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It’s time to reformat data privacy for the 21st century, but does Congress want the upgrade? | The Verge

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votes and voting

The Ohio 2005 General Election is coming up in less than two weeks. I’m trying to find time to sit down and read through the 5 issues on the ballot.

On the agenda are:

There don’t seem to be any local Shaker Heights issues, so that’s a bonus.

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The Shout

I found this over at Jennifer Granick’s weblog.

The gist of it is that volunteers at katrinalist, a site that is attempting to gather information on lost Hurricane Katrina victims in one place, have received cease & desist letters from the owners of the “GCN Survivor/Connector Database.”

This is appalling. The C&D tries to spin the situation, as if katrinalist is harming the hurricane victims by allowing wider dissemination of their information. Then, they stop and say “we will enforce our copyright.”

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Katrina Timeline

Katrina Timeline.

Think Progress has an excellent Katrina timeline, with citations.

It’s been a strange few weeks. The beginning of fall is, seemingly, a time for tragedy. The only difference this year is that the tragedy isn’t personal in nature. I alternate between being grateful, and feeling a little guilty for it.

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I know you are. But, what am I?

Last October, George Essef took out a full page ad in the Washington Post detailing exactly what he is. What he is, he tells us, is a Republican. He spent $104, 655.60 to do so. While I don’t have $100,000, I do have a weblog.

Now, knowing what Mr. Essef stands for, I think it’s only fair to answer the same question: What am I?

I am someone who believes that the American Dream is a commitment to knowledge, equality, and morality.

I am someone who believes that God wouldn’t have given us eyes to see, and ears to listen, and minds to reason if not to use those faculties to the best of our abilities. I believe our pursuit of knowledge can only enable our society to do more and be more for its citizens. I am not someone who believes in ignoring science and knowledge simply because I don’t like what I hear.

I am someone who believes that equality means ensuring that everyone has the same chances. I believe in educating them, whether it be in math, civics, or the sexuality of their own bodies. I believe that education allows them to make informed decisions about their lives and communities, and equality, whether it be in marriage or in job opportunities causes people to be invested in those institutions.

I believe everyone has the right to vote, and that the disenfranchised need a voice.

I believe in more than a woman’s right to choose: I believe in her right to manage her own life. I believe she deserves all the rights and chances as a man. I don’t concede the moral high ground to the “pro-life” movement. Instead, I submit that in their rush to legislate less education and a narrowing of choices they increase abortions; they do the very thing they purport to be against. Instead, by providing education and support, I believe we can reduce abortions and strengthen families.

I believe in supporting all our people. While I admire Mr. Essef’s ability to pull himself up by his bootstraps, I also note that there are a multitude of Americans who toil at low wage jobs only to find that they can’t afford rent, or medicine, or school supplies at the end of the month. I believe it is our duty to help our fellow citizens, and an outrage that some people would dismantle the apparatus that would do so.

I am someone who pushes for environmental reform. I do so because I believe that we must be as stewards for our land. That we have dominion over bird and beast, plant and animal is naught but a responsibility to care for that land. I stand against those who dismiss our environment as something to take care of “later,” because our scientists tell us that “later” is actually to late.

While I celebrate the soldiers that defend my rights, I will not tolerate human abuse in the name of defense. I will not tread on the rights of the innocent or the guilty in the name of the Constitution. Our Armed Forces in general conduct themselves honorably; I rely on the press to inform me when they do not. I believe that the exercise of our rights is central to preserving those rights; why should the military defend our rights, if we never use them?

So, Mr. Essef, I know what you are, but, what am I? I am a liberal, a democrat, and someone who believes that we can do better for our families, our fellow citizens, our environment, and our world.

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gun control research

Eldan recently asked about reliable gun control statistics. I haven’t had the time to read these papers thoroughly, but I thought finding some research publications on the subject would be useful:

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Florida considers law outlawing withdrawal of food and water

Appeals Court Refuses to Order Schiavo’s Feeding Reinstated: “In Tallahassee, Governor Bush worked to gather support for a bill that could force at least a temporary restoration of Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube. A measure passed last week by the House of Representatives would outlaw the withdrawal of food and water from people in a ‘persistent vegetative state,’ as doctors have diagnosed Ms. Schiavo, who had not left specific instructions refusing artificial sustenance.”

I can’t believe this bill would gain any traction in Florida. The majority of Fl citizens are elderly, and while I have no doubt that most of them want to live long, fulfilling lives, I’d be willing to bet that most of them wouldn’t want to be kept alive in circumstances such as these. Nationwide polling seems to support this.

Clearly, the way out of this is leave clear instructions concerning end-of-life instructions. If you’re not so thoughtful, however, what do you do?

In a way, this reminds me of the anti-death penalty arguments: we shouldn’t execute people because there’s always some chance they could be innocent. Witness testimony is unreliable, and DNA evidence has been exonerating people left and right. Can we apply a similar argument to someone in a persistent vegetative state who hasn’t left instructions concerning end-of-life?

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warm and fuzzy god

Sinfest today is apt. We can put God anywhere we want, but it’s all pretty meaningless unless we really listen to what he has to say.

