Friday, March 20

WHY NOT NATIONAL BALLOT INITIATIVES?

The Case for Direct Democracy
WHY NOT NATIONAL BALLOT INITIATIVES?
Vincent Campbell

Government is dysfunctional, many are saying, meaning that it doesn’t work.  Actually, it works quite well---for the rich. They are making a lot of money, often with help from the government, and are paying the lowest taxes in decades, while ordinary Americans who still have jobs work harder than ever at about the same pay, or less.  We complain that government is serving the top 1% much better than the other 99%, but we seem to be stymied at finding ways to do something about it.  Attempts to improve government have largely failed so far, to wit: 
  • Campaign finance reform  laws---but Congress waters them down and corporations find ways to work around them, now with the support of the Supreme Court.
  • Term limits---but cushy lobbying jobs follow anyway for those serving in Congress.
  • Ethics reform---big talk (shocked! shocked!), and a slap on the wrist for ethical violators.
  • Public financing of Congressional campaigns­­---always spurned by Congress.
Most Americans want such  reforms. They consistently fail, nevertheless, because of the close ties between Congress and big money.  It’s not hard to fathom why many Congressmen cater to the rich, when getting re-elected and later lobbying jobs depend on it.    
         
So the 99% want a government that acts more in the public interest.  At the core this means making better laws.  If Congress cannot do this, maybe the people can. Half the states in the U.S. allow direct popular votes as one way to make state laws. We could make federal laws by this initiative process as well, if the mechanisms were put in place. A project led by former Senator Mike Gravel would do this. (See vote.org for details.  Disclosure: I have advised on it.) But the effort to introduce direct democracy at the national level has had little success to date. As it is now, with only representative democracy, citizens can beg Congress to pass the laws they want, and Congress may do so, or may not. Mendicant democracy, some call it.  

But would ordinary people make better laws for the 99% than Congress does? Those who think elected leaders are better suited to legislate usually assert that the common people have inadequate motivation, skills or knowledge for the task. Social critic H. L. Mencken famously said that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. And commentator Walter Lippmann insisted that we must abandon the notion that the people govern, and accept that their role is only to support or oppose those individuals who actually govern. Alexander Hamilton and John Adams would have agreed.

On the other side, Theodore Roosevelt  claimed, “the majority of the plain people will day in and day out make fewer mistakes in governing themselves than any smaller body of men will make trying to govern them.” Thomas Jefferson said: “The will of the majority, the natural law of every society, is the only sure guardian of the rights of man. Perhaps even this may sometimes err; but its errors are honest, solitary and short-lived.”  Pollster George Gallup adds, “On the most major issues we’ve dealt with in the past 50 years, the public was more likely to be right…based on the judgment of history…than the legislatures or Congress.”          
               
Social scientists have recently provided some evidence bearing on the question. One of the more intriguing facts coming to light is that in many situations the average judgment of many ordinary people is superior to the judgment of almost any individual, however expert. This was found for estimation tasks, such as judging livestock weights, and for predicting complex events, such as election results, product sales, movie ticket sales, and stock values. Writer James Surowiecki summarized this evidence in The Wisdom of Crowds. A few individuals may do better than the average on one prediction, but the average judgment is better over the course of several predictions.
               
The conditions of voting on an initiative are much like those found favorable to crowd wisdom. That is, the group is diverse, and each voter makes an independent judgment, usually after reviewing basic facts and arguments pro and con. Voters may ignore these facts and arguments, but that is true of nearly all situations in which the wisdom of crowds has been demonstrated. Ordinary people, as a group, make amazingly accurate judgments in these conditions.
               
A limitation of the crowd-wisdom findings is that they usually involve near-term predictions. Would people do as well in predicting the long-term benefits of a social policy? How would they compare to elected leaders in this skill? Perhaps elected leaders have more relevant expertise than ordinary citizens in political, economic and social matters, expertise that might make their long term forecasts and policy decisions better.
        
Social psychologist Philip Tetlock tested this proposition. He compared experts of varying prominence and degrees of expertise to each other. What he examined was how well they could predict future economic and political events over a period of 15 years. He found that experts were on average no better than “dilettantes” (professionals with less expertise on that topic) at predicting the future. And experts did only slightly better than simply guessing that all outcomes were equally likely.  Another investigator, K.C. Green, found that college undergraduates playing the role of experts made more accurate forecasts than experts themselves.
        
