Archive for September, 2006

Wedding Status

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

So far no snags in the Rinehart-Rogers wedding situation. Karen is fighting a cold, but will get a good nights sleep tonight. Tomorrow will be another test (we are icing the cake at the Rogers Residence at 9am…I may sleep through that).

But this may be one of the most organized weddings in history. So far, so good. For that, WTG Mom.

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones

Thursday, September 21st, 2006
LOS ALTOS HILLS, Calif., Sept. 21 — In his early 20’s, John R. Koza and fellow graduate students invented a brutally complicated board game based on the Electoral College that became a brief cult hit and recently fetched $100 for an antique version on eBay.By his 30’s, Dr. Koza was a co-inventor of the scratch-off lottery ticket and found it one of the few sure ways to find fortune with the lottery.

Now, a 63-year-old eminence among computer scientists who teaches genetic programming at Stanford, Dr. Koza has decided to top off things with an end run on the Constitution. He has concocted a plan for states to skirt the Electoral College system legally to insure the election of whichever presidential candidate receives the most votes nationwide.

“When people complain that it’s an end run,” Dr. Koza said, “I just tell them, ‘Hey, an end run is a legal play in football.’ ’’

The first fruit of his effort, a bill approved by the California legislature that would allocate the state’s 55 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, sits on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk. The governor has to decide by Sept. 30 whether to sign it, a decision that may well determine whether Dr. Koza’s scheme takes flight or becomes another relic in the history of efforts to kill the Electoral College.

“It would be a major development if California enacts this thing,” said Tim Storey, an analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “It will definitely transform it from a smoldering thing into a fire.’’

There have been many efforts over the decades to kill the Electoral College, the little-known and widely misunderstood body that actually elects the president based on the individual states that a candidate wins. Most recently, former Representative John B. Anderson of Illinois and former Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana spearheaded a drive, Fair Vote, for a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College.

The brainstorm behind Dr. Koza’s effort, led by a seven-month-old group, National Popular Vote, was to abandon that approach and focus on creating interstate compacts. Those are contracts that bind states over issues like nuclear waste and port authorities.

Dr. Koza’s compact, if approved by enough legislatures, would commit a state’s electors to vote for the candidate who wins the most national votes, even if the candidate loses in that state.

Robert Hardaway, a professor of law at the University of Denver who wrote “The Electoral College and the Constitution: The Case for Preserving Federalism” (1994), has counted 704 efforts to change or abolish the Electoral College. Most, he said, were ill advised, including this one.

“It’s legal, but it would be a terrible idea,” Professor Hardaway said. “Look at the trauma the country went through having a recount in Florida. Suppose what would happen, in the face of a close national election, if we had to have a recount in every little hamlet.”

Dr. Koza, whose dissertation at the University of Michigan was titled “On Inducing a Nontrivial, Parsimonious Grammar for a Given Sample of Sentences,” said the idea came to him in early 2004, although he and Barry Fadem did not go public with it until February. Working with state lotteries as chief executive of Scientific Games in Atlanta, he had learned how interstate compacts work. Multistate lotteries like Powerball are based on such compacts. What, he wondered, if a similar agreement bound states together to thwart the Electoral College?

“The bottom line is that the system has outlived its usefulness,” said Assemblyman Thomas J. Umberg, the Anaheim Democrat who sponsored the bill here. “It’s past time that Americans should elect their president by direct vote of the people.”

Mr. Umberg and his staff met some of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s top staff members on Wednesday and came away encouraged about the prospects of the legislation. Although they received no commitment, it was clear that the governor, a Republican, was seriously considering the question and had not made up his mind about it, Mr. Umberg said.

“It’s anybody’s guess which way he’ll go,” Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, an Irvine Republican who opposes the bill, said. “He’s not your normal partisan politician.”

National Popular Vote bills were proposed in six legislatures this year. California’s was the only one to pass it, though the Colorado Senate voted for a version. The group has found sponsors for bills in 22 states next year.

“And we fully expect that by Jan. 1 we will be able to say that we have sponsors in all 50 states,” said Mr. Fadem, an East Bay lawyer who specializes in referendums and initiatives and is president of National Popular Vote.

The goal is to create a snowball effect. The measures may be unlikely to pass in time for the 2008 presidential race, Mr. Fadem said, but the idea could find enough traction as an issue for candidates to address.

