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September 09, 2021

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Inability to withstand a low speed crash?

That would be my first assumption.

And, no, this is not my "preferred way of life." I'd love to live on some rural acreage someplace cooler and less dense in population and find other ways to moderate my burden on the carrying capacity of the planet we all share. But this is where I live and work, so here I am, doing what I can where I am.

I would also love to have a two-way portal from my rental flat in Germany's capital city to somewhere rural mid-Norway. I am a big city guy but Berlin has the advantage of lots of green spaces including several forests inside the city limits (one of them right behind the house).

After all, these are electric cars. So where do they fall down?

One guy's experience with importing a Chinese EV.

"Are these mini electric cars street legal in the US?

The last issue is the biggest wrinkle in all of this — street legality.

Many people think that a Low-Speed Vehicle or Neighborhood Electric Vehicle in the US just needs to have a top speed of 25 mph, and then you’re good to go, ready to hit the open (neighborhood) roads. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple (though it’s not terribly complicated, either).

The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards were updated years ago with a section specifically for Low Speed Vehicles – the all-important Standard 500. It lays out exactly what an LSV needs to be street legal at the federal level and to be able to drive on US roads. Of course, the usual suspects are there: lights, mirrors, turn signals, brakes, 25 mph top speed, seat belts, etc. The tricky part is that many of the components, such as the tires, seat belts, windshield glass, backup camera, and pedestrian warning system (noisemaker), need to come from DOT-certified suppliers. And then, the final vehicle manufacturer needs to be registered with the NHTSA and supply the vehicle with a US-compliant VIN."
I bought an inexpensive electric pickup truck from China (and you can too)

BP and others are fine with pure democracy when it raises my taxes or tells me I have to live in an 900 sq ft apartment and set my thermostat at 78 in the summer and 65 in the winter and can only buy 1 lb of beef a week. However, if that same democracy limits abortion rights or changes voting laws or approves open carry of firearms, it's all a huge freaking disaster.

In a nutshell, we are right and you are wrong on the policy merits, and you work very hard to not have that discussion. Therefore this has nothing whatsoever to do with "freedom" or "force".

Your screeching broadsides about trans folks and bathrooms makes more sense than the bullshit you are trying to peddle here. At least on that issue you trot out (an admittedly terrible) argument. But here, it's all simply propaganda.

Motes and beams!

Personally I see the main problem less in single-use plastic bags than the plastic most grocery items come in. That stuff adds up very fast.

last week i wanted to buy some fresh spinach. i had a choice of buying a loose bunch of it and putting it in a plastic bag (because it's always wet from the misters in the supermarket), or buy some prebagged in plastic (or in a hard plastic clamshell).

plastic is inescapable.

it sucks that the stuff is so very very good at what we use it for.

I should add that Germans will fill plastic bags to the brim, if possible, so we use fewer of those than is probably the case elsewhere.

This suggests an important point. If I go to the local Kroger chain, the one-time plastic bags are so flimsy that I would never take a chance on filling them up. Wal-Mart and Target, OTOH, use much sturdier bags and filling them is not a risk.

I seldom use any of them, only if I've made an unplanned stop and my large canvas bag is not with me. I've used the bag for 30 years now and have excellent packing tactics. On more than one occasion a clerk has stopped me as I was leaving to say something like, "I saw what you brought to the check-out, and saw your bag, and said to myself, 'No way can he put all that in there.'" This morning's list was mostly liquids, so something >20 pounds in it.

I read The Cold Equations in a sci-fi anthology over 40 years ago. An early exposure to “no, there is no miracle to a happy ending.” And, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

I would also love to have a two-way portal from my rental flat in Germany's capital city to somewhere rural mid-Norway.

We'd go in 50% with you on a time-share. Our rudimentary Svenska skills will get us most of the way to Norsk, though a Nynorsk region would take some work.

it sucks that the stuff is so very very good at what we use it for.