If experts can’t predict much better than chance guessing, this does not give us much confidence that leaders will make wise civic choices, whoever they may consult,  and whatever their own political and economic expertise.  In highly technical fields, such as engineering and biology, there is little doubt that experts play a vital role in creating solutions to civic problems, but in any field involving human behavior, expertise is quite limited, and we should not be surprised if individual experts cannot predict complex events better than the average judgment of a diverse group of lay persons.
        
Accurate forecasting is only one indicator of decision skill, of course. Another is the soundness of the logic used by the decider. Decision scientists and psychologists have documented at length that most people make thinking errors of several kinds. But experts appear to make such mistakes no less than ordinary citizens. Take the vividness bias. In this error, a “Muslim terrorist strike,” for example, is predicted to be more likely than a “terrorist strike,” because the image is more vivid. Logically this is not possible. “Terrorist strikes” is a larger set of events that includes “Muslim terrorist strikes.” Yet experts make such errors just as lay persons do. No study has emerged of the logic of politicians, but it is hard to imagine they would do better than experts, who usually have more scientific training than politicians.
               
Thus, there is no clear evidence that elected representatives, or political leaders of any kind, are superior to citizens in their decision skills. So if their skills are no better, do leaders have any advantages over ordinary citizens?

 A common assumption is that the politicians spend a good deal more time studying the issue at hand than most citizens do, and so know more about it. This is often true for members of the mark-up committee that creates a bill, although more and more bills are drafted by lobbyists and accepted with little change by such committees.  Even when committees study the matter in detail it is rare that their colleagues in the full legislative body give the details much attention, especially in Congress. They rely instead on the advice of their party leaders and friends, or make a deal to swap votes. They usually devote very little time to one bill since there are so many bills, and since they spend half their time trying to get re-elected. So time spent on the task is at best a weak advantage for leaders when only five percent of Congress marks up a bill and the other 95 percent of those voting spend so little time on it.

Yet surely they must know a bit more than ordinary people. Conventional wisdom decries the general lack of information possessed by voters, who often cannot name office-holders and other similar facts about government. The implication is that they are therefore not fit to govern. But many of us doubt the relevance of such knowledge to making good judgments on civic issues. As discussed above, crowds can be wise without much information, and experts in political and economic matters are not so wise even though they possess a great deal of knowledge. So general factual knowledge per se seems to be overrated as a component of civic wisdom.

Still, few doubt that whatever the political wisdom of the people, it would likely be improved by more review of key assumptions and arguments on the specific issue at hand. To this end, some state initiatives present arguments pro and con. And political scientists have recently demonstrated  new techniques for enhancing deliberation by citizen groups before they vote on issues, such as letting them question experts on the issue, followed by further discussion.
               
In trying out direct democracy in San Jose, California in 1973, for the National Science Foundation we at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found that citizen participation in deciding policy issues increases their knowledge of those issues, including greater awareness of arguments on both sides of an issue. It appears that participation and knowledge of the issue at hand are mutually reinforcing, so perhaps the more responsibility citizens have for deciding civic matters, the better they will be at it.
         
In all, ordinary people appear to be approximately as competent as the elite and the experts when it comes to judgment, fairness and the skills a civic decider needs.  So let’s look at the results of actual legislation by voters and by state legislatures. Have ordinary citizens up to now done any better than their leaders in deciding important civic issues at the state level? Opponents of direct democracy frequently cite some state initiative passed by the people that they think is disgraceful, such as California’s Proposition 13 that cut property taxes but impoverished state and local government. There is no doubt that occasionally initiatives produce results that are regrettable, as do legislatures. What is rarely noted by opponents, however, is that many good policies we now take for granted began as state initiatives, including women’s suffrage, child labor laws, and the eight-hour work day.
               
Some object to direct democracy because they fear ordinary people will abuse minorities.  In hard times, especially, people are sometimes hostile to foreigners or those of a different race or religion. Aroused mobs have done horrible things to minorities, it is true. But a street mob is quite different from voters privately marking ballots. In the Mideast, for example, Islamic extremists at emotional street rallies can arouse great antipathy toward Westerners or minorities, but polls of a representative sample in Muslim countries do not usually support the view that majorities there are hostile to either minorities or Westerners. And in the U.S. popular acceptance of diverse races, cultures and sexual orientations has increased markedly over the last century. Prejudice remains, obviously, but laws against ethnic or religious minorities have long been ruled unconstitutional by the courts, and the record over a century of initiatives shows that the electorate is no more likely to disadvantage minorities than are legislators.
         
