Cos' Journal
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Cos' LiveJournal:

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    Thursday, January 1st, 2037
    12:00 am
    Other Places I Post
    I have two other LJs: cosmusic, coslinks

    See what links I've been reading on (coslinks),
     and what links I've been posting on reddit (cos)

    Photos: Some from the 90s on my old web site, newer ones on Flickr (cospics) and most recent (pretty much anything since 2006) on Facebook
    Videos: YouTube (youcos)

    Where are you? Fill out my LJ poll.

    Monday, September 15th, 2014
    2:57 pm
    Some Whales near Provincetown
    Last week I went on a whale watch with coworkers, and we got three whales close to us for about an hour; they dove for about ten minutes at a time and then came up for a few minutes, so we saw them six times. New England Aquarium has a blog post about our trip with photos of their three flukes. They were humpbacks named Bayou, Pele, and Pepper. Apparently Pepper was the second humpback whale named, after Salt. Both Salt and Pepper were named in 1976, near Provincetown, which is where we were on this excursion as well, so we saw Pepper very close to where she was named 38 years ago.

    In my video clips you can see tail flukes from two of them diving:

    Bayou lost a portion of her tail in a propeller strike a few years ago. You can see the injury when she dives, near the beginning of the video.
    Monday, September 8th, 2014
    2:42 pm
    Massachusetts Primary Picks
    Tomorrow, Tuesday Sep 9th, is the Massachusetts primary election. Polls are open 7am-8pm, and you can find your polling place and a list of candidates on your ballot at

    People keep asking me what I think of the Democratic primary candidates, and I promised a post...

    You can read all of the statewide candidates' Progressive Mass questionnaire submissions for a lot more detail about their policy positions, experience, and statements about why they're running and what they believe. Progressive Mass members used these questionnaires, plus a series of candidate forums, to vote on endorsements.

    • Governor

      Don Berwick outshines the others by far. By plainly promoting strong progressive policies, he'd move the debate about a lot of things in Massachusetts and cause a sea change in the kinds of policies we actually get. Single payer health care, a progressive income tax, universal pre-K education, no more prison building, housing-first for homelessness, and more.

      Not only that, but Don Berwick has a long and solid background of evidence-based approaches to management and policy. Instead of deciding a-priori by ideology or political considerations how to do something or how to accomplish some goal, he looks at the actual outcomes of different approaches to see what the evidence says will likely be most effective. Berwick was endorsed by Progressive Mass after getting 70% of the vote in what was then a 4-candidate contest: Significantly more than twice as many votes as the three other candidates combined. I agree with the commenter who wrote, "I believe his candidacy represents our chance to substantially change the political landscape here in Massachusetts."

      Martha Coakley is clearly the worst of the three. Read more...Collapse )
      So here's the problem: Currently Coakley leads in the polls, Steve Grossman is second, and Don Berwick third. If your priority is defeating Coakley, you'd vote for Steve Grossman, who's a reasonable candidate, more likely to beat Coakley in the primary, and better able to win the general election. If your priority is supporting a far superior candidate, at risk of making it more likely that we'll get the worst (perhaps because you think she may not be that awful), then Don Berwick is the best choice.

      [Updated: Or, as some people point out, if you believe Coakley is going to win the primary regardless of who you vote for, then you might as well vote for the best candidate. That's Berwick.]

    • Attorney General

      Warren Tolman seems pretty good to me, but Maura Healey really stands out. She's a civil rights attorney who led the lawsuit that overturned a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act in the Supreme Court. She's already got lots of experience in the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, as former Assistant Attorney General. She'd be the first openly gay Attorney General in the US. She's been endorsed by Progressive Mass. I saw them both at a candidate forum and Q&A earlier this summer and came away liking both but having a much better impression of her. This one is, IMO, an easy choice.

