Bristle Software Voting Tips

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Table of Contents:

  1. Register online to vote
  2. Absentee ballots
  3. When, where, how and why to vote
  4. Donate to campaigns
  5. How to talk about politics
  6. Volunteer
  7. Single Transferable Vote
  8. My 3 biggest complaints about Trump
  9. H-2B Visa Seasonal Workers

Details of Tips:

  1. Register online to vote

    Original Version: 9/18/2018
    Last Updated: 10/17/2018

    Register to vote!  Time is running out!

    Not yet registered?  Moved to a new address?  Not sure?

    It's VERY easy to register.  And very easy to check if you're already registered at your current home address.  (Important, since you can't vote if your address is wrong.)

    For college students, it's also very easy to change your registration to your school address, so you don't have to go home to vote on election day.

    In PA and most other states, you can use a simple on-line form.

    Any other good links I should add?

    --Fred

  2. Absentee ballots

    Original Version: 10/21/2018
    Last Updated: 10/23/2018

    Can't get to the polls on election day, Tuesday Nov 6?  Get an absentee ballot!

    When?
    Apply for the ballot ASAP!
    The deadline to apply is typically 7-14 days before the election.
    The deadline to submit is typically 4-7 days before the election.
    In Pennsylvania, apply by Tuesday 10/30, and submit by Friday 11/2.  In both cases, it must ARRIVE at the election office by 5pm on the due date.  Being postmarked by the due date is NOT good enough.

    How?

    1. Download an application online, print, fill it out and sign.  (I just did mine.  Simple form.  Took about 60 seconds.)
    2. Mail or hand-deliver it to the election office to ARRIVE before the apply deadline
    3. Receive the ballot via US mail.
      Note: In PA, you CANNOT pick it up in person.  It MUST be mailed to a valid street address, not a PO box (to prevent fraud).
    4. Fill out and sign the ballot
    5. Mail or hand-deliver it to the election office to ARRIVE before the submit deadline.
      Note: In PA, you CANNOT have someone else deliver it.  Either mail it, or deliver it in person (to prevent fraud).

    Who?
    You can use an absentee ballot if you are:

    What?
    Required on the PA application:

    Where?
    To download an absentee ballot:

    Any other tips or links I should add?

    --Fred

  3. When, where, how and why to vote

    Original Version: 11/5/2018
    Last Updated: 11/5/2018

    Election day is tomorrow, Tuesday Nov 6.
    Be sure to get out and vote!!!

    When?
    Polls are open 7am to 8pm. 

    The most crowded times are typically before work (6-8am), lunchtime (11am-1pm), and especially after work (5-8pm).  If you go mid-morning or mid-afternoon, you can be done in 5-10 minutes.

    Schedule a reminder on your computer or phone for the time you intend to vote.  Or schedule an email or text message reminder at:
    http://ballotready.org

    Note: If you're in line by 8pm, you're allowed to vote.  Even if there's a long line of people waiting, or if a problem with the voting machines causes a delay.

    Where?
    Enter your home address at any of these sites to find your polling place:

    If you've moved recently and not yet updated your voter registration, go to the polling place for your old address.

    If you're a college student livong at school but still registered at your parents' house, you have to vote where you are registered.

    Who?
    Run out quickly to vote by yourself.  Or better yet, ask your friends and colleagues if they've voted yet, and ask them to run out with you.  Round up the whole team!  Maybe even ask your employer to give you all some time off so that everyone can vote.

    What?

    1. Find out exactly what candidates and questions will be on your ballot by seeing a complete copy of your personalized ballot at:
      http://ballotready.org
    2. Find out where each candidate stands on each issue, see their credentials and bios, and who has endorsed them, also at:
      http://ballotready.org
      or at special interest sites like
      https://www.aclu.org/voter
      https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/elections/endorsements/
      https://voteprochoice.us/endorsed-candidates/
    3. Decide which candidates and questions to vote for.  Write down your choices on paper or in your phone or somewhere.  Or enter them into the sample ballot, and download, email or print that sample ballot, also at:
      http://ballotready.org
    4. Go to the polls with your notes or sample ballot, and fill in your choices in the real ballot.  See "How?" below.
    5. Share your choices with your friends via email or social media, if you like, also at:
      http://ballotready.org

    How?