 Elisabeth Gerber and other political scientists have compared states that have popular initiatives with states that make laws only through legislatures. These studies found that states with popular initiatives tend to have policies more aligned with public values and preferences than states that rely entirely on representative government.
               
Having ordinary people make laws to suit their values is only desirable if one agrees with the values, of course. And we do agree, I submit, on most values related to public policy.  For example, in measuring citizenship achievement for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, our team at AIR found that a panel of Americans from all walks of life agreed on nearly all behaviors and values (hundreds of them) proposed as criteria of good citizenship. Criteria such as participating in the community, caring for others, obeying the law, and thinking rationally about civic issues. Daily news gives the opposite impression because the media tend to highlight controversy rather than agreement, and clearly there are specific issues such as abortion where we do not agree. But we do seem to agree on most of the fundamental values and behaviors that are important in our civic lives. So perhaps Gerber’s evidence reflects well on ordinary people as lawmakers, at least to the extent of making laws that reflect their common values.
               
By far the biggest weakness of leaders, compared to citizens, is their corruption by power and money, as discussed earlier. Not that ordinary citizens are less susceptible to temptation. Greed seems to well up in many of us when we imagine we can indulge it secretly. It is doubtful that politicians as a group are inferior to ordinary people in ethics or character. Ordinary citizens are more likely to vote in the public interest, not because they are more upright morally than Congresspersons, but because they are not wooed by lobbyists. The role of leader invites corruption. The role of citizen does not. This difference alone is the most significant advantage citizens have over leaders in setting public policy.
               
The usual rejoinder from defenders of the status quo is that voters are influenced by big money too, through media campaigns to persuade people to vote for or against an initiative. This argument, true on its face, has some major weaknesses. First, at the national level it would cost corporations about a thousand times as much to influence voters as it does to buy Congressmen. Second, even after spending millions to persuade voters, the effort would often fail. Gerber’s analysis showed that while powerful interests are sometimes successful in defeating state initiatives, they generally do not persuade voters to pass initiatives. Third, their campaign advertising is out in the open where lies and distortions are more easily revealed, compared to the subtle ways in which lobbies manipulate Congress. So the powerful find the initiative process much more expensive and risky as a way to shape laws to their liking.
                 
There is a strong case, then, for having direct democracy work alongside representative democracy in making national laws, as it already does in making laws in many states. In the future, the key decisions of government will be made, for better or worse, either by ordinary citizens acting in concert or by leaders and their wealthy backers. Americans can go on searching for leaders who will make the federal government work for all of us.  Or, if they believe that ordinary people will usually make good laws, national initiatives may become a reality. Most politicians will object strenuously to such direct democracy, as they always have, but they can be bypassed, just as they were in 1787 when we created our constitution. Some think the Constitution forbids anyone but Congress from making national laws. It does not, and even if it did, the people could change it. But few people know this.  As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.”
               
 It’s our choice.  Maybe we are the ones we have been waiting for.
 
Vincent Campbell is a social psychologist. He directed research on citizenship and democracy at the American Institutes for Research.  Email: vincecampbell@cableone.net


Thursday, October 17

Ballot Initiatives are what made Boulder, Colorado great


                     Boulder's famous Flatirons, unsullied by development, thanks to the Blue Line.

Most of the great things about Boulder were voted in by citizens, after a ballot initiative petition, NOT by City Council! This includes keeping development off the mountains (the 1959 "Blue Line" which prevents City water from being supplied above 5800' elevation), Open Space (we voted to tax ourselves for it starting in 1967), the 55' Height Limit for buildings (1971) Slow Growth so we wouldn't sprawl like Colorado Springs (The "Danish Plan," 1976), banning discrimination based on sexual orientation (1987) and Public Campaign Financing (1999). We also kept the Library downtown when the City wanted to move it East, and put an end to the practice of City Council members resigning at just the right time so they could help appoint their successors, instead of voters deciding. The City website often uses phrases like "Boulder adopted" to make it sound like THEY did these things, taking credit for what WE did, and which Council mostly opposed.

