The Rise of the Independents

US Party IdentificationMy single biggest personal rebellion has been in being a political independent. Ross Perot’s Presidential run in 1992 inspired much of my generation to question the existing two party political system. At that time, I was too young to vote for Perot. I ended up making a t-shirt and wearing it to school. He earned 19% of the popular vote.

After the 1992 election cycle, the percentage of Americans identifying as Independent rose steadily for half a decade and then fell back down as the Republican party rose in 2004. However, since 2004, both parties have continued to tank while Independents are on the rise, now at historic levels.

At this very moment, the day after Super Tuesday, Pundits and talking heads are on the news explaining what voters like me are thinking – how we are going to react. I don’t think they get it at all. However, I’m not going to try to explain or sell you the Independent point of view. What I do want to bring attention to is the momentum behind the indie movement in politics happening right now.

Today, I’m supporting and expecting to vote for the Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders decided to run for President via the Democratic party. He does not identify as a Democrat. As a party outsider running on their ticket, he is drawing an enormous amount of support from Democrats. So much so, he may win their nomination – holy crap! On the flip side, he is still bringing over Republicans as well. From my father, a devout conservative: “If it’s Clinton and Trump, I’m voting Trump. If it’s Bernie and Trump, I’m voting Bernie.” This is not an uncommon sentiment. Bernie has support for reasons that have nothing to do with party affiliation. Those who are very focused on party politics are just not seeing what’s happening outside of their context.

My significant other and I recently moved out of our apartment and started a community house. Looking for housemates, we posted a Craigslist ad that included a mention of being Bernie supporters. We were overwhelmed with Bernie-centric responses. Many wrote that they knew they wanted to live with us based on that one point alone. While it would be easy to trivialize that experience as an inconsequential story, it had a profound impact on my perception. I now see that the energy of Independent political thinking is driving the momentum of the Bernie Sanders campaign – and it’s beautiful.

Bernie is building a culture of participation and immediacy. The people – especially Independents –  love it. He is building a “machine” made of people. He is enabling those people to have a voice and know they can use it. The “machine” behind the political revolution really is us. It is growing in size and running in the background of this campaign, quietly shifting the tides. Will Bernie win? I’m not entirely confident that he will be the Democratic candidate – perhaps. However, I think that Bernie will probably be our next President.

Bernie may not get enough delegates to supplant Hillary. What will happen next? It is a fallacy to believe that Bernie is a dedicated Democrat. I expect him to choose to stay in the race. He would then have the lion’s share of support from the 40%+ of Americans who identify as Independent, including myself. He would pull over a huge portion of the Democratic base, which is already below 30% of the nation anyway. He will also attract many of those fleeing Republicans who comprise even less of the nation than the Democrats. Those numbers add up to a win for Bernie.

The only message more powerful than electing Bernie Sanders as President will be doing so without the support of a major party.








What Is Government

I was born into a world where my native country seemed to have a troublesome but adequate government. I was given an idea of what a government was through public education. I was never really given reason to be curious about the idea of government. I tend to blame it on the way our education system works, tho I’m not sure I could articulate that explanation even if that were the focus of this post. Rather, I’d like to leap forward to today where I ponder systems of mass collaboration on a daily basis.

I feel that the vast majority view government as an oppressive machine which the people are always at war with. To me, it looks like the people (all of us) are just at war with each other. I’m not sure which is more to blame for the state of things, the government or the people. See, the thing is, we all would benefit to realize that the government is our responsibility as well as our opportunity.

Capitalism is fantastic. As a system, it uses competition to drive innovation. The most powerful analogy I’ve heard for Capitalism is puberty. Both will make you grow quickly. We’ve embraced a lot of Capitalism, and we’re now a superpower. Go US! However, puberty is a transitional phase. Perpetual rapid growth isn’t a viable long term plan in either case. Capitalism is not the only tool in America’s bag. We manage our system of Capitalism with this thing we call the government. Just about the only power we gave these United States upon her creation dealt with trade. My how things have grown.

Look at what this monster of a government provides for us. We are sovereign. That’s a big deal. Then there’s that public school system I mentioned. Collectively, we humans of America own massive infrastructure. Seriously guys, we own one of the most powerful military forces to ever have existed. We have people floating in a pressurized box way up skimming the surface of the atmosphere. This concept of collaboration is producing some cool results, like those recent high resolution images of Pluto.

When we look at government from a very meta point of view, it exposes an obvious necessity for some kind of system. For many reasons, we love to hate our system. Most of us alive today had almost nothing to do with it’s design. We barely understand it much less feel we’ve participated in it. And many of the major politicians in the upcoming election are saying the whole thing is being consumed by corporate interests. It can really feel grim.

Fear based decisions are rarely good decisions. In a moment of panic, our instincts can serve us well – or at least to motivate us. However, long term exposure to fear leads to a less empowered state of being. If we who are born into an existing system only experience reasons to feel oppressed by an existing system, it becomes considerably less likely that we will be able to influence that system. Thus, I think it valuable to reconsider how we present the idea of government to one another.

