Gun Control. Yep.

I know, I know, speaking up for gun control means opposing people who are armed, including a subset of psychopaths who might decide to shoot me.  Admittedly, that risk is remote — although we just hosted the fourth school shooting in our state since 1998, so not infinitely remote.

Gun fever here burns bright. One of our legislators, a gun-owning former prosecutor, was recently on the verge of a recall vote because he sponsored a background check law.  If someone like him struggles to tighten up laws, why even try?

After this week’s bloodletting, however, I’m ready to sound off, and so should the majority of Americans who agree. The psychopaths can’t shoot all of us. It’s time to:

  1. Track gun sales. 65% of US citizens agree.
  2. Ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons. 58% US citizens in favor. These guns are not for self-protection or hunting. These have one purpose: to kill people. They are also thrilling. I suspect automatic-weapon-high is one reason many fight to keep them.
  3. Ban assault-style weapons. 55% favor.
  4. Ban high capacity ammunition clips. 54% favor.

The Second Amendment is not under threat. Want a gun to protect your family from robbers? Great. Fearful of the federal government? Bogus. Assault weapons are tinker toys when up against a soldiers in Ohio or Nevada with joysticks and drones. Hunters — buy whatever rifles you want, as long as they don’t spray bullets.

Police in Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, Iceland and New Zealand don’t even carry guns.

If you haven’t seen this, here’s balm for the disheartened, courtesy of Australian stand-up comedian Jim Jeffries (if the link doesn’t work click here):

For those brave enough to fight for a ban on automatic weapons, bravo. Here’s my support, commitment and vote in favor.

Follow-up Friday: A change of plans

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Change.”


Trail, Mt. Pisgah

Last January, things were looking gloomy for farmers on Seavey Loop Road. They’d already had to stand up to corporate-organized concerts in Buford Park to the west, and the City of Springfield was planning an industrial park to the east (Scribbler’s report, 1/31/15).


The concerts were banned, after a three-day event hosting 27,000 mostly out-of-state celebrants with music so loud it rattled houses 5 miles away. County authorities agreed with local residents — that’s enough of that.

The industrial zone seemed like a done deal, though.

Nevertheless, the neighbors rolled up their sleeves.


Lo and behold.


Is that blue sky?

The city decided they didn’t need quite as much land as they thought, and other sites were better suited.


Farmland still.

Well, well.

Biggest Job Creator?

What industry creates more jobs in Europe than Ford, General Motors and Chrysler combined?


Parisian commuters


Cycling in the EU brings in €205 billion a year, when all its benefits (tourism, cardiovascular health, fuel savings, lower carbon emissions, reduced congestion, noise and air pollution) are accounted for. In 2013, EU bicycle sales were almost double car sales.

Not holding my breath that the US love affair with cars is ending anytime soon. I myself fall off the wagon when it gets cold and rainy.

Still, it’s useful to know what great job creators cyclists are, especially if you happen to run into an advocate for taxing bicyclists (to make up for gas taxes cyclists don’t pay).

UPDATE: three-year campaign to make my biking route safer bore fruit. A nice new sign explaining things appeared this summer.


The old sign encouraging people to cross speeding traffic to a mid-block sidewalk cut-out is still there, but hidden, in summer, when there are leaves. Probably doesn’t endanger too many.


Curb cut-out on left. Sign on right? Safely hidden behind leaves.

Ringing my bicycle bell in salute to city council. It’s a partial victory. It’s a small bell.


That’s an MRAP

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Enveloped.”

What kind of equipment does the police department own in your town?

Wrapped in MRAP


Photo Source: Raymond Wambsgans, courtesy of

Remember back in 2013 or so? Reports were just surfacing that the U.S. military was giving away extra equipment to police departments and campus security offices. In my state, $11 million in surplus equipment was handed out to fifty law enforcement agencies, including several in our county. The program was part of the counterterrorism strategy set in place after Sept. 11, 2001.

Lane County, Oregon, is not exactly a haven for terrorists.

While in college, I visited Romania, when the country was run by the communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaucescu. What a shock to visit a country where airports and government buildings were ringed by soldiers toting automatic weapons.

Yet, here we are.