    Why?
    Voting is your most powerful way to influence our government, telling it how you want things to be.

    Are you:

    Here's a 5-minute video of Barack Obama arguing against all of the excuses people give for not bothering to vote:

    More info:

    My Opinion:

    Personally, my goal in this election is to stop Trump.  Rein him in immediately, and get rid of him as soon as possible thereafter.  As I said above, I think he is entirely dishonorable, unable to focus, and easily manipulated and that makes him very dangerous.

    I don't necessarily want the Democrats in power, but they couldn't possibly be worse than Trump, Pence, Ryan, Cruz, Kavanaugh, McConnell and Grassley.  When someone sets me on fire, I don't ask if the lake is fresh water or brackish.  I just jump in to put out the fire.

    I'm hoping that with this election, we can:

    OK.  Back off my soapbox.  Any other tips or links I should add?

    --Fred

  4. Donate to campaigns

    Original Version: 10/20/2018
    Last Updated: 11/4/2018

    I generally like to stay out of other people's business, so I've always ignored elections in other parts of the country, figuring those people should decide what's right for themselves, and I shouldn't get too involved.

    But this time, things have gone too far.  Huge amounts of money are being spent on TV and Web ads to influence voters.  And too much of it is being spent to support politicians that I would hate to see elected.  Especially since they support a president that I find dishonorable and an agenda that I find despicable.  Suddenly, it DOES matter to me who gets elected to the US Senate in faraway Texas.  So, my wife and I decided how much we could afford to donate to help with the "Blue Wave".

    Then, I spent days researching which races around the country would benefit most from our money.  We ended up splitting our $2,000 among 30 different candidates that were all in tight races.  Lots of of our info came from sites that I've now added to the Election row of my links page:

    For example:

    --Fred

  5. How to talk about politics

    Original Version: 10/17/2018
    Last Updated: 10/17/2018

    Wondering why you disagree so strongly with some of your seemingly intelligent friends about politics?  Why do they not see the light when you show them the facts?

    Here's a good book I found recently.  I bought a pile of copies (only $12 each) and have been handing them out to friends.  I suggest you buy a copy, and read the intro and the 1st chapter.  I think you'll be hooked.

    It's the first sensible explanation I've found of how seemingly intelligent people can disagree so much with me on such seemingly obvious issues.  How can they actually support Trump, for example?  Are really all malicious, selfish, racist people?  All of them?  Or foolish people who are easily conned?  Or what?

    No.  In many cases, it's because they are locked into a frame of reference that is very different from the one I'm locked into.

    When I toss out a fact that doesn't fit their frame, they disregard it as untrue or some sort of outlier.  And I do the same with facts they toss at me, when they don't fit my frame.

    That doesn't make the 2 sets of facts equally true, but it does explain the bias that makes some facts hard to accept.

    The book does a great job of laying out 2 different frames and how they affect our values, opinions, and ability to accept facts.  According to the book, some people have more of a "strict father" mindset and others have more of a "nurturant parent" mindset, but lots of people have a mix of both.

    The "strict father" types believe that the world is a harsh place with much to be feared.  Kids are born bad and have to be taught to be good.  Fathers must take a strong stance to defend their children from the evil world.  And must punish them when they misbehave.  Also, pursuing your own self-interest tends to lead to the best result for all, with the weak and undisciplined naturally falling by the wayside while the strong and self-reliant prosper.  Even though I lean mostly the other way, I'll admit that some of that does ring true with me.  Especially when I meet people who feel entitled to get free handouts and never want to make any effort of their own.

    The "nurturant parent" types believe that the world is a good place and can be improved.  Kids are born good and should be encouraged to be even better.  Parents must provide a healthy, safe, supportive environment in which their kids can grow to their fullest potential.  Also, protecting the interests of all, in a fair way, tends to lead to the best result for all.  This rings far more true for me.  It fits much better with the Golden Rule that we all learned as kids: "Do unto others..."

