Friday, March 31, 2006

Rejecting Voters For Their Own Good

25 percent of new voter registrations in California are being rejected by the state's new validation system. Once upon a time, the Counties were responsible for maintaining the voter registration ranks. After the debated results of the last national elections (remember that?), the federal "Help America Vote Act of 2002" gave that responsibility to the states. Also included with that were strict rules for preventing voter fraud.

No, that doesn't mean that 25% of new voter registrations in the state this year are fraudulent. Just incomplete. Part of the fraud prevention is the requirement to include either a driver's license or Social Security number on the voter registration card, and then verifying that name and number against other databases.

The reason being given for the rejections is typically that the voter has not included the driver's license or Social Security information, thinking they were still going by the old rules.

The state is returning the registration cards to the counties, who will then be responsible for trying to contact the voter and getting the information. Of course, if they didn't include a phone number either, that might be difficult and take a while, so don't count on being told if your registration was rejected.

So... If you've registered to vote recently and haven't received a confirmation card, I'd suggest registering again and making sure you complete all the newly required information. We have primaries coming up in June for Governor, Congress, and various other local and state offices, which means you'll need to be registered by the beginning of May, about five or six weeks from now.

California was actually the first to implement the new rules, and that's why we're also the first to be having problems with it. If you live outside California and recently registered to vote you may or may not be having the same problem: check with your local county registrars office to find out.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Unresponsive Leaders (Nephew's Homework)

I received an email from my brother, Steve, yesterday asking for some help on his stepson's homework:

> I am sending this out to a few key individuals on behalf of my stepson, Mike,
> who has to write an essay for school on the topic of "How our Leaders are not
> Responsive to the Majority of the American People." . . .

My other brother, Miles, replied, in part:
> ... The old question
> is, "Did you elect the person to represent your opinion? Or did you elect the
> person for their judgment when a decision needs to be made?" ...

Here's my response and input into the essay, for what it's worth:

If you want to get technical about it, the latter is true. The United States was set up to be a democratic republic. Democratic referring to the selection of the representatives, republic being the form by which those representatives would govern. The founders did not envision, and would have thought crazy, any sort of system where the people made decisions for themselves. They referred to that sort of direct voting as "mobocracy."

(Originally, citizens did not even vote for their U.S. Senators; they were chosen by the state legislatures. It wasn't until 1913 and the 17th Amendment that direct election of Senators came about - More on the Progressive movement in a minute...)

Over the years, there has been more direct democracy, including direct election of Senators, the introduction of recall, initiative, and referendum at the state level (many, but not all states), and now even discussion of canning the electoral college.

So, I suppose the question for Mike's essay could be, is this a good thing? Do we like being a "true democracy" where the whim of public opinion is worth more than either facts or history, or would we rather stick with the founders and go for a republic where we select the "best and the wisest" to make decisions on our behalf?

When the Progressive movement (1890's-1920) introduced direct election of Senators and the initiative process, they argued that the republican form of government was simply a step on the evolution from monarchy to democracy. The Progressives believed that the people should be the watchdog of the government, not the other way around. They also introduced the civil service, attempting to separate the administration of our nation from the clutches of corrupt politicians and cronyism.

[The Progressive movement rose out of the corruption of the post civil war era, where we had single party rule (the Republicans), a host of scandals (from cover-up in Lincoln's assassination to Tea Pot Dome), a thrown election or two (Samuel Tilden beat Rutherford B. Hayes), and culminating in the assassination of James A. Garfield by Charles Guiteau, "a disappointed office seeker" (ie: he didn't get the cushy government job he thought he deserved)].

Since the Progressive era (Progressive presidents include both Republican Teddy Roosevelt and Democrat Woodrow Wilson), literacy rates have only climbed. If the Progressives felt that the mass of illiterate, ill-fed immigrants at the turn of the last century could choose their own fate, then certainly our modern, well-educated electorate, with 24-hour access to news and opinion, can do the same, and even better.

