Political parties and the "So What?" test

This entry is part 14 of 20 in the series 2011 City Council Campaign

Partisan FailAs complex human beings, it can be hard to communicate all that we stand for and all that we've experienced in casual social interactions.  "Hi, I'm Chris, let me tell you about the past 34 years of my life in the next 2 minutes...."  When it goes beyond communicating to trying to persuade someone of something - that they should vote for you, for example - it can be even harder to efficiently sum up what you're about in meaningful, authentic ways.

This is surely part of the utility, then, of having political parties: "Democrat," "Republican" and "Libertarian" (to name a few) are labels that help us identify a set of beliefs and values that a particular candidate might stand for and bring to their approach to governance.

But in recent years, the wordsmiths of the political machine have diluted many of these labels, and candidates and politicians who say they stand for one thing and then do other things have further made those labels less meaningful to voters. And just because we have labels to help us, we can't forfeit our responsibility to truly understand what a candidate stands for and how they would represent us.

This is where the "So What?" test comes in.

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Truth in advertising

False advertising?At some point when I was fairly young, I was excited to learn about the concept of "truth in advertising" - the notion that it actually matters whether what you say in a public announcement or description of products or services is true or not.  I was even more excited to learn that there was an official government entity (in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission) empowered to enforce truth in advertising standards, and punish those who would dare publish falsehoods.  It totally knocked my socks off to further learn that ordinary citizens could submit claims of false advertising and compel advertisers to change or withdraw their deceptive advertising pieces.

What a world of pure and unflinching justice we could then live in!  To walk around knowing that the slogans and invitations on billboards, newspaper ads and television were all required by law to be true, and that onerous fines and the shame of the public eye awaited the occasional miscreant who would stray from this noble code.  No need to worry about being deceived or misled as a consumer; we could always have confidence that advertisers would stand by their claims.

Like I said, I was young.

But at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I do think there's been a notable shift in the standards we hold marketers and public figures to when it comes to truth in advertising.  Seems like somewhere around the mid 1990's, we kind of gave up on it.

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Job creation at a human scale

ForgeIt's unfortunate that the act of finding or creating a job for someone has become a form of political currency.  Politicians around the country are clamoring about how many jobs they created with this program or that program, or boasting about how their job creation (or job loss) record compares to someone else's for a given time period, while many rightly ask if politicians can really even create jobs (answer: probably not).  When we set aside the political rhetoric, we remember that for most people, a job is not a statistic to be waved around in the media and that finding or creating a job is not the end of the story.

For most people, having a job is a means to other ends - making money to help provide for our families, a place where we go to be productive and feel a sense of accomplishment, a foundation on which to build a quality of life.  Most people don't want to live so they can work - they work so they can live.  And so it's disconcerting when politicians casually talk about job creation as the end in itself, without any concern for or follow-up on what that means for the people in a given community taking those jobs.

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Chris responds to public access questions for candidates

This entry is part 13 of 20 in the series 2011 City Council Campaign

The Times of Northwest Indiana published an editorial at the end of August, reprinted in today's Palladium-Item, noting the importance of screening candidates for office on their views about public access laws.  Since increasing the transparency and accessibility of the work done by Richmond's City Council is a primary part of my own interest in serving on Council, I appreciate this emphasis.

In the editorial, five questions were posed as suggestions for citizens to ask of candidates, with the imperative that "andidates who seem to lean toward secrecy should be rejected."

I'm posting my answers below, and I hope my fellow candidates will also make their views publicly known during the campaign.

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Anatomy of a modern tech support case

Based on a true story:

Them: "Please fill out our online form and we'll get back to you right away!"

You in online form: "Hi.  I'm trying to find the button that does the thing I want, and your documentation says it should be there but it's not - can you tell me how to do the thing I want?"

Them: "Thank you for opening your tech support case - your question is very important to us.  We will get back to you very soon now."

Them: "Hi there, my name is Tech Support Rep#2342 and I'm going to be assisting you with your question."

Them: "It's me, Rep#2342 again, and I wanted to let you know that you can find out everything you'd ever want to know about the button you're looking for on our online knowledgebase, which is at http:....  I hope you enjoy all the information that will be at your fingertips there."

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Summer reading mini book reviews

What We Leave BehindIt's been a decent summer of reading for me, and I thought I'd post some very brief reviews of some of what I've encountered along the way.  For each book I’ve linked to an online purchase option, but please consider buying from your locally-owned bookseller or visiting your local library first.  I've organized the reviews into three sections: Culture, Novels and Business & Politics:

Culture

Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick
Finally, Mitnick gets to tell his side of the story when it comes to his adventures in computer cracking and social engineering.  Though his writing style isn't particularly compelling and his personal meditations on the interpersonal aspects of his adventures are a bit awkward, the details of how he pulled off some pretty technologically impressive (albeit illegal and sometimes destructive) hacks - and how law enforcement responded - make for compelling reading on their own.  As someone who spent a fair number of hours in my childhood trying to deconstruct how the phone system and the emerging world of BBSes and Internet nodes worked, Mitnick's book is a great visit to the past and a reminder that humans continue to be the weakest link in all computer security.

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Chris supports local challenge to ballot law

This entry is part 12 of 20 in the series 2011 City Council Campaign

There are all sorts of ways the electoral process isn't optimized, either in making it more difficult than is necessary for voters to conveniently and clearly express their vote, or in making it more difficult than is necessary for some kinds of candidates to have a fair and equitable chance of receiving those votes.

We certainly don't need to be adding new ways to complicate the process or confuse voters, which is why Chris Hardie supports a recent legal challenge, initiated locally in Richmond by a number candidates and voters, to the recently amended Indiana Code 3-10-6-7.5 which says that you can't hold an election for an office when a candidate is unopposed.  As noted in recent articles in the Palladium-Item and in today's article, the challenge hopes to undo this bit of legislative hand-tying before the ballots are printed for upcoming Richmond city election.

Here's the full statement Chris's campaign released to the media earlier this week:

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