Wednesday, November 14

National Ballot Initiative News

Greetings, democracy fans. There's no recent news on national ballot initiative progress, but last week's state initiatives show that initiatives are where most reforms start, how initiatives need to be improved, and the need for national initiatives. To convince your friends who doubt that initiatives are the way to go, the proof is in the pudding:

1. Initiatives are winding down the 75-year war on marijuana users. While Congress put an end to alcohol prohibition after 13 years of profits to the mafia and deaths by rotgut, it is now too beholden to the alcohol, prescription drug and other interests threatened by marijuana and hemp to act. Colorado's legalization Amendment 64 passed 54.9% to 45.1% as did Washington's Initiative 502 with a 55.3% to 44.7% vote. Medical marijuana also passed in Massachusetts with a stunning 63% to 37%, but Arkansas' medical marijuana and Oregon's legalization both failed. 

The Federal government will still prosecute marijuana users when they want, a demonstration of the need for national ballot initiatives like Senator Mike Gravel's project: http://Vote.org   http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/legal-battle-looms-over-marijuana-initiatives/2012/11/07/cce5033e-28f5-11e2-bab2-eda299503684_story.html

2. Here in Colorado, the City of Longmont banned oil and gas "fracking" in town by 60% to 40%, in spite of the oil and gas companies outspending proponents by more than ten to one, becoming the first citizens to vote on this: http://www.denverpost.com/recommended/ci_21943036  Longmont is now facing off against the governor (a former petroleum geologist) the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, and the fossil corps, who have filed suit. The people who organized this initiative are so juiced, they're talking about a similar Colorado initiative, and are enthused over the prospect of national ones.


3. For the first time, same-sex marriage was legalized in states across the country using ballot initiatives rather than legislation. Maine, Maryland, and Washington all voted to allow same-sex couples the right to marry in their states. Minnesota also became the first state to have voters reject a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  This was all predicted by the prescient Nate Silver last year at  http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/29/the-future-of-same-sex-marriage-ballot-measures/

Having your personal life discussed in the media is no fun for gays, but this is how prejudice gets dispelled. I was raised in the '50s and '60s and never learned about gay people back then. My vague distaste for gays vanished in 1992 when Colorado was debating Amendment 1, which banned gay rights laws (and was overturned by all the courts including the Supreme Court.) During the debate I recalled hitch-hiking through San Francisco in 1970 at age 18 and getting rides from gay men who had their hands all over me. Once I realized where the distaste came from, and that most gays, like most straights, arent' like that, I gained many gay friends including my current Congressman Jared Polis, who happens to favor national ballot initiatives: http://spryeye.blogspot.com/2008/12/my-congressman-jared-polis-on-record.html

4. Californians, after enduring over $1 million a day of ads from major food companies, narrowly defeated Proposition 37, which would have mandated the labeling of GMO foods. The pro-GMO forces outspent the labeling advocates 5 to 1, defeating what polls show is nationwide an overwhelmingly popular idea.
This shows that voters need the kind of objective information that legislators get from public hearings, expert testimony and deliberation. This is just what Oregon's Citizen Initiative Review has provided for three election cycles: http://HealthyDemocracyOregon.org  Gravel's proposal also incorporates this, as Deliberative Committees. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 18 state legislatures have tried and failed to label GMO foods: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Biotech-food-measure-Prop-37-on-ballot-3788811.php

San Juan County, Washington DID pass Initiative Measure No. 2012-4, making it illegal to "propagate, cultivate, raise or grow plants, animals and other organisms which have been genetically modified." http://www.treehugger.com/environmental-policy/washington-county-bans-gmo-cultivation.html


5. Two states and over 120 cities (including mine, Boulder) passed initiatives or referenda to call on Congress to over-ride the Supreme Court's notorious Citizens United decision:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/12638-millions-of-voters-demand-constitutional-amendment-to-overturn-citizens-united

To further convince people, you can show them the record of the last 20 years of initiatives in Colorado: http://spryeye.blogspot.com/2012/01/case-for-ballot-initiatives-and.html   and some national initiative history: http://Vote.org/initiatives

You can see the World-Wide Direct Democracy Newsletter at: http://www.elefant-studio.cz/download/newsletter3.pdf

The 4th Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy just concluded in Montivideo, Uruguay: http://2012globalforum.com/

 I always say: "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can buy most of Congress (and the legislatures) most of the time."

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Evan

Thursday, November 8

Country wakes up to Climate Change! For real.