Government should be seen as our point of agreement. Government is how we collaborate. “Hey everyone, would you like to have emergency response services in case of major disaster? Yes? Ok, here’s how we get that done… Hooray! Thank you government.” The system can always be evolving, or for the code-monkeys among us, refactored. The the system isn’t going to change itself, we have to participate. And we have every reason to be excited that we CAN participate. Government is a great human endeavour. For our own government, for all of it’s faults, it can be improved. We have the opportunity to improve it each and every day by participating. It’s not just civic duty, it’s civic opportunity. Many of us feel that opportunity doesn’t exist, and that is merely one of the things needing improvement.



My First Raspberry Pi Robot

I’ve been doing a lot of things lately, and blogging is clearly not one of them. Most recently, I put together a Raspberry Pi robot. I used the Redbot kit from Sparkfun as well as their RaspiRobot controller board. I also found a cute quala head portable speaker to attach later. My mother asked for a video and this is the result. That weird music is just something I wrote back in highschool useing Fast Tracker II.

Welcome to 2012…

I feel like the insanity of 2012, so far, is best summed up with the following video:

Meanwhile, I realize that my activity on Facebook is keeping me from Blogging… More on that later, if I get around to it… (irony)

Electing The 99%, an open letter….

Dear 99%,

Hi. I’ve been paying attention to Occupy Wall Street. This evening, I had a chat with my girlfriend about the spontaneous eruption of democracy that is Occupy Wall Street. We had an idea I have to share with the rest of the 99% out there.

We create a new party where candidates agree to a much more specific job role during their political term. They would agree to:

  • Inform the public of their progress as real time as possible. For example: live stream all meetings, post materials related to all votes, post video updates multiple times a day, etc.
  • Vote on all issues using popular vote. Use some yet-to-be-built voting platform to collect votes from anyone who wishes to cast a vote. Something as reliable as Reddit or Digg is enough, and I have no doubt we could build something significantly better. I want to see something completely open source and distributed in nature.
That’s it… inform and act based on popular vote. It’s not bullet proof and it won’t stop corruption, but it would shift the balance of power to the people in a dramatic way. We just have to build the software and elect a few honest people who are good at communicating.
Hoping to hear back,

Detach from Wall Street

Here’s a thought to all those feeling in alignment with #OccupyWallStreet, but not currently actively involved: If something is keeping you from occupying Wall Street, consider detaching from Wall Street instead.

First, leave your bank for a local credit union. Credit unions are owned by their members and are not-for-profit organizations.

Second, spend locally. Buy local food. Consider trades people in your social network. Look for privately owned businesses or co-ops. Think about where you do business.

I’m sure there are a lot more ways of detaching from Wall Street… and I think detaching could make for a powerful change.

#occupywallstreet vs #thathighmoment

I just had another discussion about the amount of media attention (or lack there of) the Occupy Wall Street protest was seeing. There have been slews of reports that Twitter may be blocking the trending topic. I just did the most basic of tests. I searched over and over again for both #OccupyWallStreet as well as many of the current trending topics. Over and over again, it seemed clear to me that #OccupyWallStreet was experiencing far more posts than any of the trending topics… by a considerable margin. Check out the post times in the following image capture:

Polar Bear Progress Report

It’s been over 9 months since I last blogged about Polar Bear’s status. A lot can happen in 9 months. I’ve invested a fair amount of blood, sweat, and tears.

I laid down new flooring. Currently I have bed liner coating against the metal, a foam later next, wood on top of the foam, and finally a vinyl mat on top. Ultimately, I’ll lay carpet in key areas. This is the single biggest improvement in sound dampening yet.

For a while, I installed a roof top tent on the roof rack. The rack was a huge project, but cost me less than $150.


The Mess Of Social Media

Did you know kids don’t use email? They say they prefer social media and txt messages. The other day I opened up Pidgin for the first time in a while and realized that I haven’t added any “new” contacts in years. I barely write to my own blog and have failed to visit my RSS feed reader in a very long time.

Meanwhile, I use Facebook on a daily basis. Sometimes I keep tabs on my mobile. My problem with Facebook has recently become what my problem on MySpace used to be. I don’t like the software. I want something very different. I stay for two reasons. First, I know a lot of people who are active on Facebook. Second, I haven’t found an alternative I would want to encourage my friends to join.

The recent closure of Internet connectivity in Egypt during the revolution sends a strong message about ownership of the Internet. Ownership should be distributed. The tool that replaces Facebook should be distributed. Diaspora perhaps?

It’s really pretty simple. If we the people can hang on to the Internet – even if it means building our own – then we stand a chance. Otherwise, nothing changes from the way things have been for thousands of years. This is about to become very important.

The Ash

And I remember these two things… The project called Phoenix and that song Center of the Sun. The cleansing fire may have been the best solution, but I never thought my soul would burn. The Phoenix is not known for compassion nor apathy, just fire.