The legacy of plastics is having been a huge benefit to wildlife and the environment.

"Synthetic plastics reduce mankind’s impact on wildlife populations in two main areas: They reduce the need to a) secure resources from animals in the wild, and b) farm renewable resources. The benefits of reducing the need to farm “renewable resources” are rarely considered and usually vastly underestimated. Indeed, as researcher Indur Goklany notes:

The collective demand for land to meet humanity’s demands for food, fuel, and other products of living nature is—and always has been—the single most important threat to ecosystems and biodiversity. Fossil fuel–dependent technologies have kept that demand for land in check.
In a nutshell, reduced farming means there is more land available for wildlife, while production of synthetic plastics means wildlife populations are far less threatened by demand for natural plastics."
How Plastics Benefit Wildlife and the Environment


And a huge benefit to ourselves.

"Even the most basic plastic products can yield profound benefits. In Africa, for example, the introduction of a simple plastic bucket relieves substantial hardships for some of the world’s poorest people. Stephen Fenichell in Plastic: The Making of a Synthetic Century, explains:

You cannot survive in the tropics without water; the shortages are always acute. And so water has to be carried long distances, frequently dozens of kilometers. Before the invention of the plastic bucket, water was carried in heavy vats made of clay or stone. The wheel—and vehicles that use it—was not a familiar aspect of African culture; everything was carried on the head including the heavy vats of water. In the division of household labor, it was the woman’s task to fetch water. A child would have been unable to lift a vat. Acute poverty meant that few households could afford more than one vat.

The appearance of plastic buckets was a miracle. To start with, it is relatively cheap (although in some households it is the only possession of value), costing around two dollars. And it is light. And it comes in different sizes: Even a small child can carry a few liters. Now it’s the child’s job to fetch water. Flocks of children playing and bantering on the way to a distant well are common. What a relief for the overworked African woman!

"The Immeasurable Benefits of Plastics to Humanity

I put the link about Japan's mandating that plastic bags be charged for. The question of how you deal with all your garbage if you don't have plastic bags came up.

https://matcha-jp.com/en/10149

Areas outside of Tokyo's 23 wards, such as Chofu or Machida city, require designated garbage bags (see photo above). They are sold at large retailers and convenience stores. The price differs depending on size but generally ranges from 80 yen to 800 yen for a pack of ten.

Recently, municipalities in the Kansai and Kyushu regions have adopted a policy of using designated garbage bags. Please be aware that your garbage will not be collected unless you use these bags.

https://www.nippon.com/en/features/h10031/

Many municipalities require trash to be placed in specified garbage bags for collection. These can be bought at supermarkets, convenience stores, and many other outlets, and come in different sizes and separate colors indicating the type of trash that goes in each of them.


All this predates the charge for plastic bags law so there are probably changes from the above article.

Talking to you guys is like talking to kindergartners.

In the Japanese equivalent of kindergarten, kids are taught manners and social skills. That means that when you talk to them as adults, they usually have an understanding of social responsibilities so when you speak to them about things that need to be done, they don't lash out like, well, 5 year olds...

https://japan-forward.com/blog-teaching-english-in-japan-kindergarten/
Kindergarten in Japan is called yochien. It is perhaps one of the most important parts of Japan’s education system as its where children start to learn a structure that they will continue throughout their school life.

If every bit of petroleum pumped out of the Earth were converted to polyethylene and buried again after use, the biosphere would be better off. It's burning fossil carbon atoms into atmospheric CO2 molecules that endangers Our Way of Life. (Which is made possible by that burning, for now, and advocating any change to that is soshulism.) The key point is the "buried again" clause. To make sure that happens, we have to Tell People What to Do, alas.

I can't figure out the toxicity of buried polyethylene, BTW. It's composed of carbon and hydrogen. Other plastics contain more-noxious elements, of course.

