Avenue we all know and love open and contributing to the local arts scene. While First Avenue certainly didn’t make its mark in the same way the theatres did, it most definitely has made a huge impact on the music environment here in Minneapolis (and the entire state) and deserves to be valued by the city of Minneapolis in the same way the theatres have been over the years.

November 3, 2004

The Morning After

Lessig writes:

“Bush has won the popular vote. And it would take a freak of nature to imagine the 220,000 provisional ballots would fall strongly enough to shift Ohio. He will win the College. He is our President legitimately, and credibly.

Our criticism of this administration must now focus narrowly and sharply: on the policies, not on the credibility of the man.”

I couldn’t agree more. While I let go of the credibility thing a long time ago, it seems like most of the president’s critics would all too often fall back on the “he wasn’t really elected” in order to prove their point. I hope that this election will silence the criticism and now we can get down to the business of a real political debate.

What shouldn’t come out of this election is the belief by anyone that they have a mandate. I heard a Republican speaker, when boasting that Bush has received the most popular votes ever in an election, that he had some kind of mandate from the people to pursue his policies. Let’s get this straight - the electorate is narrowly divided. And while I’m not advocating four years of idleness, we do need to figure out WHY we’re so divided and figure out what kind of country we want to become.

We risk turning into a country of polarized voices; where everyone is so concerned with standing their ground rather than coming together towards common goals using rational thought and spirited discourse. I’m fairly liberal when it comes to my political views, but I fully respect thoughtful conservative voices who interpret facts in a different way than I do. This is more of what we need - not entrenching ourselves in the mud, unwilling to give any ground else our beliefs become weak.

November 4, 2004

Proud To Be A Minnesotan

This article in the Star & Tribune contains one of the biggest reasons I’m proud to be a Minnesotan:

“…Minnesotans turned out in enormous numbers on Tuesday, leading the nation in voter turnout and making it the strongest showing in the state in decades.

Seventy-seven percent of eligible Minnesotans voted on Tuesday, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State. Nationwide, 59.6 percent of eligible Americans voted for president, according to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington, D.C.

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Elections website the actual percentage is 77.32, meaning 2,828,476 votes were cast out of a estimated 3,658,000 possible. This was the highest since 1960!

Great job everyone! Your voice was heard.

November 9, 2004

Election Visualizations

I found the Election Result Map site by Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi and Mark Newman at the University of Michigan particularly fascinating.

They have created a number of visualizations (like the above) of the election results using a variety of methods which account for the population density differences throughout the country. Sure seems more accurate and telling than the area-based maps I’ve seen thus far in most post-election analysis.

November 10, 2004

"I Voted" Winner

I sponsored a second prize in Wendy’s “I Voted” contest last week. She’s randomly picked the winners and I’m pleased that my award is going to Bonnie.

She slipped in with a My Vote Counted sticker, which I guess is pretty standard in the state of Michigan from what I’ve heard from other friends who live there.

Congrats to Bonnie and to the winner of Wendy’s prize, Kara

Thanks to everyone who entered!

November 28, 2004

An Interesting Idea

An interesting idea as written up by Joshua Micah Marshall on Talking Points Memo:

“Giving legislators a reasonable opportunity to review a bill before they vote to make it law is the barest of bare minimums, especially now that bills are often coming out of conference in a dramatically new form. But why should only legislators get a chance to look at the bill? … Why not make bills publicly and readily available (and I emphasize ‘readily’) for three days before they can be brought to a vote?

I think this is a great idea. Right now, all the public knows about is what the lobbyists and/or journalists can piece together about bills as they are moving from committee to committee. Why not publish the bills for a few days, so that concerns citizens, public advocacy groups and other interested parties can READ what they may want to voice an OPINION over?

Those of you who know my politics also may be thinking that my celebration of the above idea would move us further away from my thoughts on the importance of a representative democracy (rather than the direct democracy we seem to be moving towards). I disagree.

