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Kevin Bourrillion
I obsessively adore math, science, board games, pencil puzzles, Pixar, the Beatles, cycling, and YA fiction. However, I spend all my time @#$!ing around on the internet instead.
I obsessively adore math, science, board games, pencil puzzles, Pixar, the Beatles, cycling, and YA fiction. However, I spend all my time @#$!ing around on the internet instead.


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So: Secretary Clinton would like the American voter to believe that Bernie Sanders is anti-immigrant, anti-auto-worker, deregulates financial markets when given half a chance, and is cozy with the Koch brothers. (See share, and yes, it's the Washington Post; go figure.)

Now if we could count on American voters to properly inform themselves, I would laugh and say: good luck with that. But in reality, this will probably score her a few points.

And let's be real here: this kind of dirty trick -- twisting the opponent's record -- is on page one of the U.S. political playbook. A lot of people are impugning Clinton's character in a way that implies this is somehow unique to her. Not even close.

But it is notable that (a) it seems to be her main avenue of attack against him in the debates, and (b) Bernie does not seem to use this tactic against her. That is a very interesting situation that I think people should always sit up and take notice of.

I think her approach to the debates betrays an inner belief that the real Bernie Sanders is who voters really want. What other reason could she have for doing it? And this confuses me. With the size of her lead, and everything she has going for her, can her confidence in her own qualifications and her own message really be so weak?

By contrast, Sanders couldn't be bothered to attack Clinton in this way, even if it could score him some votes. That is interesting, yes?

But here's where it gets especially interesting. Take one of Clinton's attacks against Sanders of this sort. Suppose that it lands, and ends up tipping the nationwide balance eeever so slightly, and gains her "N" additional votes in the primary.

Well, that same attack also has another effect. It further alienates Sanders supporters. And another balance gets tipped eeever so slightly. That is the "M" additional voters who, should Clinton win the nomination, will just stay home on November 8.

Now, we have no idea what the values of "M" and "N" are, no idea if they're bigger than a bread box, or which one is larger. But fundamentally, Hillary Clinton is making a trade. She is trading away votes for the Democrat in the general election, in favor of votes for herself in the primary.

And that suggests she is more afraid of a President Sanders than of a President Trump.

1. Why?

2. Does this strategy scare you at all?

[Note: I delete comments that I consider off-topic. I welcome on-topic comments that disagree with me, even when they reveal me to be a buffoon. I cherish your right to Free Speech, but my posts are not the place where you have that.]
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It's been four years since I made this post [reshared, down below]. I still stand by it and I hope it's worth rereading. Our broken democracy is THE issue of our times, because it is the root cause of our ineffectiveness at fixing all other issues.

I attempted with that post to stir up awareness and a desire to take ACTION to push for change. Well. Now here I am, four years later and...

I need to confess that I myself have done effectively nothing. I am the embodiment of what they call a slacktivist. I am ashamed to admit it, but it's true. I'm especially ashamed of my hypocrisy in thinking I could motivate others to do what I myself I could not. It is embarrassing.

As much as the world needs real activists to push for real change, I've just never been able to really imagine myself playing that role. It feels scary and unnatural to me; it feels like not me -- enough that I keep it filed away under "maybe figure this out one day." As my sister said yesterday, "oh, that really takes a special kind of person." Okay: why am I not a special kind of person?

So I give money to important causes, and yeah, I try to write posts (lately on Facebook) that I like to imagine could help change the world! if I just found the right way to put things and they just spread around enough. Sometimes I even like to tell myself that my words are my gift; that maybe I am one of those rare people who knows how to find magical turns of phrase that really do change minds!

But I know, I know what wishful thinking that is. I know that the positive "I-made-a-difference" feeling I get because hey man, I stood for something! is something to be viewed with extreme suspicion. I just don't know where to go from here. 

Heck, I don't even know how to end this post! Sorry that it kinda went nowhere. I guess I'd love to hear from anyone that broke out of this mold into real activism. How'd you do it?
Attention all U.S. citizens!