    The result is that "strict father" types tend to believe it's wrong to help others too much.  Better to let them wither away as they deserve for being weak.  So they make the "moral choice" to "do the right thing" by voting against social programs that help "bad people" (those in need).  And they vote for programs that reward the "good" (rich successful people and corporations).

    And the "nurturant parent" types tend to believe it's wrong to not help others in need, whenever you are able to.  So they make the "moral choice" to "do the right thing" by voting for social programs that help "unfortunate people" (those in need through no fault of their own).  And they vote against programs that reward the "fortunate" (rich successful people and corporations, who should be more able and therefore more expected to carry the load).

    Until you recognize the "frame" that you or someone is trapped in, there are limits to how much you can change your mind or theirs with mere facts.  Instead, you have to change their frame, and gradually convince them that their idea of "doing the right thing" is actually mean, petty, harmful, self-serving, and generally dishonorable.  And you can't do that by yelling at them.  Only by setting a good example, using the right terminology, and constantly reinforcing your message.

    The effect is so strong that "good" people on both sides will generally vote according to their "values", even when it's not in their personal best interest.  For example, poor minorities may still vote for a cruel, petty, racist candidate if they believe in the values that he claims to support: "strength against our common enemies", "rewarding the successful for succeeding", etc.  They're not necessarily being stupid, failing to understand that they and their families may lose their social security, medicare, medicaid, and other support programs.  They may actually be doing what they think is "right"!

    And rich comfortable mid- to upper-class people may vote for higher taxes, more social programs, etc.  Again, they're not simply being stupid, failing to realize they they will end up paying higher taxes for social programs that they will probably never collect on personally.  They too are doing what they think is "right"!

    Interesting concept. It was a real eye opener for me. 

    That's why it's so hard to change the mind of people on the other side. They have a fundamentally different set of values, and may truly believe what they are saying.  If you do argue with them, watch for them to give up and propose that you just "agree to disagree".  That's a sign that you're getting through to them.  They're starting to listen to the words coming out of their mouths and realizing that they don't like what they're hearing.  It sets up a sort of "cognitive dissonance" in their brain, and they get uncomfortable and want to end the conversation.

    Good luck!

    --Fred

  6. Volunteer

    Original Version: 10/23/2018
    Last Updated: 10/23/2018

    Want to have a bigger effect on the election?

    Don't just vote.  Don't just write a check.  Volunteer your time!  A day, an hour, 15 minutes, whatever time you can spare.  Go door to door, work in a team room, or just sit alone at home.   It's fun and easy!

    All of this is much easier and more fun than you might expect.  My wife and I have never been politically active, but this time we are "all in"!  She's canvassing, I'm emailing and posting, we're both handing out registration forms and campaign literature, we've got signs in the front yard, etc.

    Canvassing is easy. Especially GOTV ("Get Out The Vote") canvassing, where you're knocking on doors only of people who agree with you politically.  The time for convincing is past.  Now you're preaching to the choir, and just reminding them to make the effort to actually get to the polls.  The organizers will give you scripts, talking points, training, etc.  And you can be paired with someone more experienced if you like.

    Here's a page about canvassing, described by people like us who'd never done it before, and were a little nervous:

    And for those who know Brita, or know me and haven't yet met her, here's her segment of the video interview:

    OK, now that you've "met" her, anyone interested in helping her put out campaign signs for an hour after work tomorrow?  Would be much appreciated!

    Any questions? Feel free to email me.  Any other tips or links to add?  Let me know!

    --Fred

  7. Single Transferable Vote

    Original Version: 10/29/2018
    Last Updated: 10/29/2018

    Are you disgusted with both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party?  Tempted to vote for a 3rd party candidate?

    Voting 3rd party may not be enough.  Unless we can get enough people at the same time to all take a leap of faith together.  Sometimes (especially in the 2016 election), we're forced to vote for the lesser of 2 evils, which may not be our 1st choice.

    That's why I like the idea of a "Single Transferable Vote" (a.k.a. "Ranked Choice Voting").