An effective representative democracy requires that we hold our representatives accountable. It is a widely reported poll statistic that while a large number of people believe congress as a whole is doing a very poor job, they believe their representative is doing an excellent job. These two ideas stand in contrast with each other, but I believe they can be traced to a common cause. Everyday we are barraged by mainstream media with sound bites and bills who seem to have been named by a media relations firm. Some of us try to pay a bit more attention, read between the lines, exercise a critical eye. However, many of us don’t, or don’t have the time.

All of this effort to summarize complex bills in one or two sentences (or even a single bill name, like the No Child Left Behind Act) hides a lot of detail we need to know in order to judge our representative’s effectiveness in promoting his or her constituents ideals and desires. Hearing someone say, “I sponsored the No Child Left Behind Act” sounds wonderful to those of us who believe in public education. Surely, the bill must provide lots of money in order to pay for many of the improvements the bill calls for. If you had read the bill, you’d realize it doesn’t.

If one had read it in advance, you must imagine that someone would have had the foresight to realize that the funding needed to be attached to the bill from the get-go. Hopefully, the people who DID decide to call in to their legislator to support the bill might have had second thoughts had they had a chance to review what the bill really provided. After the bill was passed, the sound bite was obtained; the proverbial feather could be placed in the reelection campaign’s cap. Since the representatives already had what they needed, the funding never came. Now we’re stuck trying to clean up the mess, trying to find the funding necessary to meet all the requirements of the bill.

Information wants to be free…but in any kind of democracy, information HAS to be free in order for it to work properly.

December 11, 2004

Are You a Lonely NeoCon?

If so, the LieGirls are waiting for your call.

Continue reading "Are You a Lonely NeoCon?" »

March 14, 2005

"New" Republicans

My Grandpa, to this day, speaks of his many years in the Democratic (DFL) Party here in Minnesota, and more specifically, the southern Minneapolis precinct. He, and to an even greater extent my late Grandma, were very active in school board, union, and DFL politics for a good part of 35 years.

Often times, when we find ourselves lamenting over the Neo-Conservative agenda that prevails in the Republican Party as of late, he talks of the differences between “Old” Republicans and “New” Republicans. The story he uses to illustrate the difference is something similar to this:

The “New” Republicans are all about lowering taxes and reducing government. They believe the money can be better spent by businesses and/or constituents in order to employ people, produce products and drive the economy. You often here the mantra, “It’s MY money - I earned it” They take a very shallow view of their lives. They didn’t get a check from the government every month - thus they don’t see all of the support they received to get to the place they are today. Did they drive on a road to get to work everyday? Did they receive a public education? Did their employees receive a public education? Do they rely on the police to enforce order?

The truth is they only earned the money because of the entire infrastructure provided by taxes and their government disbursers.

The “Old” Republicans would certainly look to reduce the size of government, but would realize that government is more of an enabler of business than a tax upon their business. Instead of just looking to reduce taxes, they would look at the value obtained for the money spent and try to direct it where it could benefit his business constituents the most. You need to spend money to support infrastructure: businesses needed good roads and highways in order to move their product efficiently, businesses needed good schools in order to get graduates to employ, businesses needed police and social welfare to ensure order so consumers felt safe spending their money, etc.

My grandpa goes on to explain that, at the time, it was this shared belief between the Republicans and Democrats in making government WORK instead of just shrinking it made it much easier to come to compromise and use the tax dollars that were collected efficiently.

This post over at iamericka linked to this wonderful interview over at City Pages with Dave Durenberger. In the interview, he laments over the very same change from an “Old” Republican’s perspective. It was incredibly fascinating to see a perspective from inside the Republican party over the same change my Grandpa has identified time and time again as one of the reasons we see politics devolving over the past 10-15 years.

It’s a measure of how far the Neo-Cons have infiltrated the GOP since Durenberger, who left the Senate only a decade ago, says he could never get the endorsement of the GOP today to run for office.

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