Washington, D.C. police. Photo source: Matthew Bradley, Courtesy of

It took tragedies to raise awareness, but the spirit of protest is alive and well.


Photo source: scottlum, courtesy of

In response to public pressure, this week President Obama banned the federal government from providing armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft , firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets and camouflage uniforms to police.

To qualify for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles (MRAPs), drones or battering rams, law enforcement agencies will have to explain why they are needed, how they will be used, and how officers who use them will be trained.

We are far from recovering from September 11, 2001. The first response — to envelope ourselves in weaponry — will haunt us, perhaps for as long as we are a country. Still, we made progress this week. Maybe we’ll find our way out of the deep freeze.


Does your state college have a mine-resistant vehicle? What do you think about the federal program to give surplus equipment to local law enforcement?

John Browne’s Resurrection and Climate Change

Ever heard of Lord John Browne, Baron Browne of Madringly?

In May, 2007, Lord Browne abruptly resigned as CEO of the oil company BP, after he was outed by a tabloid newspaper. With tales of a greedy lover juicing up the media, he decided to throw in the towel. It cost him $30 million in stock options and retirement benefits.

Up to that point, John Browne had been a company man, a lifer, who joined BP in 1966 as an apprentice and worked his way to the top. He was there when British Petroleum became BP, and turned the company into the fourth largest corporation in the world. He stayed out of the limelight, partly to hide the fact that he was gay.

Although professionally respected, Browne was privately the butt of jokes and speculation. He was small in stature, and employees who didn’t like him nicknamed him “elf,” short for evil little f_____.

He was also ridiculed by peers — for embracing climate change.

“Climate change is an issue which raises fundamental questions about the relationship between companies and society as a whole, and between one generation and the next.” John Browne, 2002.

At a time when other executives called global warming a hoax, he rebranded BP as “Beyond Petroleum,” supported the Kyoto climate treaty, vowed to cut BP’s greenhouse gas emissions by 10%, and invested $500 million in solar power.


Lord John Browne, behind the podium to the right of Tony Blair, 2006 Climate Change conference organized by The Climate Group, hosted by BP. Photo Credit: The Climate Group, courtesy of

Environmentalists were skeptical, saying BP’s green makeover was a cover for an unflattering environmental track record. The $500 million dedicated to solar power, for instance, was dwarfed by the $8.4 billion spent in 2004 for oil exploration and production. The company joined those who lobbied hard to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
Grizzy bear, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Judith Slein, courtesy of

Grizzy bear, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Judith Slein, courtesy of

Instead of pretending to go green, said others, Browne should have been paying more attention to maintenance.

Above, 2005 explosion at a BP Texas refinery, killing 15 and injuring 170. Also under Browne’s watch: 2006 pipeline failure Prudhoe Bay, which spilled millions of gallons of oil.

BP’s stock value sank. John Browne was exposed, and eased out.

Oil executives were by then acknowledging that the cheap and easy oil was gone, but they weren’t interested in wind and solar. The consensus was that demand would rise ad infinitum, and that the smartest thing to do was invest heavily in the oil that is difficult, dangerous and dirty to extract. Browne’s successor at BP, Tony Hayward, doubled down on fracking, tar sands extraction and deep water drilling.

“Some may question whether so much of the [energy] growth needs to come from fossil fuels, … but here it is vital that we face up to the harsh reality …  we still foresee 80% of energy coming from fossil fuels in 2030.” Tony Hayward at MIT, 2009.

Deep Water Horizon oil spill. Photo credit: DVIDSHUB, via After the 2010 Deep Water Horizon spill, BP was banned from bidding on new leases in the Gulf of Mexico for four years.

Meanwhile, John Browne moved on with the same vigor he’d demonstrated at BP. He encouraged gay entrepreneurs and published a book, The Glass Closet. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, installed as President of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He kept his hand in the oil business too.

Cuadrilla protestors

T.V. coverage of protests over fracking by Cuadrilla Resources, of which Browne is Chairman. Photo credit: Gwydion M. Williams, courtesy of

Fast forward to 2015.

The bet on dirty oil was wildly successful. World oil production rose from 85.1 million barrels per day in 2005 to 92.9 million in 2014, and profits were, for awhile, staggering.