So, what could be wrong with that? "Money and corruption are ruining the land. Crooked politicians betray the working man." The initiative process itself has been hi-jacked by the big monied interests. The people's ultimate tool to enact legislation is nearly impossible for a small group of citizens to use. The cost of collecting signatures and qualifying an initiative for the ballot in this state makes it prohibitive for all but the best funded causes and "special" interests.

(BTW: I HATE the term "special interest." It is used as a pejorative to describe -other people's- interests. In truth, we are ALL special interests to somebody else. The NRA and Handgun Control are each interest groups. Which one is your buddy looking out for you, and which one is "special," depends solely on your point of view.)

Beyond the "money and corruption" argument for what went wrong, I would also say that many of the issues are far more complicated as well. When it took three months to send a battleship across an ocean, wars took deliberation. When you can press a button and wipe out a city on the other side of the globe, decisions must be made quite differently. Likewise, technology also changes the administration of our nation, and makes it far more complicated.

The Progressives thought that once women had the right to vote (19th Amendment, 1920), citizens could vote for Senator (17th, 1913), and the initiative process was spreading across the states, their work was done. They didn't envision even the need for the Civil Rights Movement. They would have been entirely unprepared and ill-equipped for Watergate, Iran-Contra, and the rest.

Our own lives have gotten more complicated as well. We are not the simple agrarian nation we once were. Citizens cannot be called upon to fully understand the nuances of all the issues facing the nation today. It's not that we're stupid; it's just simply not realistic that we would be specialists in all that needs to be mastered.

And mastery is what it takes. A novice legislator is useless. The reason senior legislators have power is that they actually know what they're doing. It takes professional legislators to run a government today; it's not a job for amateurs and dilettantes. Jefferson's vision of the yeoman legislator making wise decisions for the nation and then returning to his farm is a naïve dream today.

From here, you can get some idea of why our "leaders" might not be responsive to the majority of the people.

Or you could argue that our "leaders" are TOO responsive to the majority of the people. An argument could be made that the mess we have today is the result of governing through poling. The reason I insist on putting "leaders" in quotation marks is that they have failed to lead us. They simply check the insta-polls to decide which side of a fence they should stand on.

But insta-polls do not get to the heart of any issue. Initial opinions of the people on most issues are pure emotion and are un-hindered by any checking of the facts, any understanding of the history surrounding an issue, and damn little thought about the repercussions of our actions.

It is the leader's job to explain the intricacies of these issues to the people (not make up excuses and justifications) and actually LEAD public opinion, not simply follow it.

You could argue that we have exactly the government we deserve (Who are you going to vote for the guy who raises your taxes to pay for what you asked for, or the guy who'll give you whatever you want and send the bill to you kid?).

As H. L. Menken once put it, "The masses are asses."

Long live the republic,

- krg

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Introducing My New Blog

Today I started a second blog. The new one will be a nonprofit resources and fundraising tips blog associated with my consulting site. I will, of course, also continue to update this site regularly with random items of political and cultural ramblings.

Such as... Rolling Stone Magazine and MTV are launching a new reality show. Is "The Apprentice" a bit too tough for you? Does the Donald make you shake? Then try your hand at rock journalism and "win" a job at Rolling Stone.

You too could make an ass of yourself on national TV for the chance to be the next Cameron Crowe or Hunter S. Thompson. (And, of course, Jann Wenner gets to make money off your writing skills during the taping of the show paying you nothing).

Speaking of money for nothing, is Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits Jewish? You'll have to head over to to find out. Take the "Jew or Not" quiz, read through the "Challah Fame," and read all the articles about Jewish rockers (and about their lawsuit with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).

BTW: Jann Wenner is far more terrifying than Donald Trump

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Free Speech Online - For Now

The FEC has graciously decided that they'll allow free speech to continue, at least for now. The Federal Election Commission yesterday approved regulations that acknowledge that they cannot regulate political speech online.

