Write Something

September 14, 2009

Oh my god I need to write a blog post. I have so many TOPICS but nothing really to add – like all I would be doing is a long recommended reading list and my commentary. That’s just dumb. Especially since I don’t have an audience.

So, a blogger that I really like recommends that when you are stuck for writing a post, to use the prompt: ‘What Pisses Me Off?’ to get the ball rolling. So I do. I start a new paragraph and write it down:

What Pisses Me Off?

The creative juices start to flow, but nothing easy comes. Eventually…

Me procrastinating. And not getting anything accomplished and feeling like I never get anything done. Like I’m a letdown, a disappointment – but not because I don’t think I can do something special at all – but more like a feeling that I’m not ready.

I need more time to prepare. To study. To organize.

I’m always doubling back making more lists, more notes, more reading. But I am doing it so much it goes beyond just practice, it becomes my life. The saying: Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans applies to the fullest extent possible.

I had to submit writing samples to a job that I was applying for the other week. What I just wrote above about my life, applies to all my former writing. I remember researching for all these projects for school – hours online reading and taking notes. Knowing there was a story in there. But once I start to write – I clam up – I choke.

I need caffeine. I go to espn.com. I tinker with my fantasy teams.

Above all I read and take more notes. And once I finally get to it and string together my thoughts, my notes into some sort of paper – it turns into ehh, whatever. Nothing that I’m proud of.  It’s good enough to submit for a grade. But to get paid for? Too long, unedited, amateurish. On top of this my work is late all of the time due to the extra garabeg reading that I do. I have to bullshit to get an extension – even though I put in enough man hours to build a tank.

I have produced some good work. And it always feels good to do so. But the prerequisite to this, is to produce something at all.

So I’m going to start writing and posting on this blog. I have a long list of to-dos for what I want to write on it. But we’ll see if I get to them. Because as I have learned the last few years and to paraphrase – a blog is what happens when you’re busy planning out posts. I’ll try to make sure I don’t just plan, I produce.

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ACORN has been all over the news recently for alleged voter registration fraud. I decided to do some digging into what the media has been saying about them.

Background: ACORN=Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. They are known for several things, but most prominently as an anti-poverty group.

This year, they have signed up approximately 1.3 million new voters, primarily in lower income, urban areas, e.g. black and Democrats. But the GOP has seized upon allegations against the group that they have produced 1000s of fraudulent voter registration submissions across the country, but mainly in Ohio, and Nevada.

My outlook on this is this sucks any which way you cut it. I spent time volunteering to get new people to register to vote and so did a lot of other people I saw here in Philly. So either ACORN is giving my effort a bad name or the GOP is.

I am left with three questions:

  1. ‘What are Acorn’s tactics, and when the register people, how do they police this?
  2. Do phony registration translate into phony votes being cast?
  3. Why are the GOP bringing these allegations up?

I got some answers to these questions from an NPR article I dug up.

Republicans, ACORN Spar Over Voter Registration

What are Acorn’s tactics?

But ACORN officials defended their efforts, saying they’re the ones pointing out problem registrations submitted by their canvassers, whom they pay by the hour, not by the registration. They also said they’re required by law to turn in every form they collect, even if it’s signed by Donald Duck.

Do phony registrations translate into phoney votes being cast?

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said there is little evidence that voter registration fraud translates into fraud at the polls, even though that may be beside the point.

Why are the GOP bringing this up?

Critics said that ACORN is part of an effort to steal votes and possibly throw the outcome of the election into doubt. Former Missouri Sen. John Danforth co-chairs the McCain campaign’s Honest and Open Election Committee, and he said whoever loses on Nov. 4 could feel cheated and want to challenge the results in court.

“If there are a number of states where the election is close and there have been many, many people registered by this organization, ACORN, and where there are numerous cases of fraudulent registration, then the contest could go on for a very long time,” he said.

Rick Hasen said he thinks Republicans are leveling the criticisms in case they lose.

“I think this is just part of a kind of a long-term Republican strategy to play up allegations of voter fraud,” Hasen said. “As a kind of insurance policy in case there’s a very close election.”

My take

What I took away from these and other articles is that ACORN knew about a lot of these fradulant forms, but they are required by law to turn them in wither way. Which makes sense, you don’t want a liberal to throw out a new registrant who happened to be republican.

And even from the most conservative sites I visited, I did not find any direct instances of voter fraud tied to these ACORN allegation, which are obviously very different than the voter registration fraud being alleged against ACORN.

The ultimate question behind this is: Just how easy should voting be?

Should we require IDs? Should every person be automatically registered to vote? Same day sign up? Register at the DMV?