But — surprise. Prices today are half what they were a year ago, and may not rise again anytime soon. Energy Information Administration (E.I.A.) predicts “slower demand will continue for the next decade.” One of the reasons? People everywhere are waking up to the threat posed by climate change.

Oil companies have laid off workers. Shell dropped plans for a petrochemical plant in Qatar. Chevron set aside a proposal to to drill in the Arctic seas. Norway’s Statoil changed its mind about drilling in Greenland.

Of course, this could all change if prices climb again. Still, we have a pause, a breather in the mad dash for oil.

And Lord Browne? Whether or not he was serious in 1999, he’s still sounding the alarm about global warming. Climate science is settled, he recently declared, but “this conclusion is not accepted by many in our industry, because they do not want to acknowledge an existential threat to their business.”

resource extraction

“Resource extraction” in Texas. Photo Source: Amy Youngs, courtesy of

The battles continue. Old school oil executives vilify Browne, as do environmentalists, but my, how things have changed.

Eight years ago, one of the most powerful executives on the planet was trying to hide his sexual orientation, and climate change was mostly relegated to the back section of the papers. Now executives, congressmen and sports stars are proudly coming out; and climate change has moved from the back to the front pages. The world oil market is flooded, partly because — who would have guessed? — demand has slowed.

Is John Browne courageous or opportunistic? Does it matter? More important: Are we finally ready to begin the painful process of weaning ourselves from oil?

Farm versus Factory: Battles for open space

Where are the fights over land use in your part of the world?


Seavey Loop farmland. In the fog: a proposed addition to the city of Springfield, Oregon’s, growth boundary. Agricultural land would be rezoned as industrial.

Cities are required by law to incorporate enough land to accommodate future growth. In accordance with the law, the next town over from mine is making plans to expand its boundary. The current proposal would swallow farmland.


One of the businesses looking to expand if Seavey Loop property is rezoned. Photo source: No Industrial Pisgah

It has set off a firestorm of criticism, particularly in one area with several small farms, that borders an arboretum and is visited by about 500,000 people a year.


Photo source: No Industrial Pisgah

City officials say that the arboretum, waterways and most farmland will be protected. Farmers, hikers and residents cry foul.

Fights like these are going on everywhere.

“We are like people living in the penthouse of a hundred-story building. Every day we go downstairs and at random knock out 150 bricks to take upstairs to increase the size of our penthouse. Since the building below consists of millions of bricks, this seems harmless enough … Eventually — inevitably — the streams of vacancy we have created in the fabric of the walls below will come together to produce a complete structural collapse.

When this happens — if it is allowed to happen — we will join the general collapse, and our lofty position at the top of the structure will not save us.”  Daniel Quinn, “The Danger of Human Exceptionalism”

With economic growth a priority and population growth on a steady upward trajectory, it’s inevitable that we’ll chip away at forests and farmland.


Still, many are willing to question, and push back.


Proposed expansion area marked in red. Photo Source: Friends of Buford Park

As discouraging as it is, small fights matter. Open space, clean water and the survival of other species — usually its local groups who are affected first by development, who draw attention to these.

This development a done deal? We’ll see.


Farm land, industrial land, from Mt. Pisgah arboretum.

Have you been involved in land use planning? Have you worked to save open space, or to change zoning for or against industrial use?

Nature, Nurture, Free Will and Edward O. Wilson

What is free will, and do we have it?

In February, 1978, members of the International Committee Against Racism interrupted a talk by biologist and Harvard professor Edward O. Wilson. They ran on stage, yelling “Racist Wilson you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” and threw water at him.


E. O. Wilson (Painting — National Portrait Gallery)

Wilson is a naturalist and an entomologist, specializing in ants (technically a myrmecologist — considered the world’s leading expert). In 1975,  he published a book called Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. In it, he showed how natural selection influences not only the physical form of animal’s bodies, but also their behavior. No problems there.