    • Lt. Governor

      At a Progressive Mass candidate forum I saw all four candidates speak and answer questions - I asked them questions myself - and I took a bunch of notes. Then I lost all my notes :( Generally I liked all the candidates; Mike Lake and Leland Cheung both seemed better than Kerrigan, and after reflection I decided that Leland Cheung was the best choice. I'm also familiar with him since he's a Cambridge City Councilor and I think he's been one of the best we've had. Some people involved in MA politics whose opinions I value have picked Mike Lake, some have picked Leland Cheung. I'm worried that the progressive vote will split and Steve Kerrigan will win even though nobody I know thinks he's as good as the other two, and neither do I.

      I wish I still had my notes! But you can read the candidates' questionnaire submissions here.

    • Treasurer

      Same thing here: I went to that forum, asked them questions, took notes, and lost the notes, so I fell back on my memory of my impressions, plus their questionnaires. I remember feeling ambivalent about whether Deb Goldberg or Tom Conroy would be best, and I preferred both of them over Barry Finegold.

    • Auditor is uncontested in the primary. Secretary is uncontested in the primary, which is a shame, because Bill Galbin doesn't deserve it. He's better than having an overtly voter-suppressing Republican, but he's anti-Democratic when it comes to his own office, lagged far behind the times in modernizing and computerizing, and the fact that we still don't have election day registration in Massachusetts is a complete disgrace and largely his fault.

      [Update: Galvin will win for sure, since nobody is running against him, but that doesn't mean you should vote for him. I hope you don't.]

    P.S. If you're in the Medford+Somerville district formerly represented by Carl Sciortino, who resigned this year, please vote for Christine Barber for state rep. Carl Sciortino was the best state rep in Massachusetts IMO, and getting someone that good to replace him is a challenge, but she may live up to that challenge.
    Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
    4:26 pm
    Bee on a sunflower
    I haven't had time to write the post I wanna post this week, but in the meantime, have a video of a tiny bee collecting pollen on a sunflower:

    Based on a discussion on reddit I think it's likely a mason bee (genus Osmia) but am not quite sure. It also seems to look like a polyester bee.

    Sunflower courtesy of Alice, who grew it in her garden.
    Friday, August 29th, 2014
    1:56 pm
    Don Berwick
    Massachusetts' primary election is coming up soon, on Tuesday September 9th.

    We've got a 3-way contest for Democratic nominee for Governor. Here's the one I like:

    Don Berwick is a doctor (at Children's Hospital and MGH), a professor (at Harvard), and a knight (yes, knighted by the Queen! :), with a long background in policy and administration, especially healthcare. He was the head administrator of Medicare and Medicaid for the Federal Government for a couple of years in the Obama administration. He had to leave because Republicans in Congress wouldn't confirm him - IMO likely because of his support for single payer health care and the danger that he might be too good at making Medicare work well under Obamacare and use that to argue in favor of single payer.

    Progressive Mass endorsed Berwick for Governor in a member vote in which he got more than twice as many votes as three other candidates combined*, after his answers on the Progressive Mass issues questionnaire earlier this year. Read that questionnaire for details about his views and policies on a variety of things.

    * At the time of the vote, 4 candidates were running, though there are only 3 now.

    I'm going to see him in Davis Square this Sunday. It's a free public event, right in the middle of Davis Square, 11am-12:30. Wanna come?
    Friday, August 15th, 2014
    11:27 am
    Genocide prevented
    While most of our news attention has been focused on Ferguson, MO this week, let's not miss some very good news: Nearly all of the Iraqi Yazidis who were beseiged by ISIS have escaped into Iraqi Kurdistan. As long as the Kurds hold ISIS off their territory, this is literally and directly a genocide prevented (although at least a few thousand are still at risk).

    Kurdistan doesn't have the resources to feed and take care of the more than 100,000 Yazidi refugees they've received in the past couple of weeks, though they're trying. They need help. The US helped save an entire people from destruction but we can do more to keep them alive now. This is the thing to call your Senators and Representative about today, IMO. (I did this morning)
    Sunday, July 20th, 2014
    9:26 pm
    Portland Plant Bio Conference Trip
    Entry mostly for my own reference, though maybe someone else is interested too.

