It’s a given that virtually all online political polls are worthless because of the ease in gaming them (Exhibits A and B). But now Yelp, a site that rates local businesses (here’s the Reno version), is ousting members for allegedly trading positive reviews amongst themselves.
Needless to say, those caught are angry and (sigh) talking lawsuit.
Think you know who John McCain and Barack Obama will tap as their VP pick?
Then enter Pajamas Media’s Veepstakes. Go with one of the 14 Dem and 18 GOP choices (Carly Fiorina!) or enter your own candidate. Prizes include an Asus Eee PC mini notebook, an Amazon Kindle and 25 PJM t-shirts.
Is there a more “tell-it-like-it-is” Nevada politician than Bob Beers? Or more web savvy for that matter?
In his most recent blog post, Beers takes aim again at LVRJ columnist Erin Neff’s latest and provides a point-by-point analysis.
And, perhaps a sign that not all Republicans are being left in the digital dust by Democrats, northern Nevada’s Ty Cobb has been emailing supporters with news of the recent special session. And, like Beers, pulls no punches.
When Reno and its Discontents announced it was cutting back on posts and, to keep it active, opened the door for other local blogs to have their feed ran through the site, it looked like a win-win situation. R&D received fresh content and smaller blogs were exposed to more readers. We signed up, as did MrJerz, Downtown Makeover and a few others. It seemed to work well. But I think those days may be over.
Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems like on most days R&D has become just an extension for the now highly-annoying Zeke Says So blog. I mean, when a guy starts writing “COME TO ZEKE SAYS SO” at the end of his blog posts it’s pretty damn clear that isn’t meant for his own readership. It’s an embarrassingly blatant beg for R&D readers to click over, and is really no different than those spammy comments that plague us all (i.e., “Great story. You know what else is great? This site!”).
And, finally, does the world really need another smart-ass ranting and raving the same partisan stuff over and over again? The Anon Guy Says No.
It’s funny, or perhaps the better word is sad, how papers nationwide are rife with stories of budget shortfalls for virtually all levels of government. These articles almost always follow the standard M.O. (hand wringing from officials, a quote from a worried special interest and, of course, rampant inaction by politicians) with the end result being the reader sitting there wondering “What the hell can be done?”
But then on occasion there are those local-specific stories, sometimes even in the same edition, that seemingly answer why governments everywhere are going broke. Yet instead of a “what a waste of taxpayer money” approach, the articles almost always take an “isn’t that great for our us” tack. Apparently only pork in other counties or states is open for derision.
A case in point was a pair of recent local stories in a small California newspaper, the Red Bluff Daily News.
The first was regarding tire and junk removal from private property. California taxpayers coughed up $56,250 to remove tires from three Tehama County ranches. One property owner, who claims she didn’t notice the 576 tires when she purchased the place in 1999, was especially excited to find out she didn’t have to pay a dime. “I thought that was way cool. The tires are gone, and it’s groovy.”
It gets even better in a story about a $200,000 state grant being used by private agricultural businesses to upgrade their diesel engines. You know, the kind of basic capital improvements that every other business in a free market economy foots the bill for themselves.
Especially rich, though, was the comments from some of the ranch owners receiving the free ride at taxpayer expense.
“They should have done this 10 years ago,” complained one who was the recipient of $21,350.
But the best was from an organic fig grower who said “Anything we can do to improve the environment, we are for it.” Although, apparently, that sentiment only applies when it is paid for with other people’s money.
And people actually wonder why California has a $16 billion budget deficit.
Pablo del Real’s first week of picketing on the Capitol steps is in the book and, judging by his update, his 40-day vigil for P-Poll and digital democracy seems to be going well. The police have been nice, Univision did an interview with him and he met Al Gore’s 2000 campaign manager Donna Brazile. Plus average folks are talking to him about his project.
As hard as it seems in today’s flag pin wearing environment, there actually was a time in political history where some presidential candidates actually dared not to use red, white and blue in their campaign logos. Granted it was almost 30 years ago, but it happened.
Logoblink.com has them all from 1960 to the present. And, was there ever a logo as bad as Republican Phil Crane’s 1980 one?
