We hold these truths to be self-evident…

Like many of you who vehemently opposed a Trump presidency, I’ve been walking around in a bit of a stunned stupor these last few days. I’m gathering my thoughts on what I want to do next, and how I can do the most I can to help bring about a more respectful world. There has to be a better way for us to talk to each other, and a better way to be humans to each other.

Until then, I’ve been reflecting on what I know:

  1. I know I can’t comprehend running away, even though given my current work experience, I could probably easily find a job overseas. I also can’t see disengaging, Garrison Keillor, “Let them deal with it” style. I love my country too much, and I know evil flourishes only when good people do nothing.

  2. I know most Trump voters aren’t KKK style racists. Thus, I don’t blame Trump voters en masse for the racism and bigotry that’s emerging (and sure to get worse) or think they’re all racists.

  3. I know that many of non-racist, non-sexist Trump voters seem blind to the limitations of their own experiences and the biases that creates. I hope that the these voters recognize the real fear that many minorities are feeling after the election. It is real. There are real fears here informed by real violence happening right now, real fears caused by un-American behavior.

  4. I know that we, as a society, seem to be lacking in basic empathy these days. We are too willing to believe people we disagree with are stupid or blind or ignorant. Please try to approach your fellow Americans with an open mind and an willingness to understand their perspective. You don’t need to agree – but it’s better than assuming they’re idiots or stupid for being scared. I try to assume people are acting in good faith until they prove they aren’t.

  5. I know that Facebook and Twitter have fed a lot of the divisiveness this election cycle, no matter what Mark Zuckerberg says, or what picture Jack Dorsey paints about his own beliefs. We don’t all need to agree, but we do need to agree on a common set of facts and some shared truths. We can and should interpret those according to our own beliefs and our own perspectives, but we can’t disagree on whether gravity works or that 2+2=4. For a lot of reasons, we have receded into echo chambers, and we need to do something about it (or it will get a lot worse).

  6. I know the Democratic party as it stands doesn’t work the way I want it to anymore. We need to help the party evolve, possibly by working outside the party. Tea Partiers organized. Folks that have an alternative need to do the same.

  7. I know I need to engage more. More at the local level. More at the state level. And then maybe at the federal level. The question in front of me is, “How?”

That’s the question that will preoccupy me until we move back home. I’ll probably not write anything else until then. I won’t be able to help but retweet the odd Trump item on Twitter, but I’m going to dial back on social media, read and follow what he does, and talk offline to friends and family. It’s time to get to work.

Barack Obama And Doris Kearns Goodwin: The Ultimate Exit Interview →

But I tell you what, though. [Long pause.] I’m named Barack Hussein Obama. I’m African-American. And I’ve been elected twice to this office with the majorities of the American people. So something is working.

Vanity Fair

Wonderful interview with President Obama. Such a decent man with a deep appreciation for America and its history. We’re going to miss him, even the folks that hate him right now.

A jumble of thoughts

On a normal Friday of a normal December, a bunch of families said goodbye to their kids and sent them off to school. Announcements. Meetings for the Principal. A normal Friday.

Then the abnormal sound of gunfire. Of violence. Of death.

And now, the sound of tears, of sadness, of remembering and loss… of fears and nightmares past and future.


I keep imagining what it must be like for the parents of the victims today, especially of the young children. I imagine myself in their shoes, I imagine walking by a now-always-empty room with bright paint evoking happier times.

My thoughts are with the families affected by the tragedy.


When I walk into my son’s class, the kids say “Hi Che’s Dad!” They make me smile no matter how crappy my morning has been. I keep thinking about what someone must go through to walk into a classroom full of children and open fire. Why would anyone want to hurt them?

It’s unfathomable. The loss is unfathomable. The chance and the randomness is most unfathomable of all.


I wrote this earlier today re: discussing gun control policy on the day of a tragedy (slightly edited for grammar):

My only point is that today should be about the tragedy itself, to burn in the news and to cope with the loss & fear of loss that these events bring up.

We get wrapped up in hammering the stats, the policy ideas, and how “stupid” the other side is on this debates today, but the real work is how we keep this in the public eye going forward.

I’m also seeing things like this at TPM that ask good questions. This is the nitty gritty of how we help prevent these sorts of tragedies in the future. Even on the mental care front, how would those laws work?

I’m just incredibly sad & angry about this, and I’m not ready to have those conversations today. That’s all I’m saying.

The response I got from people on Twitter & elsewhere primarily centered on getting people talking about the issues at play while attention is fully on the tragedy. They argue that tomorrow the pain will be a little less for those of us not directly affected. In a month the national media will forget about this completely.

There’s probably a lot of truth to that… the second, little tragedy that goes along with the big, evil tragedy that happened in Newtown.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

So, it seems our job is to keep us from forgetting this bit of our past, to keep it squarely in focus during the next Congress and the next legislative session here in CT and beyond. Take a moment and ask yourself, “What am I doing for the victims of Newtown?”

If you’re upset about this, and want the government to do something about this, learn what you can about the issues at play. What ideas do people have for reducing gun violence? What should we ask our representatives in government to do? Is gun violence reduction about more than guns? Do we need to rethink mental health policies in this country?

As you do learn about these things, contact your representatives in your state legislature, Congress, and anyone else you think is in a position to advocate for better policies. Tell them what you’re learning, ask them to look into the best ideas you find.

There’s always a risk that bad laws get rushed through in the wake of tragedies. This one will be no different, so it’s up to all of us to become smarter about the dynamics at play here and what public policy options people have considered. We need to do something. Let’s make sure that something lives up to the memories of those lost today.

