You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for January, 2008.

National Popular Vote Compact

January 15th, 2008

At one point in my past I thought I had my future all figured out: I was going to study electoral law, write amazing, insightful things about it, and become an adviser to powerful people. Things didn’t turn out that way, in part because the study of electoral law is incredibly boring, in part because of two tiny experiences I had working on local-level political campaigns, and in part because I became interested in substance control policy along the way and ended up focusing on that instead. And probably also in part because life is just like that.

Nonetheless, I still find electoral law interesting enough to pay attention to it from a distance, and I happen to live in the first US state — Maryland — to commit itself to reforming the fundamental structure of US presidential elections. All of which means that I’ve been paying attention to the National Popular Vote Compact for a while.

The Compact directs a state’s electors to cast their votes for the winner of the national popular vote — rather than for the winner of the state’s popular vote. The constitution leaves it up to the states to decide how to apportion their electoral college votes, so there isn’t a constitutional basis for a challenge to NPV. The Compact will not go into effect until sufficient states have passed it to control 270 votes in the electoral college, giving them enough leverage to ensure that the popular vote winner becomes the president. It’s an elegant way around an outdated voting scheme*.

At least 47 states will be considering the compact this year, and it seems to have a great deal of support in populous states (which I assume means they are tired of getting trounced by small states in the electoral college), making it not unlikely that it could be in place for the 2012 election. New Jersey’s governor just signed the compact into law, and the legislatures of Hawaii, California and Illinois have passed it. There is obviously a long way to go, but I think this is an exciting idea — I’ll certainly be watching it develop.
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*I don’t want to go into great detail here, but most current and past electoral schemes have needed some way of “coarsening” the vote to avoid chaos, and historically, the electoral college served this function very well in the US. The need for coarsening is most obvious in proportional representation systems, where if every party that received votes got seats, legislating would not be possible because the minorities really would rule. But even first-past-the-post (FPTP) systems need coarsening to make them efficient, at least until our voting technology stabilizes in a more reliable, verifiable way. But what about the future? In a world of perfect voting technology, would coarsening be necessary in FPTP systems? That’s a fascinating question.

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me

January 12th, 2008

I was tagged with this meme over at 12 Frogs a very long time ago — I’ve been working on this post off and on for 8 months! The idea is to list 5 things that readers would not know about me based solely on my blog. This was difficult because I’ve been blogging for a long time and because I lost my early archives, and also for the same reason it was hard for 12 Frogs: I’m protective of certain personal details. But here’s the list I came up with.

1) I was an extra in a movie when I was 15. It was the made-for-TV remake of Inherit the Wind starring Kirk Douglas. The movie was filmed near my hometown, and my high school band director was contacted about having our band in the movie. Several of us portrayed the marching band that greets Matthew Harrison Brady (played by Douglas) when he arrives in town. The uniforms we wore were the same ones the band wore in The Music Man — no joke, the wardrobe people told us this — although they were much worse for wear. They didn’t want a girl in the band, so I had to tuck my hair under my hat, wear a uniform jacket that was a bit too big, and march in the center of the band.

2) I am easily disturbed by quiet, repetitive sounds. Loud sounds don’t bother me, and quiet sounds with no pattern don’t bother me — it’s repetitive, quiet sounds that drive me straight up the wall. A ticking clock is torture to me. The first thing I do upon arriving at my mother’s house is remove the batteries from the analog clock in her guest room.

3) I once danced on a bar in Chicago. This was far less titillating than it sounds. This particular bar locks it’s doors at 11pm and invites a handful of women to dance on the bar, fully clothed, to very loud music, for one song. Then they unlock the doors. I suspect this is a way to get patrons in the door well in advance of bar time, although they don’t sell alcohol while the dancing is going on. Mostly, I did it so that I could later on say that I did it, because it’s the kind of thing no one would ever expect me to do.

4) I am fascinated by exotic pets. When I was a child, we lived on a small working farm, and I had two pet chickens named Donnie and Marie. I once told my friends that I had a million pets because all my beekeeper dad’s bees belonged to me and I had named them all. I would love to someday have a sugar glider or a hedgehog, although I really don’t think it’s right for people to keep sugar gliders or hedgehogs as pets, so I probably never will.

5) It took me a very, very long time to come up with a fifth thing. In fact, that’s why this entry has been delayed for so long. So, at long last, here’s number 5: I hate to bake. I love to cook, but hate to bake. I think baking is like a math test — you have to do everything exactly right, and wait until the very end to find out if it’s going to turn out right. Only, it’s worse than a math test because if it doesn’t come out right, you will not only be unable to fix it, but you won’t have any way to figure out what you did wrong.

As for tagging others to do this? No way. It took me so very long to do it myself that it would feel mean to tag someone else!

It’s still there. Sorta.

January 11th, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary died yesterday. Think what you will about modern tourism-as-mountaineering (especially on Everest), but there’s no denying that by climbing Mount Everest with Tenzing Norgay and the rest of their team, Hillary changed the world dramatically — he made it smaller. How many of us can say that? And now with his passing, it’s become smaller once again.

Things I hate, an ongoing series

January 8th, 2008

I really, really hate the Christmas-ization of other holidays. Since when did anyone need Valentine’s Day garland? or Saint Patrick’s Day lights? or a Halloween Tree?

It’s not that I object to decorating for these holidays — I love a jack o’ latern just as much as the next person. It’s the adaptation of traditional Christmas decorations for these holidays that bugs. It feels like all these holidays are being homogenized into one continuous long holiday — a longliday — from Valentine’s to Easter to Memorial Day to Mother’s Day to Father’s Day to Labor Day to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas and back to Valentine’s. The decorations vary only slightly in color and not at all in type, none of it is special, and eventually it all becomes background noise and work rather than festive and fun.

No wonder Americans need such big houses with 3 and 4 car garages — we’ve got to have space to store all our decorations!!

Crafting 365, Day 1

January 1st, 2008

I decided to try the Crafting 365 challenge on Flickr. The idea is that you craft a little bit each day, snap a picture and post it to the Crafting 365 group pool. I tend to be a bit manic when it comes to my art and craft projects, and I need to learn to do less more often. I’m hoping this project can help me with that — and with my still life photo skills.

Here’s day 1, a bit of crocheting:
Day 1

My knitting group (which I no longer attend regularly) made these squares a while ago, but they were never joined into a blanket. I picked out a bunch of squares that are rose, tan, and burgundy (some are a combination of those colors) and I’m edging them in ecru, and will eventually join them and donate the afghan to a charity.