There are a lot of schools of thought on this. I will try to do some more digging to learn more myself. In the meantime, here are some articles from the left and right that I read to inform myself about the issue.

Moderate

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95695996&ft=1&f=1001

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/14/acorn/

Left

http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2008/10/its_all_connected_man.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2008/oct/13/election-acorn-voter-fraud

http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2008/10/error_rates.php

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/237009.php

(I didn’t bring this up in the article, but this points out the connection between the GOP’s rants against voter fraud and the US attorney firings from last year that were politically motivated.)

http://marcambinder.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/10/acorn_mccain_obama_cracking_th.php

Right

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122394051071230749.html

http://www.pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/archives2/025708.php

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/the-complete-guide-to-acorn-voter-fraud/

http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=308875644500971

That was fast…

October 15, 2008

I gave myself a homework assignment the other night to investigate alternative blogging platforms. Well, I found one through talking points memo, where I am known as Morrissay. I will have to do a little compare and contrast later. What I like about that is you are part of a community. So I may move my political stuff over to there and keep this for other things.

Good karma dude

October 14, 2008

One of my favorite blogs is by Tim Ferriss:

I like how he is action oriented and gives advice that can be acted upon right then in the moment, the next day, whenever. The point is, he is not abstract.

Case in point, he has a contest up right now about helping inner city kids get an education.

From his blog:

There are less than 7 hours left to help 100,000 public school students get $1.5 million dollars in much-needed funding for their educations. A single click here is all I ask of you, and I sweeten the pot with a bribe below…

First, from the woman who convinced me to put up this post:

Where you grow up shouldn’t determine the quality of the education you receive. To help level the playing field, I propose giving 100,000 children in low-income communities the books, technology, and other materials that they need for a proper education.

The non-profit Donorschoose (who appear on the dedication page of 4HWW) only need 3,000-4,000 more votes to reach first place and receive $1.5 million dollars from American Express. As few as 500 more votes could lock them in for $500,000 (that means each vote is worth $1,000).

This is definitely an area that I would like to get into. It reminds me of the Team in Training athletic sponsorships program they have for the leukemia lymphoma society.

Unbelievable as it may sound, I have done research into this area. Why are these types of appeals successful?

Rene Bekkers and Pamela Wiepking of the Department of Philanthropic Studies at Vrije University in Amsterdam compiled a scholarly literature review to help explore theories of successful fund raising.

1.Awareness of need: The first is awareness of need the by the donor. Bekkers and Wiepking held that studies show that subjective impressions of the donor rather than the true objective need are crucial to fundraising. In a study by Small and Simonsohn in 2006, they concluded that exposing people to the need of someone else and/or knowing someone who is a victim or ‘suffers’ from something increases a donors preference towards that organization.

2. perception that their contribution makes a difference. (Smith, McSweeny, 2007) Tim’s fund raising goal is concrete and people are more willing to give or take action because this is an attainable goal that they helped him reach.

3. majority of all donations occur in response to a solicitation. (Denton, Mesch, Rooney, Steinberg, 2003) The American Express Survey conducted this past September that studies people’s reasons for donating on and offline and referenced earlier noted that over 20% of people who did donate online stated it was because the organization actively sent them an online appeal and gave them the thread back to the donation page. Also, the top reason that people stated they did not donate online was because the organization they donated to did not approach them online, or they just didn’t think of it. (28%) This suggests that people would have donated online more if the organization had approached them online and established that as the preferred donation vehicle.

From Tim:

Adding people without adding the tools — education and confidence — can create more problems than it solves. Increased disease, famine, and war are just three examples. The US, for example, has no problem multiplying its population; it’s training those people to get along and build a better future that’s the challenge.

With $1.5 million, DonorsChoose can change the future of US education. I’ve seen them execute.

I wish I had an american express card or an audience for my blog (cough, cough) to help TIm out. I will have to find another way to help.

Am I officially unemployed?

October 14, 2008

For statistical purposes and for purposes on unemployment insurance, a “unemployed” person is defined as a person who is
1) not employed,
2) actively seeking employment
3) able to work

For at least three months. So I am officially unemployed. Sweet

But what type of unemployed am I?

Graduate unemployment

Educated unemployment or underemployment is due to a mismatch between the aspirations of graduates and employment opportunities available to them. If the only benefit of a degree is improved workplace productivity, this represents a wasteful investment of scarce resources. Large sums of money have consequently been invested in educating unemployed or underemployed graduates which could otherwise have been invested in job-creating productive programmes.

Oops.

Oh well. Here is a post on the pros and cons of the unemployment benefits I may have to go on soon.