Wow, 350.org's  Do the Math Tour to stop climate catastrophe starts with a triple bang. Here's what Bill McKibben just emailed me -Evan

Off like a rocket.I'd be lying if I said I'd expected it to start quite this well.We launched the Do the Math tour in Seattle last night -- even though we had sold the out first venue and moved to a bigger one, we still had a hell of a time squeezing in the crowd. Check out the crowd of 2000 people with their fists in the air:

The show was a nonstop high -- people on their feet again and again, pledging to cross the country to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. If you can still get a ticket near you you're going to want one: dothemath-boulder.eventbrite.comBut here are the day's two huge unexpected stories, the things that have us grinning ear to ear as we drive south in the biodiesel bus towards Portland and tonight's show:

1) Seattle mayor Mike McGinn took the stage to tell 2000 of his constituents that the city's treasurer has begun investigating divestment options for the city's money. I had lunch with him, and knew he was taking this seriously -- but this is the kind of forthright action that defines leadership, and he won huge cheers from the crowd when he made his announcement from the stage.

2) Unity College in Maine just announced that they're divesting from fossil fuels -- the first college in the country! On the night this campaign begins! Here's what president Stephen Mulkey said at our press conference this morning: "I know from speaking with other presidents that many more colleges in America are already grappling with this." They won't all move this boldly and proudly -- but we're in business, folks. This is happening: dothemath-boulder.eventbrite.comOn to Oregon!Bill

Monday, May 21

Cure Intestinal Parasies Naturally

How to cure amoebic dysentery, giardia and worms with Quassia
People traveling in 3rd world countries are often afraid of intestinal parasites, but, having lived for 3 years in poorer areas of Mexico and 2 in Guatemala, I learned there are easy solutions. I picked up amoebic dysentery several times while on long bicycle trips, and knowing how to deal with them, I was able to continue with no problems. This method is for healthy people only!
Here's how I do it: If my gut hurts, I wait two days. If it's just a bacterial infection, you should start to feel better. Coconut milk is very soothing. Definitely avoid alcohol and sweets, which bacteria and other parasites love.

If after 2 days, you feel as bad or worse, you should start treatment with a “full-spectrum antibiotic” -or the herb Quassia, which is used in much the same way -especially if there is mucus in your feces and sulphur in the gas you pass. In most of Latin America, just go to a Pharmacia and ask for Flagyl (or the generic Metronidazole), the cheap drug available everywhere, or say “tengo amebas” (“I have amoebas”) and they'll almost certainly give you Flagyl. In the U.S. you need a prescription, so DON'T WAIT until you return or you'll have to pay for expensive tests to get treatment -while the amoebas are eating your lunch, dinner and breakfast and you are getting weaker. If you have a weak liver from drinking, etc.  -or from continuing untreated parasites- they can get inside, and you need a doctor, quick.

Quassia won't make you feel as bad as Flagyl, but neither is fun. Both are killing everything in your gut, so you need to replenish the beneficial bacteria with probiotics, like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, etc., after the treatment.
Often people with amoebas will wait longer until they're really sick and go to a doctor for a stool test. If they don't find the amoebas with a microscope the first time (not a fun job), and you wait, it will take weeks or more to recover your strength after you take the treatment. That's why I assume I have them if I don't feel better in 2 days. Neither treatment is pleasant, but you'll function fine, which is nearly impossible with amoebas.

Quassia is available at herb and health food shops. It will be either shredded or chopped. Take a large handful on your trip, which should cost a few bucks.

Procedure:

With either Flagyl or Quassia, take it 3 times a day about an hour before meals for 10 days. If you're traveling for an extended time in an area with poor sanitation, where re-infection is likely, consider taking the treatment for only 2 days -to control rather than eliminate the amoebas. They will grow back in 20-24 days -and you will know it. Take the treatment another 2 days and so forth, until you get back home -or to civilization. Then take the full 10 day treatment to eliminate all the amoebas.

With Flagyl you just pop a pill. With Quassia you make tea. If the herb is shredded, just put a small palmful -about ½ ounce- in about a pint of cold water, and wait 20 minutes. If it's coarsely chopped, you'll have to boil it a bit -a minute should do it. Either way, it will taste quite bitter. Drink it down. That will kill most of them, so when you eat your meal, you will get most of the food, not them. The few that are left will recover somewhat, but after 30 doses, they will all be gone.
Add more water to the same wad of Quassia and drink it before the next meal, and so forth, until the tea becomes weak after about 3 days; then toss that wad and start another. So it will take about 3 wads or 1 ½ ounces for a complete 10-day treatment.


Enough Quassia for 3 days treatment. This grind will make tea in cold water.


