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Nathan's interests include open source, open web protocols, and programming languages.

Nathan co-founded Intrigo, a software development house in Portland that develops web applications that power startup companies.

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2 February 2008 - 17:55Act Two of: Three small things I’m doing to make a difference in this year’s election.

This is part two of three of the series “Three small things I’m doing to make a difference in this year’s election.” It was supposed to appear on facebook on Monday, but I figure if it’s still Monday in Hawaii, then it counts. I am, however, a week late posting this to Wordpress.

This one’s not as long as it looks because it’s really two notes in one. The second half is a response to Ryan’s comment on my last post, read it if you’re still curious about why I support my specific candidate.


Last week I made my first contribution to the Obama campaign. It was a modest contribution, considering what is at stake, but I know that this year every little bit counts.

Act Two: Contributing what I can.

Here’s why I contributed:

There are a lot of ways to help a campaign or a cause you feel passionately about. By far the two most common ways are:

  • Give your time.

  • Give your money so that other people can give their time.

I hope to, someday soon, give my time to a political campaign, particularly Obama’s. I definitely plan to when he has won the Democratic primary and we’re in the midst of the general election.

But, to be honest, persuading people face to face to support a particular candidate or cause is not my strong suite. Not even close.

So I chose to contribute the best way I know how: by giving resources. Call it campaign contribution specialization. I’ll leave the heavy persuading to the experts, or at least, to those that are half way decent at it, and I’ll help enable them by giving them what they need: money.

Once I decided how to contribute, the question became: how much do I contribute?

That’s a hard question. The obvious answer is, from the perspective of the campaign: “as much as you can!” Yes, well, I’m still working on being that generous.

So I broke it down differently (read: arbitrarily): what am I willing to go without this month to support a cause I believe in? A drink at the bar? A movie theater ticket? A night out at a nice restaurant (I like to treat myself once in a while, okay?)

When I thought about it that way, my contribution was much easier to make. Now I was making a tangible sacrifice as opposed to some arbitrary gift. It even allowed me to put it in terms of working hours. I could start work on a Monday and say “these next four hours are for Obama!” and continue about my day normally doing what I love knowing that during that time I was working double for my cause.

You would hope that when it’s a cause you care deeply about, you can just write a check and not think about it. Well, maybe you can, but I‘m not there yet. I need to feel like my money has no better place to go. So, when I started comparing my choice to contribute against some of the “luxuries” in my life, it became crystal clear: This month, I’m forgoing them to give hope an edge.

It’s such a small gesture, but one I feel very confident making.


Response to comments

Ryan Erickson brought up some very good questions in a comment to my last post. I want to address them because both: A) there is merit in the discussion and B) some of the points raised by Ryan are common doubts of voters on the fence between Obama and Clinton or Obama and McCain (for us independents).

I owe Matt Stone a few beers, at least, for finding and sharing all of the links I present here. I nabbed most of them from his facebook newsfeed. Thanks Matt!

(Quoted text is excerpted from Ryan’s comment on Sunday)

EVERYONE wants what Obama decribes. The real question is, who can make it happen?

I find the argument that ‘everyone’ wants what Obama describes to be verifiably false. There are several positions that Obama takes that few of the Republican candidates dare. He supports (and voted for) the restoration of habeas corpus for those detained by our country, he supports stem cell research, he supports withdrawal from Iraq, he has policy proposals to lead us off of our oil dependency, and he (actually) opposes torture. Most of his positions I support, some of them I do not, but his positions are verifiablly different than those of other candidates. Each voter can judge for themselves whether or not they agree.

I have yet to hear Obama speak of any specific issue he plans to address or how he will address a issues … He fails to identify specific issues and describe how he will address them.

I think you may be listening to only his speeches. I can’t say I blame you, they’re quite good. ;o)

When you do the research though it becomes obvious that no candidate has a specific plan to the point that it can become legislation the day they take office. That’s never going to happen during an election as long as we keep running them as we do, specific policy proposals are too easy to attack, so it largely becomes a leap of faith for the voter.

But there are allusions to plans on each candidate’s website. Obama’s positions are very clear, and his proposals are no more or less detailed than any other candidate’s. I invite you to verify that yourself.

He has no national accomplishesment, or significant track record at all. So how can we judge his ability to create what he describes?

In my mind, becoming a front runner in a presidential election is significant in itself, but I can understand how you may want something more substantial. :o)

Significant, obviously, is subjective and the ‘my accomplishment is bigger than your accomplishment’ bickering between candidates so quickly degenerates that it makes it a mostly meaningless discussion. However there are things that we can look at.

One common argument that the Clintons make is that Hillary Clinton has more experience than Obama. That’s not exactly true, Obama has been representing constituencies as an elected official for far longer than Clinton has. Obama has a voting record in the Illinois Senate that we can look at and verify. In fact Obama has a significant (there’s that word again) track record, similar to McCain in this way, of cutting through the bullshit and getting things done in a divided legislature.