The ruling, to me and to most sane people I would hope, is obvious. What's astounding is that they actually had to debate this and that the word of the new regulation is actually news.

Were there actually folks out there who thought that, come election season, my little blog needs to be included in campaign finance rules and monitoring? Yes, there are those who think that the opinions expressed by individuals on blogs and web sites constitute a form of soft money that needs to be regulated.

Enjoy your free speech while it's available. This latest battle is won, but the larger war for control of your mind goes on.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Here's something I never knew before... Gerbera Daisies bear a large capitulum, which has the appearance of a single flower, but is actually composed of hundreds of individual flowers.

That's actually two words learned today, "Gerbara" and "Capitulum," but the wild part is that a single daisy is actually hundreds of flowers.

I just love Wikipedia's "Random Article" button. I could click for hours and learn something new every day.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Well, I just learned a new word: Blook.

There are several definitions floating around for this new word. A blook could be:
  • a book about blogging,
  • a blog serialization of a printed book, or
  • a printed book based on material developed from a blog or other web site.
It is the third definition that I find most interesting. In fact, it seems that I published a blook without the benefit of even knowing there was such a thing.

My 2004 election guide book, Beating Around the Bush (Lulu Press, 2003), was developed from material originally written for this very blog. Whoopie, I made history and didn't even know it!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

In "Minority Report" - a brilliant short story by Philip K. Dick and a decent movie by Steven Spielberg starring Tom Cruise - one can be arrested for a "future crime." Psychics inform the police of crimes about to happen, and the would-be perpetrator is arrested just before the act.

Police in Texas are now arresting people for the future crime of being drunk in public. In San Antonio police are now raiding bars for patrons that they feel are likely to do something stupid while under the influence.

Note, at the time of the arrests, the "criminals" are merely sitting in a bar, drinking away their sorrows. They've not yet gotten behind the wheel of an automobile. They haven't started any fights. They haven't even walked down the street singing "Danny Boy" loudly and out of tune.

All they've done to get arrested was the very legal act of purchasing a drink from a licensed vendor. I'll agree that it's fair for police to watch people driving away from bars to make sure they're okay to drive. But this goes beyond close enforcement, and even beyond prevention, into a category of enforcing a form of morality that is not in line with the law.

Public safety is important, but let's leave the "future crime" enforcement to the science fiction writers.

Monday, March 20, 2006

It's people with too much time on their hands day at Ken's blog...

First up is Janos Marton, the builder of the whiskey bottle computer. It's fully functional as a PC, but worthless as a holder of booze. (For the full story and instructions, use this link).

But the winner is Paul Rothemund at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), who has taken the time to make a smiley face made out of strands of DNA. The nano-smiley does prove a scientific concept that may be able to be used in health care and other applications, but couldn't he have proved it in a more respectable manner?

So, do I have too much time on my hands to be posting this stuff in the middle of the day when I should be working? No, I'm just taking a break while I try not to think about how stupid my clients can be sometimes. I feel much better now. Back to work...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Church lifts Friday meat ban for St. Patrick's Day

Go ahead, enjoy that traditional Irish corned beef and cabbage tonight for your St. Patrick's Day feast - - The Church said it's okay!

Normally during Lent, Catholics are not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. But, while they see nothing wrong in denying the demand for things like - - oh, I don't know ... maybe birth control? - - the appropriate authority has given permission to eat cured meats tonight only.

I'll probably pass on the corned beef anyway, but I do have a few pints of Guinness lined up for my evening enjoyment...

And here is my traditional St. Patrick's Day joke:
Q: What's Irish and sits in the back yard?
A: Paddy O'Furniture!


Thursday, March 16, 2006

You may have received the following email that is being forwarded around:

> New Orleans Public Library is asking for any and
> all hardcover and paperback books to restock the
> shelves after Katrina. The library staff will
> assess which titles will be designated for the
> shelves. The rest will be distributed to
> destitute families or sold for library fundraising.
> The books can be sent to:
> Rica A Trigs, Public Relations
> New Orleans Public Library
> 219 Loyola Avenue
> New Orleans, LA 70112
> If you tell the post office that the books are for
> the library in New Orleans, they will give you
> the library rate that is less than the book rate.