As attractive as it is to guarantee the White House to the winner of the national vote, Dr. Koza said, he has other goals in mind.

“More important,’’ he said, “is changing the way presidential campaigns are conducted in this country. Now, the candidates spend almost all of their time in a handful of battleground states like Ohio and Florida and ignore the rest of the country. This would force candidates to campaign nationally for every vote.”

Mr. Storey said he remained skeptical that the idea would pass in enough legislatures to take effect. Almost certainly, he said, the states that are usually highly contested will oppose it, fearing the loss of attention and campaign spending. Also, Mr. Storey said, the battle might become partisan, as it did in California, where just one Republican legislator ended up supporting the bill.

Mr. DeVore said, “I just took a look at who was behind the movement, and they were left-wing partisans.”

Dr. Koza acknowledged that he had been a Democratic elector, twice, and his living room is festooned with photographs of him beside former Vice President Al. Gore and former President Bill Clinton.

He insisted, however, that the movement was fundamentally nonpartisan, and he pointed to the many Republicans who had agreed to co-sponsor bills on his plan. In New York, five lawmakers, all Republican, sponsored the bill this year.

Jerry F. Hough, a professor of political science at Duke, said that he was “an enthusiastic supporter of a popular vote for president,” but that he had problems with Dr. Koza’s plan. Professor Hough said he would like runoff provisions, for instance.

He also agreed conservatives could see the effort as a liberal stealth move to regain lost power, comparing it to the Republicans’ successful effort, after Franklin D. Roosevelt won four terms, to limit presidents to two.

“The two-term limit was clearly in the face of F.D.R.,” Professor Hough said. “And I would say this is clearly in the face of Al Gore’s loss in 2000.”

Martha Ott

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

If a State Rep campaign can be won on Volunteer will power, it is Martha Ott. I won’t say much because some information shouldn’t be public, but Wow.

Assorted

Friday, September 15th, 2006
  • If you have not already heard, I am going out with someone. Her name is Sue, and we have been going out since May (debating since March). We have very good to near best friends for over 7 years. Feel free to ask further questions if necessary.
  • I still haven’t gotten my Official GRE score, but all is well for grad school for the immediate future. I got the informal/unofficial confirmation of my acceptance last week. I was a little nervous before then, but fortunately my future is laid out until January 2008.
  • During that time, I sort of (re)realized how I struggle to accept support. Friends always offer: “Is there anything I can do?” or try to give encouraging words, but (maybe this is the case with everyone) I rarely take advantage of it. Then, when I sometimes do, it doesn’t really help. Is it odd that I struggle to utilize supportive people?
  • I am typing this from the my employers Receptionist Desk (the receptionist has the day off, and as the low rank on the totem poll, here I am). I am sort of become their technical liaison. Meaning, we have contracts with a couple of Communications/tech firms, but my organization is not extremely tech savvy. Therefore, since I have been back, if there has been a tech issue to come up (whether e-mail blasting or online mail distribution), they have come to me with whatever their firms have offered. I either say: “That sounds reasonable” or “Yeah, no way you need that for that price” or “I have no idea.” Just today (in the middle of writing this), the executive director pulled me into a meeting. He is letting me lay out a project for us to do next cycle, which I am excited about.
  • In two weeks and a day, I not only get to see Sue, but I get to see my sister get married. I had a great wedding present idea, but it is about double my price range (which is pretty significant, you only get to do this type of wedding present once). Therefore, in the next couple of days I need to come up with something. I am a good gift giver, so the registry does not satisfy me.
  • My room at Whimsy Manor is small, but it is doing okay. Julian (who I sublet to over the summer) warns me that it gets annoying. I think the thing that I have going for me is that my personal space is bigger than it was in my old room in New Hall, and significantly bigger than what I had in London. So we will see how it goes
  • I have started running again, but the bad news is that my knees definitely are not a fan of it. It was a little better the other day when I ran on a track instead of a treadmill, but they stiffened up later in the day. My sister chastised me before about using basketball shoes to run, but I don’t really need two sets of sneakers. I am not eating much healthier than normal, but some exercise is better than none.

Now that was a classic blog post.

Good Day…

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

Grad school is much more sorted out.

NFL Season Started.

But my former candidates are struggling with the $$$. Come on PEEPS CALL!!!