I believe this is the most important post I've yet made, and at the end I'm going to request one incredibly simple action from you.

tl;dr: I agree with +Lawrence Lessig's #rootstrikers movement that the U.S. is majorly b0rked and we'd better get serious about fixing it right freaking now.

(But please just read what I have to say; it won't take as long as it looks, really.)



At the risk of stating the obvious, here goes: The United States Government is broken. To an unprecedented degree. On the most basic level, it is not functioning according to its design. It was to be a system that governs the people while being beholden to the people; what we have developed instead is a system that governs the people, but is beholden to the massive funders of the political campaigns -- wealthy individuals, corporations and powerful special interest groups.

Whenever the needs of the people and those of the funders don't coincide, we are seeing over and over again that the funders are winning out. There are studies showing this connection clearly, but you probably don't even need to look them up to know it's true. It strains plausibility to think that these wealthy individuals and corporations would be funneling so many millions of dollars in if it was not steadily delivering results.

It's a mistake to think that our only problem is with crooked politicians. They can be dealt with. The problem is much worse than that. Even if we assume that all the individuals that make up the system are acting virtuously as best they can, it is the system itself that has been drastically compromised -- I would even say corrupted.

That is my first claim. If you are in doubt of it, I beg of you: please spend the time to learn more (some resources at end of post). The evidence is, in my view, undeniable. If our political system were a car, you would take it to the shop. If it were a washing machine, you'd call the Maytag guy. If it were a first-generation iPhone you'd e-recycle that piece of junk.



My second claim is that this is bad. This is not a case of "politicians will be politicians." We can't just laugh it off. We can't claim "yet things are still humming along okay" or "the right things will happen over time, even if the process is messed up." The right things are not happening, and things are not okay.

While Liberals and Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, OWS "hippies" and stereotypical Tea Partiers might disagree mightily over how to solve all our problems, we all agree that the situation today is not a happy one:

- We are unemployed and underemployed.
- Even to many of the hard-working, decent medical care has become unattainable.
- The rest of the developed world, overall, is turning out better-educated children than we are, better equipped to eat our lunch in tomorrow's economy.
- All of us except the most steadfast science deniers now know clearly that we are pumping way too much CO2 into the atmosphere. This is very likely developing into the greatest ecological catastrophe our civilization has ever seen, yet somehow we find ourselves powerless to find a political means to turn it around.
- National debt is astronomical. A huge part of everyone's tax burden is wasted on interest alone.- The rich keep getting richer, and they're not doing it with amazing new innovations that help everyone, the way Adam Smith envisioned, but simply by continuing to exploit the unique tax and regulatory advantages the government has provided them! (For any conservative alarmed about piddling little "welfare queens", this ought to truly make their blood boil.)

The list goes on and on. But you know these things. What is my point? It isn't just that things are bad right now. It's that enough things are bad, and our progress at fixing them so weak and ineffectual, that it proves the government is not functioning well. That is, it's not functioning well for us -- although, if you examine how well it's working for the wealthiest campaign contributors, you'll conclude that times have never been better.

In fact, I've come to feel that it's pointless to even think about how to fix each of these individual problems if we're not going to start by repairing the underlying system that has allowed them to fester. +Rootstrikers very aptly take their name from Thoreau's quote, "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." The infestation of money in our politics is the root.

So far we've established: there is a problem, and it needs to be fixed.



My third claim is that there do exist solutions to this problem. Reminder: by "this problem" I mean the sharply disproportionate incentive for politicians to put the needs of wealthy individuals, corporations and special-interest groups ahead of those of the common voter. I do not mean that any solution will magically turn representative democracy into a perfect system.

I believe it is possible to fund political campaigns in ways that make each and every vote, each individual, matter approximately the same. That free our congresspeople from the burden of pandering to their wealthy backers day in and day out.