What we have here is a failure to communicate

(I should point out, coincidently, and in testament to how obvious the headline choice is, the Courant chose a similar headline. I started writing this before I saw the Courant article, for the record. 🙂 )

I had a rather animated conversation with a friend today about CL&P’s performance during this most recent storm. I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but there are a few things I wanted to open up to a broader conversation. At this point, my focus is about how to ensure that people aren’t surprised, frustrated and without power the next time weather happens.

My expectation as a customer is that they have a plan to:

  1. … maintain the lines during normal times to minimize potential damage from a weather event.
  2. … repair the lines quickly, including how to get additional crews in if necessary
  3. … coordinate repairs with town leaders around the state

Reporting about the outage has called into question CL&P’s effectiveness on all three aspects. The Times published an article this weekend calling into question the maintenance budgeting at CL&P and planning. Even better was this anecdote from our own Mayor Slifka in the Courant:

In West Hartford this week, when the electric company was refusing to tell town leaders what streets its crews were going to be working on, officials came up with their own improvised solution. Municipal leaders sent town police over to CL&P’s staging area at Westfarms mall in the evening to ask the crews themselves where they would be heading to work the next day.

This isn’t neurotic small town bureaucrats overreacting. This information is critical during an emergency, when fire and rescue personnel must know what streets are passable. Already, one elderly West Hartford woman without power died in a fire at her home this week.

So what did CL&P do when they found out West Hartford police were tracking down where crews were going to work?

They told their workers not to talk to the cops. Now there’s a company that cares.

The communication issues seem unforgivable. No one has come up with a plausible reason why CL&P couldn’t tell the towns where their crews would be, or in what order they were approaching the work. Either they didn’t have a plan or central coordination, or they put their corporate image above the safety of citizens. That’s basically it.

There’s going to be an investigation into CL&P’s performance, so maybe we’ll find out more about how they stack up to other utilities. Regardless, though, the episode has raised an alternate option that we should consider.

I think it’s time to consider organizing our utilities differently. For example, the way we handle water here in West Hartford is via a public/private corporation. With the MDC, we have pooled together resources with several surrounding towns and cities in order to provide water to our citizens via a non-profit corporation. The city of Norwich has run their own public utility corporation (for profit) for over 100 years. We let governments at all levels maintain roads, airports, and other infrastructure. In my mind, the lines that carry telephone, cable, and Internet (particularly at the local level – the last mile networks) should be like roads – shared, impartially maintained where private companies compete to provide us service. I don’t see why power lines, especially at the local level, should be any different. In all of these cases, you break monopolies, accelerate the competition from private vendors for new products and solutions, and bring accountability closer to the customer. At least the mayor won’t have to send out the police to chat up crews to find out details about the repair efforts.

These seem like good things. There are certainly going to be tradeoffs. Curious how everyone else feels about something like this.

If you’re interested in learning more, the Colin McEnroe show covered this topic today, including a few towns that converted their transmission functions to a public agency or a public/private corporation. I caught part of it this afternoon, looking forward to listening to the rest later tonight (after the Eagles game – Go Eagles!)

Following up on my @ctforum tweet

I wanted to briefly expand on a few tweets I made during last night’s Connecticut Forum. The topic was “The End of Civility?” and the panel featured David Gergen, Stephen Carter, Christopher Buckley, and Gina Barreca. It was a good discussion, and what I’ll address was only one aspect of it.

The rise of the political blogs is as much about a shift of power as it is about technology. Having a panel of elites decry the rise of blogs is a bit one-sided. Three of the panelists were the children of university professors or, uh, William F. Buckley. They grew up with access and opportunity – I doubt any of them would’ve had trouble meeting a Senator or Congressman as a high school or university student.

Technology enabled others outside the establishment to get heard. That’s what explains the rise of blogging. Buckley’s characterization of blogging as the equivalent of “Ask Any A**hole” in newspaper-speak is an oversimplification. There are smart bloggers and stupid bloggers and rabble rouser bloggers. They’re not all the same.

Take it another way: we’ve seen this with lots of other technological shifts, from the advent of the printing press and cheaper presses to the rise of radio and TV. I haven’t studied this closely, but my sense is that we’ve seen similar noise before things sort of settle down, e.g. yellow journalism, conspiracy newsletters, pamphleteers.

We’re still settling down with the Internet in our political sphere. The fact that we’re still getting used to how it fits into the discourse shouldn’t be a surprise.

For the forum, I would’ve preferred some representation of bloggers on the panel. It was bordering on annoying listening to 3 scions of establishment elites decry the rise of the “rabble.” It would’ve been more interesting to have Gergen chat with, say, Duncan Black of Eschaton or even Michelle Malkin or one of the intense right wing blogs. The conversation would’ve really gotten into the civility of current political discourse a lot faster.

For long time friends and readers, my opinion on the lack of civility won’t surprise you. I look to an abdication of the referee role by our TV media, instead becoming passive stenographers of the news. Or, worse, active partisanship on the part of Fox News and the WSJ and WaPo editorial boards.

It would be easier to add perspective to the lies and attack of the blogs if there were a referee. That doesn’t exist. Even worse, we have national press taking explicit sides. Fox News didn’t come up once, by the way. It’s hard for me to believe that their active encouragement of the worst sorts of rumors and falsehoods from the blogs isn’t hurting the civility of our discourse. But of course, they’re on TV, so it’s not their fault.

(yes, they brought up cable news as a broad topic, but Fox News as a network is a phenomenon more akin to yellow journalism. The other networks aren’t the same in that regard. Individual shows may be, e.g. Olbermann, but there is no network as partisan as Fox.)