It sucks that I can not tell the different between these two arguments from that post, the first by the blog’s writer:

yglesias

there’s some real evidence that the bad incentive structure extensions creates does a non-trivial amount to undercut the stimulus effect. It’s still a better idea that, say, “tax cuts for rich people!” but it’s worse than a lot of other ideas. Basically, we should be spending money to put people to work doing something useful — infrastructure! — not giving them money that’s conditions on their continued idleness.

versus these from the comments section:

Is Matt buying into the rightwing argument that people on unemployment would rather slack on a paltry $1200 a month (or less) than go back to work? People who make that argument never tried to live on $1200 a month (at least not since they were in college and had parents paying all the really big bills) or they would know it for the howling nonsense it is.

and another

But, more to the point, in the midst of an economic downturn the drag isn’t that people aren’t accepting jobs it’s that a positive feedback loop of cost cutting and reduced economic activity has taken hold. Unemployment benefits are more likely to be spent than most other income transfers, including tax cuts for middle class or rich people. Further there is a case to be made that allowing people more time to search for employment aids them in finding a job better suited to their skills and therefore will be more productive.

and another…

even in boom times, aligning work supply and demand is no mean feat, in large measure due to all the structural disincentives (like home ownership, child situated in school, etc.) that militate against relocating (something harder for a young person without family obligations like matthew to understand). and these ain’t boom times.

at some point, you need to be off unemployment and either employed or actually on welfare, but extending unemployment benefits is a simple, low-cost stimulative measure.

I have a minor in economics and all of these sound pretty good to me.

Lesson being: I am dumb and I need to read more about economics.

Blog lessons:

1. A commenter from yglesias’ blog, Calderon Says:
October 13th, 2008 at 5:52 pm My modest plea for today is that (which applies to nearly all bloggers, so not meaning to single you out) is that when bloggers say that “research indicates,” “evidence shows,” or they just assert some non-obvious fact, that they please include a citation so the readers can look it up.

2. I dont like the word press writing interface-it feels very cramped. I will have to keep an eye out for what other people use for blogs. On the other hand, I like how you can get easy data about each of the post, things are easy to edit, and manage. So overall not bad, but I would be surprised if there were not some better programs out there.

  • Assignment: find best blog programs

3. I need a better system for copy and paste, as well as for referencing. Everything is getting too messy to fast.

  • Assignment: lynda lessons, see if I can figure some of this stuff out

Mike goes to the museum

October 13, 2008

I decided it was high time for me to pick a favorite real artist. So when I went to the Philadelphia museum of art with my dad yesterday, I chose a few. So here are my favorite paintings:

“The Agnew Clinic” Thomas Eakins (Background)

“Grand canyon of the Colorado River’ Thomas Moran

http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/70115.html?mulR=7811

(this one below isn’t it, the link above shows the one that I like, but this one is similar)

Pichincha Frederich Edwin Church

(Couldn’t insert picture, so I linked to it above)

“Between Rounds” Thomas Eakins

“A May Morning in the park” Thomas Eakins

Gross Clinic Thomas Eakins

Moulin Rouge The Dance

Picasso Man with a violin

The City Legar

Pablo Picasso Three musicians

Le Ban Bock Manet

Victory Within Grasp, Obama Faces A New Choice

Thomas Edsall wrote an interesting article for the Huffington Post…With it looking more and more likely that Obama will win-does he begin to shift his message so he can more effectively govern once he takes office?

Simple answer is no…win the damn thing first. But I remember W’s 2004 re-election-he came back with the idea that the American people had given him a “mandate” (with 51% of the vote) to make drastic reform. He started with his privitizing social secuirty message, and all of a sudden his mandate was gone. Then Katrina hit in the summer of 2005 and he has basically been a lame duck ever since. His last big push came last year with his immigration reform bill. But by then he didnt have the sway in congress to hold the line.

The lesson is: an entire term can go by real fast. That initial push in the first months of office can make all the difference to achieving anything noteworthy.

Chris Bowers of Open Left makes the argument that Obama has willfully chained himself to his own personal Katrina by supporting the $700 billion bail out package…

“In regards to the economic crisis, Obama already undermined his ability to set the agenda and govern when he, like pretty much all leading Democrats, accepted Paulson’s argument that $700 billion needed to be dispersed immediately. Not only was that clearly an example of Paulson setting the agenda, rather than Obama or Democrats, but spending of that size this year has reduced the amount of governing Obama could do next year as President.”

I don’t know enough about the bailout bill or Wall Street in general to say one way or another that it was the absolute best thing to do. (here is a post that I liked that explains the urgency. I dunno if it is right, but it sounds good to me) But Bowsers is right-this plan is for all intents and purposes in the Dems laps–they have to make sure that people understand the need and sense the urgency. Obama doesnt want to follow in W’s footsteps and be a lame duck six months into office.