Worms & Giardia

Once when I was taking Quassia on a bike trip in Guatemala, I found a 9” long white worm in my stool -I believe it was the common Ascaria worm, which probably infects 25% of the world and 2% of Americans. I was scared enough to also take Flagyl when I got to town, but nothing further came out. So the Quassia killed that too.
Flagyl and Quassia will also kill Giardia. Doctors say to take only 1/3 the dose of Flagyl for Giardia as for Amoebas, and for only 5 days, so you could reduce the Quassia treatment accordingly. If you don't take enough, you will know 20-24 days later, and can try again. I guess it was overkill to treat my only case of Giardia the same as I did amoebas. 

Etc:
Quassia is on the FDA's Generally Regarded as Safe list, but probably should not be used during pregnancy. It is said to also be effective against malaria, pinworms and even lice. It contains the phytochemical quassin, the bitterest substance found in nature. To understand the seriousness of amoebas and their treatment I recommend you read at least this about Flagyl. If you've had amoebas for awhile they may lodge in your liver and treatment is harder.

I am not a doctor and do not know your condition! Please discuss this treatment with your doctor before you go!

Friday, April 20

The Grinch who tried to steal 4/20

from the Cannabis Therapy Institute:
 (Phil DiStefano is CU-Boulder's Chancellor, a repeat DUI offender who leads today's attempt to stop CU's famous 4/20 cannabis smoke-in/prohibition protest. They're posting hundreds of cops to stop anyone without a CU ID from coming on campus, and spreading smelly fish fertilizer where the celebration occurs. -Evan)

Here's video from 2009:
  
The Grinch who tried to steal 4/20

"Pooh-Pooh to the Stoners!" Phil was grinch-ish-ly humming. "They're finding out now that no 4/20 is coming!"

"They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!"

"Their mouths will hang open a minute or two. Then the Stoners down in Boulder will all cry Boo-Hoo!"

"That's a noise," grinned Phil, "That I simply MUST hear!" So he paused. And DiStefano put his hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started real low. Then it started to grow...

But the sound wasn't sad! Why, this sound sounded merry! It couldn't be so! But boy was it merry!

He stared down at Boulder! Out popped Phil's eyes! Then he shook: what he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Stoner in Boulder, the tall and the small, Was singing and smoking! With no permits at all!

He HADN'T stopped 4/20 from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And DiStefano, with his feet ice-cold in the fish fertilizer, stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?" "It came without permits! It came without speeches!" "It came without Frisbees, or costumes or bleachers!" And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then DiStefano thought of something he hadn't before!

"Maybe 4/20," he thought,"doesn't come from a permit." "Maybe 4/20...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

And what happened then...? Well...in Boulder they say, DiStefano fired up a fatty and had a very nice day!


YOU CAN'T STOP 4/20 from Coming!

HAPPY 4/20!

Sunday, January 1

The case for ballot initiatives, and improving them

Here in Colorado, since 1994, ballot initiatives notably gave us the country's first -along with Washington state- legalized marijuana  (Amendment 64), the country's strongest ban on lobbyists giving politicians "gifts" (41), the country's first Renewable Energy Mandate (37),  campaign finance reform (27), increased K-12 funding (23),  Background Checks for buyers at Gun Shows (22), Medical Marijuana (20),  cleaner hog farms (14) and Term Limits (12).

Media, not just in Colorado, have focused on the few problematic ballot initiatives like Colorado's 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights Amendment 1, which voters gave a 5 year time out in 2005, by voting for Referendum C. Rather than act to finally fix TABOR, the Colorado Legislature keeps trying to make the initiative process harder, including with 2008's defeated Referendum O. This would make the process even more expensive for regular people, without inconveniencing wealthy users of the ballot initiative process.

Oregon has instead improved its ballot initiative process with Citizen Initiative Review. By having randomly-selected "citizen juries" deliberate each initiative, problems like TABOR's "racheting down provision," hidden in its back pages unnoticed, would have been exposed before we voted on it.

The initiative & referendum process is the origin of most reforms, from women's suffrage to sunshine laws to medical marijuana to term limits. See Vote.org/initiatives for references and more examples.

We call on the Colorado Legislature to improve the initiative process, starting with Citizen Initiative Review, and to abandon its attempts to hobble citizen initiatives.

"On most major issues we've dealt with in the past 50 years, the public was more likely to be right...based on the judgment of history...than the legislatures or Congress." -George Gallup, Sr.