How? I'm not sure. The "Grant and Franklin" proposal Lawrence Lessig outlines in his book (notes at bottom) sounds like a good one to me. It works like this (but don't grill me over the details; seek the original sources):

- Each taxpayer may optionally allocate the first $50 (a "Grant") of their taxes paid toward the political candidate or candidates of their choosing. (Do the math and notice that this can generate gigantic piles of cash without any powerful individuals holding the purse strings.)

- But to accept any of that windfall, a candidate must forgo all other contributions of any kind save for a maximum $100 (or "Franklin") per individual donor.

That's it in a nutshell. A lot of people believe it will work, or maybe a variation of it. Or perhaps someone is now coming up with an idea that's even better -- whatever the best solution is, it's out there to be found.



The difficult part is how to enact that change, when the people who have the most power to make it happen are the ones who, by definition, are profiting from the current system and thus have no incentive to change things.

So it won't be easy. But my fourth claim is that this can be done.

What are the chances that a sufficiently mobilized citizenry can actually make this happen? Maybe you think they're 90%, or 9%, or even 0.09% -- doesn't matter. The chances are nonzero, and it will be one hell of a lot more fun to fight that fight than to take the soul-killing alternative of sitting by and doing nothing.


So now what?

1. First, please either +1 this post or comment to say why you can't +1 this post. (Or +1 the comments that already explain your point of view.) Why? Not because I get something for that (there's no "karma" in G+). I ask because I think we all need to see clearly and tangibly whether this is a fight that our fellow citizens are going to join with us or not. Do we have each other's backs here? Let's find out right now. (That is the "incredibly simple action" I foreshadowed.)

2. Make this your top issue. Post, tweet, share, talk to your families and friends. Maybe start by re-sharing this post? Learn everything you can. Follow +Rootstrikers and add your energy to the ideas you see. Donate to the organizations you believe will use the money well. There will be tons of things you can do if you are looking for them; I'm not going to try to enumerate them all here and now (but likely in future posts).

3. Just don't stop. Ever, until the unholy marriage of big money and politics in this country has been dissolved. Then go back to the usual right vs. left squabbling.


Only want to spend 10 minutes? Perhaps watch the attached video.

Like reading books? I just read Lessig's Republic, Lost and while it could have been tighter, it covers the bases, and as you can see, fired me up.

It's not like Lessig is the singular prophet of this movement, but he's a damn smart guy, has devoted himself completely to it, and I like his style. (And hey, I'd have a deeper bibliography to share if I'd found these two resources less convincing on their own.)

#usa #politics #occupy #occupywallstreet #ows #teaparty #campaignreform #rootstrikers
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If I post here, does anyone see it?
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You know, there was a time, before just two weeks ago, when me walking around humming a Robin Thicke song all day is something that would just never, ever happen. #thanksal  
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Question about training rides:
Are paper route sheets an anachronism?

No one rides without a phone (right? please?). And just about everyone in this group has a "smartphone", correct? So, everyone should install the awesome, free RideWithGPS app. Right now! At meetup we can just make sure everyone's got the route pulled up correctly. Then you're set! Not only is it the easiest way to recover if you get lost, but you can even turn on voice directions, which I discovered on our first ride work amazingly well. As a bonus, some way to mount your phone on your bike would give you some visual confirmation (e.g. 0.3 miles to next turn), but it's not strictly necessary.

All you really have to worry about is making sure your phone is fully charged, which should absolutely be standard practice on a big ride anyway.

As a final note, anyone who does need or want paper route sheet can easily print one themselves (there will always be a ridewithgps link from each training ride G+ event page).

So, I'm inclined not to kill the trees anymore. Thoughts?

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Hey everyone!

The Saturday training ride series will start not this weekend but the next (June 28), with a nice easy flat 40-mile loop across the Dumbarton bridge, down through Milpitas and back.

Please check out this new page about the training rides:
training rides | waves2wine

... and let us know any questions you have!

(Not sure you're ready for 40 yet? (a) Remember this will be flat! (b) You can take your time and take it easy (c) You can do a lot in 11 days to get ready! (d) At the very least, you can still cross the bridge with us and then decide whether to press on or retrace your steps.)