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) just added Nevada’s Dina Titus to their Red to Blue program and have Jill Derby on their “emerging” races list. In 2006, the program pumped $22.6 million into 56 congressional campaigns.
It should be a big boost, financially-speaking, for Titus who already has a 23k registered voter advantage working for her in the race against GOP incumbent Jon Porter (NV-3).
One, though, probably shouldn’t expect Derby to move up into the actual program given the dynamics of her rematch against incumbent Dean Heller (NV-2). Republicans hold a 30k advantage in the district and Heller won’t have the effects of a bruising primary, like he did in 2006, to contend with.
One would think with the state of the Republican party nowadays, Nevada Dem strategists would be licking their chops at facing a pair of GOP state senators in districts which now favor Democrats (ever so slightly, according to recent voter registration numbers).
Instead, they appear to have tapped a pair of empty-headed suits, or skirts, who are either completely oblivious to stuff like, well, issues or are embarking on the strategy of saying nothing and hoping to slip one by the voters.
Either way, the GOP’s Joe Heck (SD-5) and Bob Beers (SD-6) are probably breathing a little easier as Democratic challengers Shirley Breeden and Allison Copening’s continue to offer literally nothing this campaign season.
Two-time presidential candidate Ross Perot has launched a new site called, appropriately enough, Perot Charts. And, in the tradition of his ’92 and ’96 campaigns, he focuses on the subject people in Washington are only too happy to ignore — the rampant deficit spending and national debt.
“The U.S. national debt reached $9.4 TRILLION on April 30, and it is increasing by more than $1 billion every day. We are leaving our children and grandchildren with debt they cannot possibly pay,” said Perot.
“The economic crisis facing America today is far greater than anything since the Great Depression. Our federal government continues to spend us deeper into debt. The American people must get directly involved and demand an end to deficit spending. This website will provide information for citizens to do just that.”
So far there are 31 charts up and they all paint a pretty sad fiscal picture.
AP, meanwhile, backpedals a bit on their original demands and promise to set guidelines for online uses of their content. They are scheduled to meet with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, this Thursday to hammer out the details.
Every blue moon or so we receive email here at Dullard Mush Media Conglomerate. While a lot are just your standard press release blast to everyone on a list, occasionally you find one that comes from someone who has actually read at least a post or two from your blog.
That was the case earlier this week when we heard from Pablo del Real, who had stumbled across our 2006 interview with Daniel Rosen (a Nevada CD-2 candidate and founder of Nevada Vote Direct). It turns out the 39-year-old Delray Beach, FL poet is also interested in direct democracy and has formed his version of it called the P-poll.
To launch his venture, del Real is starting a planned 40-day vigil on Capitol Hill. Although his original plan to camp on the mall has been thwarted, the activist says he will be carrying a new sign every day from morning until evening. He is asking for suggestions as to what each one will say and seeing how his first is scheduled to read “Wee, the people” he might need a little help.
Since we’re always a sucker for little guys everywhere getting involved in politics, we bit and sent some email questions to del Real on all things P-poll and the concept of direct democracy.
DM: It seems every few years somebody or some organization floats the idea of a direct form of democracy with people either voting for bills or instructing their representative to do so. But even with the advances in technology, that could make it theoretically possible, none have even advanced out of the “idea” stage. How would P-Poll be different?
PDR: First, let’s distinguish the P-poll from any direct democracy project past or present. In setting up a republic, the founders intentionally avoided a direct democracy in which every citizen had an equal voice in government. The P-poll would not change that. It seeks merely to make the will of the people visible on House bills, not to legislate our collective will. Thus, while direct democracy projects would change our system fundamentally, the P-poll can actually improve our representative democracy.
Indeed, short for national legislative preference poll, the P-poll would be an opinion and not the law. To be clear, with regard to legislation, we the people want a voice, not a vote. Representatives need not heed the popular will once it does become visible; they would retain what amounts to veto power over the popular will. In order to succeed, any digital democracy project seeking to give the people a voice in the process of legislation must respect our representative democracy’s foundations. The P-poll does that, and that’s what makes it different.
Incidentally, representative government is alive and well, but the entities being represented are corporations and not average citizens. Corporations, through lobbyists, have our representatives’ ears. Meanwhile, we the people are voiceless—what we feel, nobody hears. Corporations are not the bad guys; the system is. They are simply gaming the system as it exists.