I did some checking around to make sure it was not a hoax, and it is for real. BUT, before you start packing up a lot of old, used books, there are few things to consider... a) The library does not have a loading dock, or storage area to sort large, un-solicited shipments, and, b) The shipping costs might be more than the books are worth.

Instead, you might want to consider having a yard sale with your old books and sending the proceeds to re-build the New Orleans library. Or, keep your books and just make a donation.

More information:
* New Orleans Library Foundation Donations FAQ
* Make an online donation to re-build the New Orleans Public Library

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Vacation home Orlando. . . - The ice and snow have stopped here (it couldn't last, this is coastal California) but it's still awful darn cold!

Oh well, I don't think I'll be heading to Florida any time soon, or buying a vacation home anywhere. But I am wondering if my house is worth more than I'm assuming. The house across the street just went up for sale at nearly $100,000 more than I would have guessed it's worth. We'll see if they actually get that.

Hmmm. . . Maybe we can sell our house and head to someplace warm on the profit. . .
Ever wonder why criminals are so darn ugly? You know, when you see a mug shot on TV or the wall of the post office, and you just scratch your head wondering how anybody gets to be that ugly?

Well, H. Naci Mocan, a Professor of Economics at the University of Colorado, Denver, has wondered about what leads the ugly to a life of crime as well. Professor Mocan's specialty is in labor economics and has written on such topics as "Economic Theories of Crime."

His latest work in progress (with Erdal Tekin of Georgia State University) is "Ugly Criminals," in which they find that, "being very attractive reduces a young adult's (ages 18-26) propensity for criminal activity and being unattractive increases it for a number of crimes, ranging from burglary to selling drugs."

They suggest "two handicaps faced by unattractive individuals. First, a labor market penalty provides a direct incentive for unattractive individuals toward criminal activity. Second, the level of beauty in high school has an effect on criminal propensity 7-8 years later..." (They fail to mention the third obvious handicap: difficulty in getting dates, leading directly to sexual frustration and anti-social behavior).

The paper talks about the building of "human capital components (e.g. skills acquired through socialization in high school)" and how vital that is to leading one along the straight and narrow path of legitimate employment. Basically, if somebody called you ugly in high school, that's it: you're screwed and condemned to a life of crime just because of a few zits and a bad haircut.

Download the full paper at Professor Mocan's home page.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I've been very busy working (yesterday I actually had to turn down a client I'm so busy!), but had to post about the new Ray Davies CD.

The former Kinks front-man is back with an excellent disc! My favorite tracks today are All She Wrote, Creatures of Little Faith, Is There Life After Breakfast?, and the title track, Other People's Lives. I'm sure tomorrow I'll have a different list, maybe After the Fall, Run Away From Time, or Over My Head.

At 62 this is Ray's first full-length solo album. He's put out soundtracks and a live album with a few new songs here and there, but never a full disc of new songs without any Kinks. And, amazingly, it's among his best work.

I picked it up on Sunday, and have listened to it almost non-stop since then.

Other People's Lives by Ray DaviesRay Davies

Other People's Lives

Friday, March 10, 2006

yard covered in snow and iceThat's the view from my back porch of the snow and ice covering my back yard right now.

In the three years we've lived here we've had a couple of light dustings of snow that have melted before it hit ground, and we've seen a little bit of snow at slightly higher elevations, but this is the first time anything has actually stuck to the ground here.

It started just over an hour ago, and it's still sticking now, although the snow and ice storm has turned back to rain. The lightning has been close enough, and loud enough, to vibrate the computer keyboard as I type.