In the last chapter, however, he proposed that natural selection also shaped human behavior. He predicted that a new science, “sociobiology,” would connect physical sciences and social sciences, to help us finally understand ourselves. He was critical of some of his Harvard colleagues, including John Rawls, a revered philosopher, whose 600-page A Theory of Justice had sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

“We … look in vain at current academic philosophy for the answer to the great question, the great riddle. … Professional, secular philosophy long ago gave up trying to answer the overall question, what is the meaning of life? Most of the history of philosophy is strewn with the wreckage of theories of the conscious mind. [W]hat science promises, and has already supplied in part is that there is a real creation story of humanity, and it is not a myth. It is being worked out, and tested and strengthened, step by step.” April, 2012, lecture by Wilson, “The Social Conquest of Earth.”

Critics shot right back that Wilson didn’t know what he was talking about. His ideas flew in the face of much of what we thought about reason. It stank of the kind of thinking that brought us forced sterilization, concentration camps and other horrors (hence the protestors at Wilson’s speech). If our biology determines our actions, wasn’t that the same as saying that we do not have free will?

Wilson wasn’t, and isn’t, a proponent of eugenics, a mass murderer or a racist. He has written dozens of books and essays on human behavior, philosophy, natural science, and is a Pulitzer Prize winner. His work and theories deal with, as he readily admits, unsettled questions, and he also admits he might be wrong.

His theories are hotly debated to this day by writers, psychologists, geneticists, philosophers like Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins.


E.O. Wilson and Bill Clinton, 2007. Photo Source: Class V on Flickr

His big idea, however, that science will help us understand ourselves — has held up. Every, day neurobiologists, geneticists and social psychologists learn more about how brains work, changing our perception of why we behave the way we do.

Even more important is Wilson’s certainty that understanding the biology of behavior will help us finally see how we depend on the physical world, on our environment. This, in turn, will help us reverse our part in the destruction of ecosystems all over the globe.


But — do we have free will? The protestors at Wilson’s 1978 lecture probably felt that standing up for their beliefs was an exercise of free will. Probably the millions of protestors who marched in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack did too. But was it?

My reactions to the protestors holding up “Not Afraid” signs? Pride, inspiration, fervor, indignation — emotions. Here was something black and white, the murder of innocents, defense of free speech. YEAH!


Photo source: Gwenael Piaser on Flickr

I’ve since learned that the French leaders who marched in those protests aren’t exactly proponents of free speech. My response changed to — what was I thinking?

That’s the thing. I wasn’t. My gut feelings hijacked my thoughts. But does that mean my thoughts are always dictated by emotions?

Reading Wilson’s work, and criticism of it, makes it clear that the question of free will is more complicated than most of us lay people can comprehend. There may not be a yes or no answer.

“[T]he … rules of moral reasoning will probably not prove to be aggregated into simple instincts such as bonding, cooperativeness, and altruism. Instead the rules will most probably turn out to be an ensemble of many algorithms, whose interlocking activities guide the mind across a landscape of nuanced moods and choices.” (Atlantic Magazine, 1998, “The Biological Basis of Morality”)

But there is big lesson from Wilson, and his water-throwing detractors: we live in a time when we are going to have to hear a lot of difficult truths about ourselves, and make big changes we don’t want to make. We will have to fight the impulse to shut down the voices of people we don’t want to listen to. Whether that’s a decision we make of our own free will, or because we simply feel it’s right, doesn’t really matter.

“Science faces in ethics and religion its most interesting and possibly most humbling challenge. … Blind faith, no matter how passionately expressed, will not suffice. Science, for its part, will test relentlessly every assumption about the human condition and in time uncover the bedrock of moral and religious sentiments. … The eventual result … will be the secularization of the human epic and of religion itself. However the process plays out, it demands open discussion and unwavering intellectual rigor in an atmosphere of mutual respect.” April 1998, The Biological Basis of Morality.

Are you an E.O Wilson fan? What do you think about free will?

Further reading:
Consilience, E.O. Wilson
The Social Conquest of Earth, E.O. Wilson
“Some potential contributions of sociobiology to moral psychology and moral education” 

Keystone Pipeline: Sound off Sunday

Your chance to sound off about a hot button issue.

What do you think about the Keystone Pipeline? Why has it become such a lightning rod?

Do these facts change your opinion?

Keystone XL:

Keystone is a multi-phased project. Several sections have already been built and are in use. The Keystone XL pipeline that is under consideration and the subject of controversy is the last of four phases.