But, and I think this is by far the most important point, length of experience in national politics is an extremely poor predictor of presidential success.

Is it not just as likely that he will have no idea what to do, which is all I can conclude since he NEVER offers solutions? Or, that his lack of experience and direction will leave this country worse off than it was before he took office?

No, for the reasons above, I believe that there is a better than 50/50 chance of Obama not screwing up our country. ;o)

The implicit argument in your statement is that people are naive to follow someone who hasn’t yet proven to be the most effective candidate.

But then as a voter you’re left with two choices: You can risk naively supporting a candidate who is aligned with your beliefs and will fight for them to the best of their abilities, or you can vote for the candidate who will represent values that are not yours and will do so very effectively.

Given those two choices, I’ll gladly take the first. Thankfully, though, this year we have a candidate who can give us the best of both: Obama shares my values and has shown that he can lead effectively.

A belief that we can be better.

I firmly believe that policies don’t make a great country, its people do. No policy will ever catalyze as much positive change as a leader who can motivate and inspire us to be better individuals and a better nation.

Obama has shown that he shares my values and can move a nation. That’s why I’m contributing.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8mG5qfDXL4&rel=1]

No Comments | Tags: policy, politics, voting

27 January 2008 - 0:33Three small things I’m doing to make a difference in this year’s election.

Arizona’s primary is on February 5th, just 10 days away. I felt compelled to share (with those willing to read this) three very small things that I will be doing to make a difference this election year.

Act One: voting for Barak Obama.

Here’s why:

Sometime around last year, like many people, I began getting very depressed about the state and trajectory of our country. I’ll abstain from enumerating the reasons, suffice it to say that I felt that there was a strong disconnect between the body of values I was brought up to believe America represents, and the abhorrent, very real, consequences of it’s policies.

I was truly feeling that all of the progress we had made in the last two hundred years was giving way to a new dark age of stagnation, violence and secrecy from which we may not emerge in our lifetime.

Until I heard Obama.

I had lost my religion and here out of nowhere comes a political savior. A man who, more than any politician I have ever witnessed in my lifetime, embodies the hope that our nation can recapture it’s purpose.

I’m not going to pass up this opportunity to help elect someone that sees this nation as I do, who also believes in the values that our country so desperately needs to reembrace.

And as an added bonus, as if I needed nudging, he wins elections.

It’s not about the policies.

For me this year it’s not about the details of the issues. It’s not about the policy proposals. I’m aware of Obama’s policies, I agree with most of them, there are some I disagree with. Same is true of any of the candidates, I’ve read about them all. Judging only on policy promises, I wouldn’t vote for a single one of them, they’re all terrible!

But impeccable policy proposals are a pipe dream. When was the last time we heard proposed legislation and everyone rose up and said “Wow, that’s perfect!” Nope, never going to happen. Policy is hard, arguably intractable, and I don’t expect any of the candidates to “wow” me with their proposals (unless, of course, you count “Wow, that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Heck, I’m not even mad, that’s amazing.“).

It’s about something much bigger.

How does voting on my ideals and my conscience make me any different than the ‘values’ voters of 2004 that turned out in great numbers for President Bush? In a lot of ways, it doesn’t. But I will stack up the values of hope and unity of purpose of the Obama campaign against the tyranny of fear and intolerance that pervaded the last Bush campaign any day. I’m voting for corrective action; I’m voting for the future of my nation’s temperament; I’m voting my heart; I’m voting for hope.

I’m voting for Obama, and I hope you do, too.

Acts two and three of “Three Things I’m Doing To Make A Difference in This Year’s Election” will be posted on Monday and Tuesday.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmUUYo9o9eg&rel=1]

1 Comment | Tags: politics, voting

26 December 2007 - 15:37AZ Independents can NOT vote in primary!

I wanted to share what I learned today as I requested my early ballot in Arizona for the presidential primaries. Some things you should know if you are registered in Arizona:

  1. Both the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries will be held on February 5th.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, if you are registered Independent (’NO PARTY’ on your reg card) you will NOT be able to vote or request an early ballot. You MUST be registered for the party who’s primary you intend to vote in. AZCentral has some coverage on this.

    The gist is: while Arizona independents DO get to vote in state primaries, the law that enables this does not apply to ‘presidential preference’ votes. An irritating catch, especially if you’re like me and haven’t decided which primary you’ll be voting in yet.

  3. Moreover, if you want to change your registration (even just temporarily) to vote in one or the other primary, you must do so before midnight on January 7th (two weeks away!). It takes about 2 minutes to register online and you can change it back after the primary.
  4. To request an early ballot, you must do so from the county within which you are registered. You can request that ballot to be mailed anywhere (I’ll be filling out my AZ ballot in Oregon).

    Early Ballot Request for Pima County, AZ
    Early Ballot Request for Maricopa County, AZ

  5. Please vote! Or not, and make my vote count more. I’ll be ok with that. ;o)

1 Comment | Tags: politics, voting