As far as citizens are concerned, we have a representative democracy in name only. So the question for reformers is not, “is it time to move to direct democracy?” Rather, the question is “how do we secure a representative democracy for everybody?” The P-poll, as far as I can see, is the only way to extend our particular form of democracy and to make it a day-to-day reality for the majority of citizens in our country.
As for it getting out of the “idea” stage, that is more difficult to gage. I suspect that this is a 5-10 year project. It certainly will not happen overnight. It requires a new way of thinking, and that takes time. But once people realize that consultation with their representative is their natural right, then they become willing to join the fight.
DM: Usually these plans are shot down for reasons such as “Only a small minority of rabid partisans will participate,” “How will you prevent fraud?” “What about those without a computer?” “Bills are far more complex than a one-sentence description in a poll question,” “Making decisions for us is why we send our guy to DC, that’s his job” etc. How would P-Poll address those concerns?
PDR: There are many small objections. Let’s address them one at a time.
1. “Only a small minority of rabid partisans will participate” That’s how it starts, sure. That was the case with the vote, remember? Women and African Americans were long shut out of the system and they had to fight for the right to vote in elections. Does each member of those two groups vote today? Of course not, but enough of them do to exert major influence and to add diversity to our political mix. Eventually, when groups who do not participate see that power can be gained by playing the game, they want in. So it’s OK if starts out with the rabid minority; eventually it will spread to the majority.
2. “How will you prevent fraud?” Fraud is possible in every sphere of human activity. The only safeguards are good faith and transparency. If online technology is secure enough for us to pay our taxes over the internet without incident, then existing security measures are sufficient to protect our votes in legislative opinion polls. As for safeguards against human nature, that’s exactly what the P-poll is—a measure to keep our rulers honest while in office.
3. “What about those without a computer?” First, a technicality: polls could be administered via cell phone for those without a computer. But, you might counter, there are those who don’t have a cell phone either. So we must turn to a similar question we could have asked at the nation’s founding: what about those citizens who can’t read? Certainly the proportion of illiterate citizens in 1789 was higher than that of citizens affected by today’s digital divide. In time, an overwhelming majority will cross that divide, just as they did with literacy (if they haven’t already), so this is not a major concern.
4. “Bills are far more complex than a one-sentence description in a poll question” There is no question that many bills are very complex, not to mention obscenely long as well. Oftentimes their own creators never even read the whole text–they have aides who do that for them. Likewise, citizens would have plenty of help: the parties and the press will be glad to guide them on each item. So outside analysis and advice would allow bills to be voted on based on very little information, ideally on the basis of their name alone. And yes, a lot of spin goes into naming bills as it is, e.g., “The Death Tax”, “The Sanctity of Marriage Act,” etc. But again, the parties and the press would be very effective at boiling down all complexities to black, white, and grey when necessary.
5. “Making decisions for us is why we send our guy to DC, that’s his job” Not even constitutional scholars have discerned what our guys’ jobs are: “One of the persistent, unsolved, and probably insolvable problems—the role of and the responsibility of the elected representative—is touched on in a number of the essays [in The Federalist], but there is no full exposition of a single or a comprehensive theory. (Benjamin Wright, introduction to The Federalist, 1996)
Nevertheless, the representative’s job has been defined usefully at least twice, once by our own founders and once by an Englishman. First, our own definition:
It is a sound and important principle that the representative ought to be acquainted with the interests and circumstances of his constituents. But this principle can extend no further than to those circumstances and interests to which the authority and care of the representative relate. An ignorance of a variety of minute and particular objects, which do not lie within the compass of legislation, is consistent with every attribute necessary to a due performance of the legislative trust. (James Madison or Alexander Hamilton [the authorship is unclear], The Federalist No. 56, 1788)
Modern translation? The representative should know (“be acquainted with”) his or her constituents’ opinions regarding proposed laws (“those circumstances and interests . . . within the compass of legislation”) but nothing more (“an ignorance of a variety of minute and particular objects . . . is consistent with . . . a due performance of the legislative trust”). So, for example, if an item regarding immigration is to be voted on, your representative should know how you, the constituent, feel about it. Are you in favor of or against it?