For more pictures of Chemeketa Park covered in snow and ice, follow this link.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Business is good! Barely a month back into the consulting and grant writing business, I am getting to pretty busy. Just a few days ago I was still concerned, with only one small active client, and a lot of running around talking to potential clients. But today another contract was signed for a fair amount of work, and I am confident that a meeting I have tomorrow morning may lead to my hours being completely booked up for at least the next month or two.

I'm tired, but it's a good kind of tired when it's from building your own business, not somebody else's. It's much better to be busy working than to be busy worrying about bills.

And, there've been a few sales of my Introduction to Fund Development Planning book too. As little as I make on each book sale, it's still a bit of a thrill, and almost more satisfying than the larger checks from the consulting and grant writing.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Last night I took part in a panel on "Entrepreneurship: Being Your Own Boss" at my alma mater, UC Santa Cruz. I was invited by one of the Advisors from the campus career center to speak about starting my own consulting and fundraising firm, and how my UCSC experience helped.

When I first recieved her invitation (by email), I was a bit shocked. I wrote back saying I was hardly an entrepreneur. I don't employ anybody, I work at home, I haven't been in business very long, and I don't really earn all that much. Doesn't matter, she replied. I was surviving as my own boss, and that's what students were interested in.

It was all actually quite enjoyable. For one thing, it's always a pleasure to walk around the most beautiful college campus in California. It was also a surprisingly nice feeling and boost to the ego to be invited back as something of a success story.

The panel included myself (obviously), the guy who founded and co-owns the New Leaf natural food store, a guy who started a truck rental company, an environmental consultant who is a co-founder and partner in a large firm, and another sole proprietor consultant who works in computer programming.

We each spoke for ten minutes or so about our path from UCSC to where we are now, followed by some excellent questions from the students. It was all very informal and I think (hope) the students got a lot out of it. I don't know that anything I said was the earth shaking truth that will change one of their lives, but over all we as a group gave some good advice with concrete examples.

On a different front, I'm now an official Wikipedian, having contributed an article about Chemeketa Park (where I live) to Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What if I told you that you would have to pay me a fee in order to guarantee that I receive your emails? Most likely you would never send me another email, and the only emails I would get would be from marketers trying to sell me something.

Well, that's pretty much what AOL plans to do to their members.

They're planning a new "CertifiedEmail" service, whereby if I want my emails to reach AOL users, I will have to pay to have my address certified. If I don't pay, maybe my emails will get through, maybe they won't.

They are announcing this as way of cutting out spam, but what it does is just help them make more money off of the spammers by collecting a fee from them up front. And, it penalizes individuals and small organizations who cannot afford to bribe AOL to "certify" their address.

A coalition of nonprofits and activists have organized to try and stop this and have published an open letter to AOL expressing their anger about the program.

In other online news, I've just found a site called "Squidoo" which is another self-publishing community. Users create one-page sites, called a Lens, on any topic and may include links, book recommendations, newsfeeds, and their opinions. I just created one about fundraising planning to help promote my new book on the topic.

The site is well set-up, and the pages are easy to customize. We'll see how well they do, and if it ever comes out of "beta" and into profitability.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I've got a new online toy, my CellarTracker! That link will get you a database of all the wines in my "cellar" (the old fridge in back). I've been wanting to enter it in a database for a while, and this site makes it easy and fun, adding in ratings and values (where available). I'm looking forward to playing around there some more.

Our collection leans heavily towards the reds and ports. Leslie and I like a good full-bodied wine. No light and fuzzy wine for us. Along with that, of course, goes a love of good dark chocolate (Scharffen Berger, yum!). Nothing like letting a nice bit of dark chocolate melt on your tongue and then washing a good strong port over that.

On that topic, I came across a blog posting on Pairing Flowers with the Right Chocolates and Wine. I must say, I was pleased with their wine recommendations and will try the truffles they suggest. What's odd is that this was on the Beyond Blossoms web site. A posting about the joys of matching dark chocolate and red wine on a site designed to send flowers? Why not?

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