    Friday, July 11
    - Alice and her lab fly to Portland in morning for Plant Biology 2014
    - I drive to Alice's & her housemates' place in CT late evening, stay there

    Saturday, July 12
    - Drive to Bradley airport (Hartford-ish), fly to Portland via Chicago
    - wait an extra few hours in Chicago due to flight delays
    - Jocasta picks me up at PDX airport and we drive to Days Inn and check in
    - Carolina Chocolate Drops outdoor concert at Oregon Zoo
    - Get to Portland contra dance in time for the last 3 dances. Jocasta's first contra dance!
    - Back to hotel, bedtime. Did we eat dinner? Other than fries at the zoo concert?

    Sunday, July 13
    - We drive to convention center Marriott, pick up Alice
    - Multnomah Falls with Jocasta and Alice, hike to the top
    - Jocasta drives us back to Days Inn (where my stuff is), and departs to go home to Yakima
    - Afternoon w/Alice! Pack up my stuff, and we take the max to convention center.
    - Check me in to Quality Inn, across from Marriott, and Alice returns to conference
    - Bill Evans banjo house concert in SE Portland with Martin

    Monday, July 14
    - Work at Portland Google office, somewhat changed (and bigger) since I last saw it
    - Lunch with Alice and Eric S at downtown food carts, Alder & 9th pod
    - Visit Gabby at brunch box, where she works - first in person meeting w/her!
    - Dinner on my own at food carts, then meet Alice at max stop
    - Powells with Alice, including cafe, rare books room, and gardening section :)
    - Voodoo Doughnut with Alice, and a box of doughnuts for the next three days :)

    Tuesday, July 15
    - Work at Portland Google office
    - Food cart lunch @ Alder & 9th pod with Alice, Kevin, Martin, Paul, Lara(Bean), Samantha
    - Meet up with Darlene at max stop after work
    - Dinner w/Darlene at Marrakesh in NW Portland, recommended by Samantha
    - Back to hotel w/Darlene staying the night

    Wednesday, July 16 - full day with Alice!
    - Alice checks out of Marriott, labmates go to airport to return to CT
    - Alice and Gabby meet me and Darlene at my hotel room late morning, we check out
    - Berry picking expedition to Sauvie Island with Alice, Gabby, Darlene
    - Collins beach on Sauvie Island with Alice, Gabby, Darlene
    - Stop at B&B on the way back into town to check in / see room
    - Portland Wednesday Munch at bar next to Gabby's apartment
    - Darlene takes bus back to Oregon city, Gabby goes upstairs (home)
    - Alice and I stop briefly at Voodoo again, then return to B&B

    Thursday, July 17 - full day with Alice!
    - Breakfast at B&B, followed by bird watching on their balcony
    - Portland International Rose Test Garden
    - Portland Japanese Garden
    - Lunch at Persian House downtown
    - Lan Su Chinese Garden, including calligraphy demo
    - Hike at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge in SE Portland
    - Monster Palace dinner gathering! We bring lots of berries :)
    Us, Megan, Martin, Chase, Terra, Dan, Shaunna, Jeff, Beth, their kids, Kevin, a few others...
    - Last night at B&B

    Friday, July 18 - full day with Alice!
    - Breakfast and bird watching at B&B
    - Long but pretty drive to east (rear) side of Mount Saint Helens National Monument
    - Get maps, park permit, and lunch food, in Cougar, WA
    - Meta Lake, Harmony trail (to the shores of Spirit Lake), Windy Ridge overlook
    - Drive directly from Mount Saint Helens to PDX airport
    - Get dinner food at airport, redeye flight to Newark

    Saturday, July 19 - full day with Alice!
    - Breakfast at Newark airport, brief flight to back Bradley
    - Drive back to Alice's house, shower, collapse on futon and sleep 'til afternoon
    - Lunch at Oriental Cafe in Willimantic
    - Hike at Shelter Falls Park
    - Fetch Alice's car from lab, then more Alice time at her place
    - I drive home in the evening shortly before Alice bedtime
    Monday, July 7th, 2014
    12:16 pm
    Human Rights Campaign betrays us again
    A couple of weeks ago, this June, Maine Senator Susan Collins finally came out in favor of gay marriage.