UPDATE: on further reflection I've switched this ride to week two, and on June 28 we'll do this 32-mile Portola Valley loop instead:

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If you believe that the Book of Genesis is the literal truth of our origins, told to us by God Himself, this post is addressed to you.

No, I'm not going to try to claim that you're wrong.

All I'm asking you is to consider the fact that God told us two stories.

One story He wrote as words on a page. The other He wrote into the rocks, the stars, the orbits of planets, the cells of our bodies, the structures of our brains, wave-particle duality, Maxwell's equations (long before there was Maxwell), the cosmic background radiation and the stunning interconnectedness of all living things on Earth.

One story He asserted and welcomed us to believe. For the other story He provided us with our senses and the ability to reason (which together we might call "Science") so that we could discover and confirm it for ourselves.

Why would He bother with the second story (which you must agree seems like an awful lot more trouble) if He wants us to reject it as false? If it's to tempt us into rejecting faith, then why would He make Science so unbelievably effective at predicting outcomes, saving lives and improving our world?

Most of all: why would you not want to learn everything you can about both stories God is trying to tell you?

[Please share this post to its intended audience!]
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This makes a ton of sense.
"...they gave elementary school children either a blue T-shirt or a red T-shirt to wear throughout the school day for six weeks.

"Teachers treated those color groups in the same ways they would use gender. Teachers said, “Good morning, blue and red kids!,” “Let’s line up blue, red, blue, red.” Kids had their names on either a red or blue bulletin board and had either a red or blue name card on their desk. But again, teachers had to treat both groups equally and not allow them to compete with one another. They simply “used” color in the same way many teachers “use gender.”

"After only four weeks, children formed stereotypes about their color groups. They liked their own group better than the other group. Red-shirted children would say, “Those blue-shirt kids are not as smart as the red-shirt kids.” Just like they do with gender, they said that “all blue kids” act one way and “no red kids” act another way (this differed based on which group they were in). They began to segregate themselves, playing with kids from their own color group more than with those from the other group.

"They were also more willing to help kids in their own color groups. Children walked into a classroom in which we had staged two partially completed puzzles. We had surreptitiously draped a red shirt across one puzzle and a blue shirt across the other. When given the option, children were more likely to help out the child they thought was in their group.

"In all of these studies, there was always a very important control group—in addition to the group of students who wore colored T-shirts, there were classes in which the teacher who didn’t talk about the color groups. She didn’t sort by color or use the color grouping to label each child. In other words, it was like being in a class of boys and girls where the teacher doesn’t mention or sort by gender; she simply treated them like individuals. In these classes, children didn’t form stereotypes and biased attitudes about groups. If the adults ignored the groups, even when there were very visible differences, children ignored the groups too. [...]

"... it seems that children pay attention to the groups that adults treat as important. When we repeatedly say, “Look at those girls playing!” or “Who is that boy with the blue hat?,” children assume that being a boy or girl must be a really important feature about that person. In fact, it must the single most important feature of that person. Otherwise, why would we point it out all the time?

"If children see a difference, they look to experts in the world (us grown-ups) to see if the difference is important or not. Don’t forget that they see plenty of differences in people. For example, they see differences in hair color. We come in brown hair, black hair, blond hair, red hair, and gray hair. But no adult ever labels this visible category, saying “Look at that brown hair kid.” “Okay, all the brown-haired kids and black-haired kids over here. All the red- and blond-haired kids over there.” Children ultimately learn to ignore these as meaningful categories, but they still notice they exist. If I ask someone’s hair color, a child can tell me. It just isn’t a meaningful category. They don’t develop attitudes about what it means to have red hair or brown hair (even the occasional blond joke isn’t constant enough for children to notice).

"But with gender, children notice the difference and adults make it meaningful. Children see the category. We made sure of that with our pink or blue shirts. Also, the experts in the world, their parents, always label the category. We put a figurative flashing neon arrow on gender and say “Pay Attention! Important Information Here!” And guess what, they pay attention."
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