Wednesday, December 21

 9/11 Truth-seeking made huge strides since September's 10th anniversary:

10/9/11 NY Times: Scientists’ Analysis Disputes F.B.I. Closing of Anthrax Case

The anthrax attack was just a secondary terror event.. But these doctors say the FBI dropped a main forensic lead which points at the most advanced US labs -and the FBI is actively trying to block a new investigation. It's also the first crack in the NY Times subtly snide propaganda against "truthers," and by implication, truth.

9/15/11 Fmr Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chair [Democratic] Sen. Bob Graham calls to re-investigate the Saudi role in 9/11 AND the government's active cover up such as flying Saudis, including Bin Ladens, out of the country while the rest of us were grounded right after 9/11. [See DemocracyNow]

9/11/11 SecrecyKills was set to release their expose podcast naming some very critical names, but the CIA threatened them at the last minute. They released it a couple of weeks later, in spite of the threat. Their statement about the shut-down and fmr. FBI Director's Tenet's response to them say plenty, even if you don't listen to the whole podcast. For a summary it's quicker to view this video at FBI whistleblower/translator Sibel Edmonds website Boiling Frogs: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/?s=secrecy+kills

9/09/11 Release of "Explosive Evidence: Experts Speak Out," the new full-length documentary featuring 43 of the over 1600 Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth members, including the lead electrical engineer of the WTC, one of its structural engineers, Boulder structural engineer Jonathan Smolens, etc. With Boulder psychologists Bob and Marti Hopper and Denver psychologist Fran Shure in the epilog. 

The 43 engineers & architects merely expound High School level physics showing that NIST's (changing!) explanation of what made THREE buildings of the WTC fall down is a pack of violations of 1. The Law of Conservation of Momentum and 2. Principles of Symmetry.  Photos of WTC buildings 3, 4, 5 and 6, which were completely burned and gutted by thousands of tons of falling steel from the very close Twin Towers, show they didn't collapse, just as much larger fires lasting many hours or days  have never made a steel-framed skyscraper fall. ONLY WTC 1, 2 and 7 fell in identical symmetrical fashioned, though all were damaged VERY unsymmetrically and relatively slightly. Here are photos of 5 & 6.

Better science education is probably a big part of why 89.5% of Germans don't think the US is telling the whole truth about 9/11:

9/08/11-9/11/11 The International Hearings on the Events of Sept. 11, 2001 concluded with Sen. Mike Gravel explaining his tri-state ballot initiative campaign for an independent investigation with grand jury powers. Then, French actor/director Mathieu Kassovitz, who played the lead in "Amelie," gave $50,000 to Sen. Gravel for the campaign.   A DVD of this event will soon be available.

Mike Gravel has noted that the government will never really investigate itself. He's carefully crafted the Citizens 9/11 Commission so any 1 state can convene it if its initiative passes, but other states can join in, etc. He DEFINITELY needs more money: 

Please everyone, circulate this widely. Thanks!

Evan

"There is no god higher than truth." -Gandhi

Monday, December 19

Boulder's Big Black Lie

Boulder Deputy Mayor Lisa Morzel
 I've closely watched the video of the May 3, 2011 Boulder, Colorado City Council meeting when they gave up their longtime resistance to the proposed Jefferson Parkway and gave their go-ahead to start plowing up the dirt at Rocky Flats, the former town-sized nuclear bomb factory 8 miles South of Boulder, in trade for a deal for more open space land.

Deputy Mayor Dr. Lisa Morzel blatantly misrepresented what the background level of plutonium is in our area.  The meeting video is here.

Dr. Morzel starts to speak in support of the road at 10:03 pm on the screen. About 10:07 (4:06:45 into the video) she says "Background levels are 35 picocuries [per gram of soil]"  It's easy to find online (or from any expert) that the real background level is .04 picocuries (for example, see here, under 3. Rocky Flats.) She says this to falsely show that the federal government's claimed cleanup level of 50 picocuries per gram (likely also false) is almost to background level, when it is actually 1250 times higher! (50 divided by .04)

 This is crucial, because these plutonium particles are the optimum size to stay in the air indefinitely (even without the Flats' regular 80 MPH winds, dust devils and occasional tornadoes) and to be inhaled and retained in people's lungs. This decision is tantamount to murder. Cancer would be a near-certainty for many road workers, and possible downwind in the Denver metro area, Kansas and beyond.

It's impossible to detect Plutonium with a radiation meter unless it's sitting right on top of the ground. See here. So nobody can know what radiation levels exist where they're digging down.