    Let me vote vote for 1st, 2nd, 3rd choices, etc., with the vote going to my 1st choice, unless that candidate ended up with a low enough count to be out of the running, in which case the vote would transfer to my 2nd choice, etc., until one candidate gets the majority.

    This would allow long shots to have a better chance of beating the main 2 parties.  I don't know how we'd ever get such a change since both parties would be VERY anxious to block it.  But if we could, I think it would work out great!

    See:

    For the first time, in 2018, the state of Maine will be using this system for their federal elections.  Here's a site that talks about the pros/cons, how it was put into place in Maine, etc.  We'll see how it works out!

    --Fred

  8. My 3 biggest complaints about Trump

    Original Version: 2/25/2017
    Last Updated: 10/26/2018

    Here are my 3 biggest complaints about Trump:

    1. Trump is dishonorable

      Would even his biggest fans really trust him alone with their daughters?  With their money?  Would any of them honestly describe him as an "honorable" man?  I've started to ask that lately, and the answer always starts with "No, but ...".

      For example, during the campaign, Trump saw a graph of murder rates in the US.  It showed a massive DECREASE year after year for 20 years, dropping now to the LOWEST in 50 years.  He noted that after the extraordinarily low rate in 2014, the rate in 2015 was actually a little higher.  He cited that (accurately, but misleadingly and self-servingly) as "the biggest percentage increase in 46 years", claiming that crime is "out of control" under Obama.

      Here's the full graph.  See the slight uptick in 2015 that Trump was talking about?  See also what he failed to mention?  That the rate DROPPED every previous year for 6 years under Obama.  And that it was still well below the rate when Obama was elected.  How could an honorable man see that graph and claim that "crime is out of control"?  Pure scare tactics!

      At least that time the specific fact he cited was technically accurate. Later, he started to claim it was "the highest rate in 50 years", when it was actually the lowest rate.

      Since then Trump has made flat out lying the new normal, introducing the term "alternative facts", as though we can all just "agree to disagree" on facts and each be equally correct -- an effect that will persist long past his time in office.  Permanent damage has been done to the mindset and integrity of the country.

    2. Trump is flighty

      He has no ability to focus on a single task long enough to actually accomplish it.  Just pokes at stuff for a while, then gets bored.  He seems to think he can just make un-informed snap decisions about whatever happens to catch his attention.

      He wants to "repeal and replace" w/o taking the time to come up with a good alternative.  Wants to "build a wall" instead of considering that most illegal immigrants enter legally and then overstay their visa.  Without considering that drug dealers can easily catapult drugs over the wall in one direction and money for it in the other direction.  Or that the border goes right through the middle of some towns with nearby buildings on each side.  So tunnels, ladders, drones, etc., are all easy ways to get past.

      I read a newspaper article that gives some serious thought to a border wall.  How effective it could really be.  How expensive.  Some stretches could cost as much as $1.7 million per migrant turned away!

      Also, how much land would have to be seized from US citizens.  How much US land would be fenced off from the US and effectively given to Mexico.  The fact that the entire riverfront area of the Rio Grande river and lakefronts of resorts on Lake Amistad would be fenced off, unavailable to US citizens for fishing, swimming, boating, etc.

      The fact that parts of the wall would be miles from the nearest road, so trucks and construction equipment can't get there.  And that other streams flow from the US into the Rio Grande.  Would they be re-routed?  Dammed up?  Allowed to flow through the wall but with grates to prevent people from passing through the gaps?  What about fish?  What about US citizens downstream who need the drinking water?

      Trump doesn't seem to have considered any of these things.  He just wants a sound bite "Build the wall".

      Here's the article:

    3. Trump is easily provoked

      He has such a huge and fragile ego that it's really easy to poke him and make him react.  Sooner or later, countries, companies, and other parties will figure out that they can predict exactly what he's going to do, just by poking at him all the time and seeing what he tweets in response.  And that they can often goad him into doing things they want just by daring him to and calling him chicken.