    When the Maine legislature first legalized it in 2009, and then a counter-campaign put it on the ballot, and Maine voted to unlegalize it, Susan Collins didn't do favor it.

    When Mainers United for Marriage organized in 2011 and 2012 to put it back on the ballot, Susan Collins didn't support them.

    When their referendum passed, Maine legalized same sex marriage again at the end of 2012, and in the year and a half that it's been a reality in Maine, Susan Collins didn't support it.

    Why now? Because earlier this June, Shenna Bellows became the Democratic nominee for Senate in Maine, running against Susan Collins. As executive director of the Maine ACLU, Shenna Bellows was one of the lead organizers of Mainers United for Marriage. She was one of the people who formed the organization, back when Maine had recently voted to ban same sex marriage and many people said it was too soon to try again. Her active leadership for marriage equality before it was won has been earning her campaign a lot of support, and contributions.

    So what did the HRC do? They struck a deal with Susan Collins: She says she favors gay marriage, and they endorse her for Senate over Shenna Bellows.

    I guess the message to other politicians is: You don't earn HRC's support by working hard for equality, which is supposedly their mission. You do it by sitting on the sidelines until the work is done, and then telling HRC that if they'll endorse you, you'll say that you favor the gains from the work that other people did, after they've already won those gains.

    Edit: A post by digsby, via jered, that expands on this. While HRC points to Susan Collins' support of the current Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate, she's part of the reason why the current ENDA is so relatively narrow in its protections; Shenna Bellows, on the other hand, led in getting Maine to pass the Maine Human Rights Act, with broad and comprehensive antidiscrimination protections.
    Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
    2:15 pm
    Supreme Court contraception decision... differently terrible than it seemed
    You probably already know that the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, a company that said it violated their religious beliefs to provide health insurance plans to their employees that pay for contraception. After learning more about it, I realize this decision is not quite as horrible as it first seemed in the way that it first seemed, though it's quite horrible in another way.

    One of the first things I wondered when I heard about it was, waitaminnit, isn't that totally at odds with the 1990 decision about peyote? In that one the court said that the Constitution didn't protect someone's use of peyote for religious purposes - it was still illegal if the law said using peyote was illegal. Did they overturn that precedent?

    But no, they didn't. This new decision is actually not Constitutional. Instead, it's a decision about the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act", a law Congress passed in response to the peyote decision. If the Constitution doesn't give people religious exemptions from otherwise illegal acts they do for religious purposes, Congress decided, we'll just make it so the law gives people such exemptions instead. Yesterday the Supreme Court didn't say Hobby Lobby has a Constitutional right to not pay for this insurance benefit, it said the RFRA (a law passed by Congress) allows them to not pay for such plans.

    Under the RFRA if any other law impinges on someone's religious beliefs, they get an exemption unless the law a) advances an important interest, and b) does so in a "narrowly tailored" way - in other words, doesn't impinge on their beliefs more than is necessary to achieve the goal.

    At first I feared this means the Court decided providing contraceptive coverage wasn't an important enough state interest, but that's not the case. Rather than saying that providing contraceptive coverage isn't a valid state interest, they said that it can be achieved in a different way: Either the government could make insurance companies pay for the contraceptive coverage for employees of companies who sought an exemption, or the government could just pay for that contraceptive coverage directly. Doing either of those would have the full desired effect: Every health insurance plan would cover contraceptives. Since the government can achieve this goal without requiring these companies to pay for it, that means under the RFRA that these companies cannot be required to pay for it.