It's not too late to stop this atrocity! Just a few days ago the town of Superior, just downwind of Rocky Flats, filed suit for a real Environmental Impact Statement. I urge anyone in the world -as you are all potential victims- to contact the Boulder City Council and demand they redo their decision on the basis of actual science, not lies: council@bouldercolorado.gov  Or call them:

Mayor Matt Appelbaum- 303-499-8970
Deputy Mayor Lisa Morzel- 303-815-6723
Suzy Ageton- 303-442-5726
Macon Cowles- 303-638-6884
Suzanne Jones- 720-633-7388
George Karakehian- 303-218-8612
Tim Plass- 720-299-4518
Ken Wilson- 303-999-1931

Here is a movie about the whole development plan, especially the water element:  http://www.nowatertowaste.com/film.html  The Plutonium part starts 20 minutes in.

For background here is the complete, uncensored Rocky Flats Grand Jury Report

Plutonium was a rare trace mineral on earth until it was first produced in about 1940,  expressly for more efficient atomic bombs. It bursts into flame on contact with air and is a heavy metal poison as well as being highly radioactive. A single particle lodged in the lungs will radiate the cells next to it for the rest of one's life; after decades cancer is likely.

If the City Council wants to make the same decision, with the deadly health implications, they should do it on the basis of facts, not layers of lies. Remember that far less egregious lying in the so-called "Climategate" emails were a main factor in the public turning against climate science, and the US blocking a treaty to stop climate catastrophe. Billions will die as a result.

This is just one reason why I've come to regard Boulder as a world center of greenwashing. More to come...

Sunday, October 23

Evan's Pet/House-Sitting Service.

Howdy.

I´ve been house/cat/dog/bird/guinea pig/rabbit/turtle/chicken-sitting for 2 1/2 years. This has given me the freedom to explore some of North America's best wilderness-see my new movie at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W56rffQHYVs

I've lived in Boulder 33 years and have great references. I've been pet-sitting twice for environmental lawyer Melinda Kassen's family and dog-sitting at the super-comfortable Net Zero Energy home of Synergistic Building Technologies' Larry Kinney and Wyncia Clute. Awhile back I stayed with longtime Boulder friend and Olympic Marathon medalist Lorraine Moller and her builder husband Harlan Smith. I lived twice in the '80s with Boulder's reknowned yoga master Richard Freeman. Many remember me as Evan from Heaven the not-so-tight-rope artist. More at my new website EvanRavitz.com

I always leave a place better than I entered it. I love animals and am good with plants too. I don't usually charge unless you have more than one dog or there's some difficulty like your place being far from town and you don't leave me a car. (I sold mine 22 years ago and bike everywhere.)

I´d also consider other situations like:

I could be someone's personal trainer in trade for a room. I've
practiced yoga daily for 30 years, taught in Guatemala, and recently
completed Richard Freeman's month-long Teacher Intensive
http://yogaworkshop.com/richards_teaching/2010_ti.php I lead serious
backpacking trips http://evanravitz.com/paradise in Mexico's difficult
Copper Canyon. I've been going barefoot when possible since 1965 and
have climbed the Arapahoe Peaks and 1st Flatiron that way, among others.

I could also trade childcare. I've been teaching my friends' kids
yoga and tightrope-walking. I worked at Homestar Preschool
http://www.homestarcenter.org/ in Boulder 2004-5 and loved it. I'd be a good
"manny" especially for smart athletic kids. I know the hidden waterfalls & caves
around Boulder almost nobody else does. I tutored math while at Colorado
College.

I could do elder or disabled care. I got a near-quadraplegic washed, dressed and fed every morning for a few of months back in the ´80s, until by force of
will he learned to do without me.

Do you have a shed or garage I could clean out? I'm good at organizing, selling and giving stuff away via Craigslist, etc. I did janitorial work for the Boulder International Hostel http://boulderinternationalhostel.com/ for a couple of years.

I've been earning my living for 3 years as a freelance editor
http://spryeye.blogspot.com/2010/02/evans-editing-service-gets-kudos.html
and am seeking more work. I've done a huge variety of things including computer programming, not-so-tight-rope artistry, photography, solar research, growing organic vegetables, tree trimming, wilderness guiding, moving and construction. More at http://evanravitz.com

I'll consider all offers. Please resend this to other Boulder folks. My email is evan (at) vote.org and phone is 303-923-5918

Thanks and have a great day.

Evan