      If Trump had been the guy planning an invasion to end World War II, and Germany wanted to know whether he was shooting for Normandy or some other landing site, I'm pretty sure they'd have been able to goad him into showing his hand.  His tweets are not only offensive, but also very revealing.

    Dishonorable, flighty, and easily provoked.  Not the attributes I want in a president.  Do you?

    --Fred

  9. H-2B Visa Seasonal Workers

    Original Version: 4/5/2017
    Last Updated: 10/30/2018

    I don't like to get my news second-hand.  Don't want to be swayed by potentially right- or left-leaning news sources.  I try to go by my own direct observations of candidates, issues and facts.  This is a true story from my own life.

    My wife Brita has been working crazy hours for the past 2 years, dealing with the fallout of Trump's attitude towards immigrants.  She's a landscape architect at a US-based and US-owned landscaping company that may be forced out of business.  So, she (a US citizen) may lose her job.  And worst case, we may all start noticing food shortages soon.  Here's why...

    During the 2016 campaign, Trump consistently bashed immigrants from Mexico and South America, referring to them as "rapists and murderers", claiming they smuggled drugs into the US, and rallying his fans with cries of "build the wall".  He made it such a political hot potato that Congress didn't have the heart to renew a long-standing immigation law regarding temporary seasonal workers on H-2B visas.

    In the past, there had been a cap on the number of new H-2B visas issued each year.  But if you had followed all the rules the previous year, applying for an H-2B visa, entering the US legally, working here for the season, and then returning to your home country, you were "grandfathered in".  You could get the same type of visa the next year.  The cap (65,000 in 2017) didn't apply to returning workers.  Only to new workers.

    But Congress didn't renew that law in 2017.  Suddenly, all of the seasonal H-2B workers who had been going back and forth as required for many years, were no longer "grandfathered in".  Instead, they were all treated as 1st time applicants, so only 65,000 of them were allowed to return.  I don't know how many had been returning each year, but I'd guess it was several times the number of new workers allowed each year, so probably hundreds of thousands at least.  Suddenly, the limit was 65,000 total -- both new and returning.

    These are the people who come here to work in farm fields, cut grass, dig ditches, install roofs, clean toilets in hotel rooms, wash dishes in restaurants, etc.  You've seen them all around you, everywhere you go.  You may have noticed that they're generally unobtrusive, hard-working, quietly friendly, smiling people.  They don't talk much because they're embarrassed to not be able to speak English very well.  They work long hard days, often in brutal temperatures, for cheap wages, doing the work that few American workers are willing to do. 

    Have you ever personally felt threatened by them as they worked on your house, in your garden, or in the restaurants or hotels you visited?  Did they seem like "rapists and murderers" to you?  Not to me, but that's how they'd been cast, so we changed the rules to keep them out.

    Meanwhile, Brita's boss has been following the rules for over 20 years.

    He doesn't hire illegal aliens.  Doesn't pay them under the table.  Always gets them official seasonal H2-B visas, withholds taxes, pays into Social Security and Medicaid, buys Worker's Comp insurance in case they get hurt, etc.  Entirely legal.  And very good for the US economy.  The same 12 guys come from Mexico each March, and return each December.  Nice stable family-owned small business for 20 years.  Makes enough money to support himself, his wife, and his kids.

    But in 2017, he suddenly got no visas in March, and almost went out of business.

    He tried to recruit local US citizens, offering the same $12-20/hour that he's paid in the past for simple laborers up to skilled stone masons, foremen, etc.  Brita worked crazy hours, scrambling to help find, recruit and interview about 10 people.  A couple of them didn't even show for the interview.  Another 5 or so quit within the first day or the first week, saying the work was too hard and they'd rather work in the air conditioning at McDonalds.  Or they just stopped coming to work and never said why.  One failed a drug test.  One has stayed, but is a not a great employee.

    Finally, in August 2017, I suspect Trump realized that his own hotels needed seasonal workers.  In any case, he quickly and quietly got more visas authorized, and Brita's boss got lucky.  Got his visas and brought his guys in to start work in August.  But he'd already lost about half a year's income, and permanently lost some customers.  He scrambled, pushing his crews and my wife to work long days and weekends, trying to make enough money to keep the company alive, before they all had to go back to Mexico in December.