I’ve got more to write, but also a stack of papers to grade, and some homework (can’t… forget… homework…).

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Election 2004: Cleveland, OH

As I sit down to write this, The Kerry campaign is conceding victory to George Bush in the 2004 Presidential election. While I have reasonably strong feelings about this, it’s not what I’m about to talk about. Though, I will; probably at great length.

Instead, I’m going to ramble about 2 November 2004 in Cleveland, OH. Or, at least, I’m going to ramble about what I saw, and what I thought.

Yesterday, I woke up at 4AM, showered, put on my Election Protection t-shirt, and drove out to one of two EP centers in Cleveland. There were a few logistical issues, like the person who was having a seizure on our front steps, the fact that they sent me to the wrong EP center, and the organizer who wanted to set me up with his Malayalee girlfriend’s sister (I respectfully declined).

After helping a few teams get their things together (toy box, signs, chairs), my partner and I drove over to the HQ where we were needed. Everything proceeded smoothly from there. We drove out to our polling place, stuck our signs in the ground, and met the people from the Voter Protection Team (sponsored by the DNC), and East Cleveland Pastors for Progress.

The day was rainy and fairly wet. Of all the groups out there, we were the only nonpartisan one — not that it made a difference. The only republicans we saw were GOP challengers, and they just took notes.

We made a good team: while we came from a variety of organizations, we all helped ensure that people were able to vote. The other people came from as far away as NY. My partner was a school teacher in his everyday life. He managed to be so liberal, that NPR was a bit too far to the right for him. The people from the DNC included a Columbia law professor, her high school daughter, and another NY lawyer. We were rounded out by a few representatives from East Cleveland Pastors for Progress: a nice young law student who was planning on spending some time in Honduras after the election.

Making friends is a strange thing in circumstances like that. Everyone was there for the whole day, and we traded information, and services. We ganged up on the booth officials when we thought they were doing something wrong, we split duties (some of us calling to confirm precincts for voters, others calling for rides), we traded information from our various organizations, and we brought each other coffee and snacks and chairs.

Watching the various groups work was a pleasure: they tracked voter turnout, and sent people canvassing if numbers were low. They coordinated rides, provided legal advice, confirmed polling locations, and enforced election law.

What made it most interesting though was the voters. Almost everyone who came through was pumped to be voting. Our oft-heard “if there are any problems, please come see us” was often answered with, “Oh, you’ll hear about it all right!” or (our personal favorite), “There won’t be any problems. I’ll see to it!”

We had a woman come in with her son and daughter, both of whom had voted earlier in the day: The mother did not walk to well, so they had come to help her vote. We informed them that, by law, she was permitted to vote from her car if that would be easier for her. The son, a large (6’4″ or 6’5″, and barrel-chested) man bent down to ask his mother if she’d prefer to vote in the car. She was pleased as punch! We spoke to the presiding judge, who was reluctant. She finally gave way under our combined insistence. I don’t think I’d ever seen someone so happy. She came, she sat, she voted: and we helped make that experience more comfortable for her.

We had other people who had trouble finding their place on the ballots. One such woman came out of the precinct with her sister, unhappy. We let her know we could provide assistance, either in confirming her registration, or ensuring that her provisional ballot was correctly filed. She went back in to straighten things out, while her sister waited outside. It was (as I’ve no doubt mentioned) cold and rainy: I shielded the sister with my umbrella, and listened to her talk: she might have been old, but she was fiesty! After 20 or so minutes of her telling me how no one would interfere with her voting, she looked up at me and said, “how tall do you think I am?” I replied that I thought she must’ve been 4’11” or 5′. She retorted, “I wish! I don’t normally tell people, but I’m 4’3!”

Another 20 minutes of her listening to me counsel voters, and she remarked, “You have a very pretty voice.” It is a good thing I don’t blush.

To say the least, I enjoyed the fact that East Cleveland came out in force to vote, and in record numbers: In the 2000 election, this particular polling station reported 389 voters. This time, over 800 of them turned out. It was like that all over cleveland: young, middle-aged, old, infirm, carefree. They were gung ho, and ready to make their voice heard.

I might not be happy with the outcome of the election, but I’m proud of what I saw at St. James Lutheran Church, East Cleveland, OH. I was proud of the Americans who came out to vote, and I was proud to ease the voting process for them.

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canvassing for kerry

I went canvassing for John Kerry this weekend. It was ok, except for the fact that it was rainy, no one was home, and I met a republican (who was very nice, just… not a swing voter — which, he was supposed to be). That, and the whole thing was completely disorganized: we had an hour orientation, where I had to tear down temporary barriers so I could see. Also: no one knew where the sign in sheet was. After that, we tried to divide up into teams: that took another 90 minutes of people shouting, “anyone need 2 more team members!?”

Right, so, after that, they gave me 3 streets which no one was home on. Well, except for the republican and the head of Doctors 4 Kerry. And, it was raining. Still, it was a learning experience. I may go back in one of the next weekend for a better performance.

I’m also thinking it might be nice to offer basic organizational skills the next time an election rolls around. I mean, it certainly can’t hurt!