Oil extracted from the tar sands/oil sands in Alberta, Canada is called bitumen. At 57 degrees fahrenheit it is as hard as a hockey puck. It must be warmed or diluted before it can be piped. Extraction is energy intensive.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline crosses an international border. Approval depends on a finding by President Obama’s administration that construction will be in the national interest. Proponents say it will help the economy and lessen dependence on oil from hostile suppliers. Opponents say it will worsen global warming, and that spills will cause environmental damage.


Image Source: Wikipedia

Existing pipelines: Three segments of the pipeline are already in use: (1) Hardisty, Alberta to Steel City, Nebraska and Pakota, Illinois. (2) Steele City to Cushing, Oklahoma, and (3) Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas. The controversial route more or less duplicates the Hardisty to Steele City route, but is shorter (see green line on map, runs through Baker, Montana).


Image Source: Wikipedia

Several additional pipeline routes to carry oil across Canada are being planned; and, a pipe parallel to an existing line from Hardisty to Wisconsin, has been proposed.

Spills: Over the last ten years, 4.1 million gallons of petroleum and hazardous liquids have been spilled each year in pipeline accidents, causing an average of two deaths per year. Property damage: $263 million annually. The Keystone Phase 1 pipeline, which opened in 2009, has had 12 reported leaks. In 2010, over a million gallons of Canadian diluted bitumen spilled from a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River. As of Aug. 2013, Enbridge Corporation, the company that built and maintains the pipeline, had spent more than $1 billion to repair and mitigate the damage. Cleanup is still underway.

Train transport: The number of train shipments of bitumen-derived oil has increased exponentially in recent years. Transporting by train is more dangerous than by pipeline.

Train accidents involving oil transport in 2013:

  • July, Lac Megantic, Quebec: Oil train derailed and seventy two tanker cars exploded and burned. Forty seven people died. Forty downtown buildings were destroyed. Cleanup estimate: at least $200 million.


    Lac Megantic, Quebec Image source: CTV

  • Oct., Gainford, Alberta: Four rail cars carrying crude oil and nine carrying liquified petroleum gas derailed in Alberta. The fire burned for days.
  • Nov., Aliceville, Alabama: Crude-oil tanker train derailed and burned. Released up to 750,000 gallons of oil.
  • Dec., Casselton, North Dakota: 20 cars in a train carrying crude oil ignited after colliding with a derailed grain train near Casselton, N.D., sending up a fireball and spilling an estimated to 476,000 gallons of oil.

Environmental impact of bitumen vs. ordinary oil: From shale to tail pipe, bitumen releases 17 to 20 % more carbon into the atmosphere than regular gasoline.

Jobs: temporary jobs (one year or less, full and part time) 42,000. Permanent jobs: 30 to 50.

Scribbler’s view: It was a surprise to learn how much of the Keystone Pipeline is already finished, how common pipeline spills are and how much oil is transported by rail. Tar sands oil extraction is more dangerous and dirtier than I thought, and more of a done deal.  

The last phase of the XL project will probably be approved. Even if it isn’t, stopping the construction of the pipeline will not end the extraction, shipment and burning of bitumen-derived oil from Canada. At most it would increase costs. This is a symbolic fight, a line in the ‘sand,’ and rallying point to organize fights against practices which worsen climate change.The legacy and value of the controversy will be new political alliances, and that the fight has brought the issue to the headlines. 

How do you think Congress and the President should/will resolve the Keystone controversy? 


Attention all eaters: Five things to know about new food safety rules


Have you ever written to a government agency on an issue you care about?

If you’re interested in local farming, and minimal use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, now is a good time to write to the The Food and Drug Administration.


In 2011, the FDA updated its food safety regulations with the most comprehensive overhaul in seventy years, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). They are still working out the kinks. Anyone with an opinion is invited to comment before December 15, 2014.

Here are the new rules in their entirety. If you don’t have time to wade through all of that, Scribbler is here to help.

About fifty years ago, we made a U-turn in how we grow food. We introduced nitrogen fertilizers and new practices that allowed us to exponentially increase the amount of food we produce.