As for the English definition, it may be the better one:
“It ought to be the happiness and glory of a Representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and, above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But, his unbiased opinion, his mature judgement, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you; . . . Your Representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion. (Edmund Burke, speech to the Electors of Bristol at the Conclusion of the Poll, 3 November 1774.)
That pretty much says it all, and that is the goal of the P-poll–to make Burke’s definition real. However, one could still argue that these definitions are informal and that the representative’s role has never really been defined at all. In that case, it is what we wish to make it, and if the people want it to include electronic consultation, then so be it.
DM: Since P-Poll results would mainly be an advisory service, a cynic might say that with almost every decision a politician makes nowadays already guided by careful internal polling this service would just be redundant. So is it really needed?
PDR: Yes, internal polling certainly does go on, but the value of the P-poll would be in publishing the results. That way, by making the will of the people visible, we would automatically hold our reps more accountable because there will be a benchmark to which we can hold them more or less responsible. So long as our will remains invisible regarding House bills, we are blind to how well our U.S. Representatives are doing their job. Furthermore, by making people aware of the kind of legislation being proposed, even if they don’t vote in the poll, they would at least be on the same page and in the loop. So even if it is redundant for the representatives, the P-poll would improve the unity of our community by giving citizens another universally common experience.
DM: Have you approached any candidates about your project or do you already have some who have shown an interest in implementing something like P-Poll?
PDR: The only elected official I have contacted regarding the P-poll thus far is my own U.S. Representative, Alcee Hastings. He has not answered my one letter nor my one email. Writing our reps is part of the problem. We should not have to contact them–they are our public servants. The burden of initiating contact should be on them, not on us.
Also, I am more interested in approaching the people than elected officials. Until enough of us become interested in measuring our will on House bills, the P-poll will be a distant goal. So it is mostly citizens who I am trying to reach through my Washington D.C. vigil. Without their participation, nothing can get done.
DM: You are about to embark on a 40-day Capitol Hill vigil. How many people are you expecting to join you? Will you be blogging throughout the event?
PDR: Remember that a poet is traditionally a spokesperson for the people–he or she has an ear to the ground and can hear what the people are feeling. Most of us are unhappy with government, that’s what I hear today, but also that there is a better way. So the majority of the country will be joining me in spirit at least because it is a majority that has sent me.
Who can honestly say that everything in the world is OK? Government is the way we try to make things OK for everybody, or at least for the majority, but right now our government is making very few people happy. A lot of people would like to translate their dissatisfaction with government into concrete action. But not many people can afford to physically participate–it requires a trip and time off from work. That’s why I decided to make the vigil interactive. People can participate by suggesting a message which I can then display outside the House of Representatives.
But to answer your question directly, as of today, I am the only confirmed participant. Ultimately, how many people will join me either in spirit or in person will depend on the media and people like you. Thanks for your interest.
I will not be blogging throughout the event, though I do plan to send sporadic email updates. People who wish to subscribe can do so via this link: Subscribe. ————-
Again, anyone interested in del Real’s project, or has a sign idea, go to P-poll.org.
Perhaps a tad slow in adopting internet campaign strategies, the GOP is finally making at least an effort to try and close the gap between them and Democrats. Along with some new grassroots projects, Republican officials and candidates appear ready to embrace the digital way.
GOP Convention YouTube Contest — Granted, YouTube political videos have been almost exclusively the realm of Democrats and progressives, but for those on the right with a camera you have a chance of winning a trip to the GOP convention. Although, the powers that be aren’t completely ready to turn it over entirely to the masses as party officials will choose the five finalists.
Direct Democracy? — It seems every year someone tries to float the idea of implementing some way for the average voter to get an actual say on legislation and for various reasons they always fail. While not exactly the same as some of those, New York congressman Randy Kuhl’s “Fix Washington” plan is at least a start. Constituents can submit ideas for legislation and then vote on the top five (selected by Kuhl). The winner will be introduced as a bill.
Conservative Graphics — A new grassroots site, KeepThatFaith.com, is hoping to become a clearinghouse for conservative graphics, banners, widgets, etc. So far, though, there are only a handful of McCain pictures up.