    In March of 2018, the number of visas was again very low and Brita's boss again got none.  Again, Brita struggled to delay and appease potential customers, scrambling to try to recruit local workers.  She also ended up doing a lot more design work since the company could still get paid for her designs, even if they couldn't find workers to do the installations.  She continued working 12-hour days, often 6 days per week, just trying to keep the business from folding.  Still no luck finding any local US citizen workers.

    Her boss could try raising salaries to attract more US citizens, but then he would lose lots of customers since the Trump effect has made it so attractive to cheat.  Many of his competitors are doing fine by hiring illegal immigrants under the table, not paying any taxes, not paying into Social Security and Medicaid, not buying Worker's Comp insurance, etc.  But he wants to hire legally, pay taxes, etc., so his costs are higher and he loses a lot of customers to the competition.  If he were to pay the even higher rates that US workers seem to want, he'd never win a bid, and would go out of business.

    Finally in July 2018, again more visas were authorized.  I think the industries that use them are all being crushed, and are complaining enough to be heard a little.  Brita's boss got lucky and won the visa lottery again.  You get all or none of the visas you request.  So, some companies live and others die, at the whim of the government.

    Unfortunately, some of the crew had wised up after losing a half-year's pay in 2017.  They simply didn't go back to their families in Mexico in December.  Instead, they stayed here, desperate to find more work to feed their kids.  So, they became illegal immigrants the way so many do -- arrive legally and fail to properly leave.  How is Trump's wall supposed to help with that?  Doh!!

    Those who stayed illegally knew Brita's boss wouldn't hire them without visas, so they went to work for the competition.  Now that he has more visas, he's trying to get in touch with them, to bring them in legally, but 2 problems:

    1. They're now here illegally, and don't qualify for the visas
    2. Their new bosses are threatening to have them deported if they quit.  And if they get deported, they can't come back legally for 10 years.  So they're now hostages to a law-breaking low-paying employer.  Can never quit their job, and can never go home to their families on Mexico, if they ever want to work in the US again.

    Brita's boss had to be careful what names he put on the visas once he got them.  If he put any of the crew who stayed, he would just lose that visa.  Had to find out which guys were still eligible, and assign visas only to them and to other people they could recruit from Mexico.  So now, he has a less experienced crew, and his customers are getting lower quality patios, walls, outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces, etc.

    And Brita is again very busy, scrambling to do the designs, proposals, scheduling, plant buying, billing, etc., for the next few months in the hope that the company can do enough business before December to survive.  Otherwise, she'll be out of a job.

    So, Trump is "Making America Great Again" by:

    1. Encouraging legal immigrants to stay and become illegal
    2. Encouraging businesses to hire illegal immigrants under the table
    3. Reducing the amount of income tax being paid
    4. Reducing the amount of Social Security and Medicaid taxes being paid
    5. Causing all sorts of seasonal businesses (roofers, landscapers, construction, hotels, restaurants, etc.) to produce lower-quality products and services
    6. Forcing higher costs and thus higher prices at such businesses
    7. Forcing businesses to close, laying off even their US citizen workers like Brita
    8. Turning workers into hostages
    9. Increasing the number of workers without Worker's Comp, so if they're hurt, they go to the hospital without being able to pay their bills, so healthcare costs go up for all of us
    10. And worst of all, from my personal point of view -- depriving me of my wife, who leaves for work before 8am, rarely gets home before 9pm, and often works one or both days of the weekend.  I never get to see her anymore, for the past 2 years.  I can hardly remember what she looks like!

    Watch the news for similar stories. For example:

    I hear from my aunt Mary Jane in California that the agricultural industry there relies heavily on immigrant workers.  And with no American workers applying to work in the fields, this could become a national food crisis.  She's already seeing fields lying fallow or unharvested.

    Not good!  We need those workers!  The US economy, and perhaps the US food supply, relies on them.

    I suggest you occasionally set aside whatever news source you've been watching, and pay attention to what you personally see around you:

    --Fred

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