We are a long way, however, from understanding how best to grow food for billions of people. Scientists are discovering practices that encourage microbial activity in the soil, and are healthier and safer than some of the chemical-based practices most farmers use.  Until we know more, farmers who work and experiment with soil, water conservation, composting and organic methods need to be allowed — encouraged — to continue.  The new FDA rules will make that difficult. Some farms could inadvertently be put out of business.

Here’s what’s important for organic and small farms:

1. Farms vs. Facilities 

When food producers get big enough, the FDA stops defining them as “farms” and starts calling them “facilities.” The new rules update standards that facilities, i.e., large institutions, must comply with. Farms have separate requirements, designed for smaller operations.

The new definitions of what qualifies as a facility and what is a farm are fuzzy. For instance, small farmers who work jointly to store and package what they produce, or who have plots of land that are not contiguous, might be inappropriately classified as facilities.

According to laws passed by Congress, farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture farms (CSA’s) are farms, not facilities, but the FDA rules don’t make that clear. Small farmers who decide to, say, add a U-pick strawberry business that brings in $5000, might find themselves subject to rules requiring putting together and maintaining an expensive Food Safety Plan. To understand what that means, have a look here.  The plan could cost more than the income from the strawberries.


2. Due Process

Legal remedies and processes need to be clarified. If a grower’s status is changed, say a “farm” gets classified as a “facility,” there is no requirement for prior notice, leaving farmers no opportunity to correct the problem. The agency also  doesn’t have to list reasons for a change in status, and there is no clear path to appeal the FDA’s decisions. All these issues need to be addressed.

3. Soil Amendments 

The words “compost” and “manure” don’t appear in the new food safety rules, but they are in the subtext. Here’s a good breakdown of new rules governing soil amendments. Basically, the FDA is trying to prevent crops from being contaminated with bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. The trouble is, the new FDA rules conflict with those of the Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. There is disagreement about how long compost tea and manure fertilizers must be cured before they can be applied. The science is not clear. The National Organic Program, which was adopted after many months of research and public comment, in cooperation with the National Organics Standards Board (part of the USDA), should be the standard.


4. Water

Water is different everywhere, and the quality needed for safe drinking and swimming, is not the same as what’s needed to safely grow food. The FDA is proposing narrow rules that set one standard for all water use, both recreational and farming. This will lead to over-use of chemical water treatments. The rules need to be flexible to accommodate water in different geographical areas, and for different kinds of water use.


5. Sound off

It’s not just mega businesses that control what happens in Washington. When enough people speak up, policy makers respond. Witness the influence of the Tea Party, and the delay of Keystone Pipeline. The FMSA itself is being revised because of a huge response from the public. If you want to send a comment or statement to the FDA, here are instructions. Several sites also have templates and more information. See The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and the Friends of Family Farmers.

 Do you follow the ins and outs of rule-making about how we grow food? Have anything to add about the FDA’s new proposals?

Additional Resources:

Voter Turnout

How was voter turnout in your state for mid term elections?


Feeling patriotic. Just returned from a visit to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.

Oregon’s was darn good.  69.5 per cent. Not everything went the way Scribbler deigned it should, locally or nationally, but I’m a patient woman.

In most states, turnout was low.

What’s Oregon’s secret?

Exciting ballot measures. $8 million was spent to support a measure requiring that GMO foods be labeled, much of it from out of state. $20 million was spent in opposition to the measure, most of it from out of state.  Yay Citizens’ United. We were buried in hyperbolic ads and flyers.

Also on the ballot: a top two (as opposed to party system) voting initiative.

And, a measure to legalize marijuana …

Voting in Oregon, which is by mail, is easy and encouraged. Does it help? Maybe some. Washington, however, also votes by mail and turnout there was down.


Voters who don’t mail in time, drop ballots off at special boxes. Photo source: Lincoln County Voter Info.

How do we compare to other countries?


Image source: NPR, Diane Rehm Show

In national elections we flounder somewhere around 60th.

How do other countries do it? Some hold all elections, national and local on one day. Some impose a fine on people who don’t vote (Uruguay and Singapore), or automatically register everyone to vote (France and Sweden). None of those happening here anytime soon.

What do you think about voting by mail? Is there controversy about voting and voting rights in your state? Should we do more to encourage voting? If so, what?