    In that sense, it's a "narrow" decision, and may be easily fixable. The Obama administration already offered a deal to churches and religious nonprofits that sounds like what the court said it could do legally for companies like Hobby Lobby, so presumably they can expand that deal to include these companies. (There's another court case in the works challenging even that, so we'll see...*)

    Here's what's fucked up:

    1. That anyone would claim a religious objection to contraception seems like a ridiculous anachronism in the 21st century US. It wouldn't be happening if we didn't still have an awful lot of devaluing of women in our culture.

    2. Unlike the peyote case, where someone was being penalized for participating in a religious ritual, this case isn't about the actual practice of religion. It's about employees choosing to use their compensation in a way the employer objects to; the employer isn't actually doing so. This seems crazy to me. Compensation for a job is money or other financial value given to the employee, which they can then choose to use however they want. Morally and logically, this seems no different from letting an employer tell you what you can't spend your wages/salary on!

    ... but here's the worst part:

    3. When the RFRA was passed in response to the peyote case, the hubbub was about people and their right to practice their religion. Now the Supreme Court has decided that some corporations can also have religious beliefs, and thus have the same rights under the law. For-profit corporations can have religious faith!!

    The whole point of incorporating is to shield the individuals who run the corporations and/or own it from legal liability and financial risk from what the corporation does. Yet somehow the Supreme Court thinks that separation between the individuals and corporations doesn't always apply in the other direction when it comes to religious beliefs.

    So... we can get contraceptive coverage back, probably, without even needing Congress (and we certainly could with an act of Congress). But this ongoing trend of the Supreme Court giving corporations more and more rights and benefits that were intended just for actual people is going to be much harder to reverse.

    Edit: Move to Amend is the coalition trying to reverse this trend of excessive corporate rights. You could sign their petition and join their email list.

    Edit2: I really like this blog post, which makes some of the same points, and gives more of a legal analysis (in an easy to read manner).

    *Edit3: Supreme Court is indeed signalling, in that second case, that they may throw a wrench into the workaround: Wheaton College injunction: The Supreme Court just sneakily reversed itself on Hobby Lobby
    Friday, June 20th, 2014
    3:48 pm
    Opinions/views/discussion sought: Is Kurdistan finally happening for real?
    Thursday, June 19th, 2014
    3:34 pm
    Net Neutrality comment I submitted
    The FCC is taking comments about its proposed new policy for net neutrality. Here's what I submitted:

      I've complained to my city government about our broadband Internet service provider only to hear their frustration about their inability to get another option for us. Once one company has installed the infrastructure, it's very hard to entice another to come in. I look longingly at neighboring towns that have two options for high speed Internet at home. Two options is what we aspire to and cannot achieve. *Two!*

      Whatever goals the FCC had in mind when you chose the contrived policy of treating last-mile high speed Internet companies as "information services", those goals have failed. They've failed so completely, so deeply, so fully, as to make Donald Trump's presidential campaign look bright and hopeful in comparison.

      High speed Internet to the home is a utility, and in the US, it is a monopoly. Regulate it like the utility and monopoly that it is. Start by taking the obvious and natural step of classifying these providers as "telcommunications" providers, which is what they clearly are, and as common carriers, which is what they should be but have been able to avoid acting as so far.

    A bit of contextCollapse )

    Over 128,000 comments have been submitted to the FCC on this already! You can give them your comments - click on "14-28 Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet". You don't need to make long or detailed comments. Plenty of people are submitting very simple requests like "protect the open Internet" or "reclassify Internet providers as common carriers" or "make sure Internet providers treat traffic from everyone equally and fairly".
    Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
    3:43 pm
    Boston Grown-Ups Museum ticket for Wednesday night
    I got one ticket to the Boston Grown-Ups Museum evening at the Childrens' Museum tomorrow, Wednesday June 18th. However it turns out I have to work tomorrow evening, so I'm probably not going to go. The evening is sold out. Anyone want this ticket?

    Edit: Given to rhysara's friend
    Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
    10:54 am
    Flight or Invisibility?
    Recently I listened to this bit on This American Life where John Hodgman surveys people about which superpower they'd pick if they could be the only person in the world with either flight, or invisibility? And why would they pick it.

    What surprised me is that none of the people he included in sound bites, nor John Hodgman himself, ever even alluded to most of the things that came to mind first to me. So before you read what's below the cut here, I'm curious: What do you think? Which would you pick, and why? What would you do with it?

    Edit: The reason I'm asking this question is to find out what you think are the reasons why you might want flight, why you might want invisibility, and why you'd pick the one you pick? (Before you read further and see what came to mind when I thought about it)

    Well, okay, what came to mind first was...Collapse )

    I'd certainly expect some of the people in the radio piece to have very different views from mine, but I thought the things that came to mind for me were obvious enough, or plausible enough, that I'd at least hear some of them, from someone. Now I wonder whether I'll see any of them from any of you who read this, before you read my whole post.
    Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
    3:49 pm
    Cougar on Catnip
    On December 31st, just before leaving Tampa to head to the Everglades, I took a tour of Big Cat Rescue. I haven't postprocessed or posted the photos yet, but I just put together this video from a few clips:

    Missed some of the best parts, because this cat kept doing things or vocalizing right after I'd stop the camera :)
    Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
    4:38 pm
    Firefox 29 upgrade: How to get your title bar and saved tabs back
    When I let Firefox upgrade from version 28 to 29 today on my Mac, the new Firefox started without any of the saved tabs I had from my previous session! Also, there was no longer a title bar along the top! Fortunately you can fix both problems.

    1. Getting your saved session back.

    Type "about:config" in the title bar, hit enter, and click the "I'll be careful" button.

    You'll see a screen full of lines for various setting names like "accessibility.typeaheadfind.enabletimeout" and "" and on and on and on.

    In the search bar at the top, type "browser.sessionstore.enabled" and hit enter. If you see an empty screen below the search bar, then you have the same problem I (and many other people) encountered: your browser.sessionstore.enabled setting vanished with the upgrade. So, you need to put it back...

    Right-click somewhere in that empty space below.
    From that right-click menu, select New -> Boolean.
    In the popup window, enter browser.sessionstore.enabled and click OK.
    Select "true".
    You can close the "about:config" tab now. All your other tabs should immediately reappear.

    2. Getting your title bar back.

    Right-click on the top-right or top-left, on the same bar where all your tabs are, but not on one of the tabs. Anywhere to the right or left of the tabs, in the gray area or the buttons that are there.

    From the right-click menu, choose "Customize..."

    On the customize screen, on the bottom left, click the "Title Bar" button.
    Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
    11:14 am
    Fire in the Sky
    On a cross country road trip in 2007, one morning when I got on the road before dawn heading east on I-94 in North Dakota, I started video on my camera and held it on the dashboard pointing vaguely forward, and captured a spectacular break of day. BT's album ESCM came to mind because of the part where it says "fire in the sky", so I put that on the stereo.

    [ Sorry for the wobbliness, as I wasn't paying much attention to the camera or watching its viewscreen. And for the relatively poor quality of that old camera (a hand me down from mzrowan that died that following year). ]

    Music I was listening to that you can hear on this video:

    predawn to dawn: Andreas Vollenweider - Trilogy
    dawn to sunrise: BT - ESCM
    sunrise: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon soundtrack (Yo Yo Ma)
    Friday, April 11th, 2014
    2:03 pm
    Google focus group in Cambridge, $50 app credit
    Google is looking for some people to partipate in a study or focus group of some sort, for 90 minutes next Wednesday or Thursday at the office here in Kendall Square. I don't know anything more about it except what it says on the form: "this study will help the Google team better understand your needs in order to incorporate them into future product enhancements." You get $50 in Play store credit (Android's app & media store) if you participate. Fill out this form if you're interested.
    Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
    4:03 pm
    The Wealth Primary
    I wrote this post in 2006 when I was working for John Bonifaz's campaign for secretary of state of Massachusetts. Today's Supreme Court decision makes it even more relevant now. Please re-post this link.

    The Wealth Primary

    by cos, Thu Jun 29, 2006 at 07:43:34 AM EDT

    This week's decision by the Supreme Court, striking down the spending and contribution limits in Vermont's public financing law, is a good time to reflect on why so many Americans want clean elections through public financing. Money distorts and corrodes politics in many different ways. Today, with June 30th filing deadlines approaching in federal and many state electons, one in particular is on my mind: the wealth primary.

    Early in the 20th century, "white primaries" excluded black voters from determining party nominees in many states. They were considered legal under the theory that they were not "state action" - primaries were a private function carried out by party clubs, so equal protection did not apply. In the mid-20th century, the Supreme Court ruled "white primaries" unconstitutional, by reinterpreting "state action" to apply to processes that were clearly such a critical part of the electoral process. Being allowed to vote in the general election, but not to select your party's nominee, was an incomplete right to vote, and equal protection did apply.

    Whites-only primaries are gone, but we still have another process that excludes whole classes of people from a critical part of the electoral process: Wealth primaries. At first, poll taxes were used to explicitly prevent the poor from voting, and these too were ruled unconstitutional. Over the years, another process has taken their place. Before a single vote is cast, candidates must raise money from private donors. Party leaders, and the press, look at the numbers, and candidates who haven't raised enough are written off. Dismissed as "not credible". Not covered on the front page, or much at all. In some cases, even pressured by party leaders to drop out of races.

    I'm particularly sensitive to the wealth primary this year because of recent campaigns where I live (near Boston). At the beginning of this year, we had four candidates running for District Attorney, an open seat. One of those candidates was a state senator, and several candidates began running for his seat, which would become open since he was running for DA. One of those candidates was a state representative, as was one of the other candidates for DA, which opened up two seats in the state house for new candidates. And then, one by one, candidates dropped out of these races because they couldn't raise enough money to keep up with their opponents.

    There is now just one candidate for DA - the one who raised so much money that it pushed the other three out of the race. The state senator decided to run for re-election, so all other candidates for his senate seat dropped out. Both state reps are also running for re-election. Now, I support most of these candidates. Nevertheless, at least four elections were all decided by contributors before any votes were cast!

    Unlike white primaries, wealth primaries don't keep anyone from voting to choose the party nominee. What they do is reserve the process of selecting who will run primarily for the wealthy. A single donor who can afford to give $500 is worth as much as ten donors who can only afford $50. A single donor who can afford to give $2,000 is worth as much as a hundred donors who can only afford $20. In the Wealth Primary, it's one dollar, one vote.

    This is also on my mind because I work for the man who developed legal theory behind the "wealth primary" argument, John Bonifaz. He founded the National Voting Rights Institute partly to advance this in the courts, and it was largely on the basis of this work that the MacArthur Foundation awarded him a fellowship, commonly known as a "genius award". He was a co-counsel in the defense of Vermont's public financing law.

    Ironically, Bonifaz himself is in a wealth primary right now. As a new challenger running against a 12 year incumbent for secretary of state, it's sometimes a struggle to get the press to pay attention. In a healthy democracy, Bonifaz's expertise in election law and long history of effective voting rights advocacy both nationally and athome would be enough to mark him a credible candidate worth serious attention. But given his incumbent's 7-figure campaign warchest, Bonifaz's "credibility" will be determined, in the eyes of the press, by how much money people contribute before tomorrow's filing deadline.

    Let's work hard to eliminate wealth primaries by instituting public financing of elections. But in the meantime, if you can afford to contribute, your favorite candidates (unfortunately) need your financial support today.

    [ Slightly edited mostly to correct typos, update links, and clarify some sentences, but this is basically the same post I wrote in 2006 (so "This week" refers to a June 2006 decision). ]
    Thursday, March 27th, 2014
    9:32 am
    boisterity: the quality that makes things boisterous
    Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
    10:06 am
    Local Woodpecker
    Yesterday walking to work I encountered a cute little woodpecker:
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