--TP

CharlesWT - those studies you keep posting really do have a lot of low quality links and poorly constructed arguments in them. They are almost always lists full of lightly supported "takedowns" (aka strawman arguments) that have some valid criticisms of activist greenwashing, but that bury those criticisms in just plain wrong information.

Footnote 16 in the first one links to an author that mistakenly argues that introducing 20 invasive species onto an island with 10 unique native species that are then driven extinct is an example of *increasing* biodiversity (?). Not the sort of claim that lends confidence to the argument that she is relying on him to make.

The author goes on to argue: The main challenge was that the animals were owned in common—basically by no one, as they lived in the wild—so they had no one to protect them. When left in the wild without owners—or simply owned by the government—few people have a stake in protecting them. To farmers in regions where elephants are wild, the animals can become giant pests as they can quickly devastate farms, leaving communities with little to eat. In that case, the only value people see in the animals is for poachers seeking their tusks or meat.

Which is false. The threat to elephants in the wild came with colonialism and colonial pressures on local farming and land use. A big part of the environmental movement's learning since the 1990s has come from indigenous activists challenging settler mentality notions of wilderness and of land use patterns. This is a big part of why environmental groups are working so closely with indigenous populations today in the Global South to try to find more sustainable land stewardship plans that benefit the local communities rather than just exploiting their resources.

And it looks like, no surprise, about half of the references in that report are from plastic industry publications and policy-facing marketing.

Do yourself a favor, and whenever you find one of these Contrarian gotcha pieces, go look for the sources and the critical replies to the sources by scientists. Then go and look at what *specifically* they are disagreeing over and start doing your more detailed research in the gap between those views, looking at what is being argued about and why those arguments are happening. You'll find out a lot about the BS on both sides and about the real areas of disagreement that way.

But these gotcha pieces are research junk food.

"Even the most basic plastic products can yield profound benefits. In Africa, for example, the introduction of a simple plastic bucket relieves substantial hardships for some of the world’s poorest people."

Part of the problem in this discussion is that "plastic" is such a broad generic term. Some plastics (as in the bucket here) are durable and intended for repeated use across years or decades. Other plastics (like those grocery bags) are flimsy, single use, items. The former don't make that huge a contribution to plastics pollution. But the latter are an increasing problem.

Even a small child can carry a few liters.

A few litres of water weigh a few kilograms. Plastic buckets are inexpensive and light, but a wooden pail would still weigh much less than the water in it.

The more I think about the "How Plastics Saved the Animals" arguments, the more I realize that it's all written in the same genre as the spurious arguments about how fossil fuels saved the whales.

Makes me want to watch Thank You For Smoking again.

Clever movie.
With an interesting production history
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thank_You_for_Smoking

Interesting deal.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-58564837
Which, whatever else it does, gives the lie to the claim that Afghanistan marks the start of US strategic withdrawal.

But these gotcha pieces are research junk food.

I'm just happy CharlesWT isn't posting anti-Semitic Neo Nazi stuff. If only because I always have to check how to spell semitic...

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/15/generational-conflict-over-climate-crisis-is-a-myth-uk-study-finds

Interesting, wonder if it is different for the US

Bags from places like Target are very durable. I take a couple with me when I go to stores with flimsy or no bags.

These are not the lightweight bags used as the basis for comparison in the UK government study you linked to.

In a nutshell, reduced farming means there is more land available for wildlife,

'available'. that's cute.

These are not the lightweight bags used as the basis for comparison in the UK government study you linked to.

The study, page 13, gives a weight of 7.5-12 grams. My kitchen scale gives a Target bag a weight of about 8.5 grams.

7.5-12.6 grams - different size bags.

the bags i get at the grocery store are 6.0g, and the produce bags are 2.0g (yet are much stronger).

Perhaps my recollection of UK supermarket bags from fifteen years ago is too hazy, so I withdraw my last remark.

I see in appendix B that the lightweight bags were found by PIRA to be capable of carrying 18kg for 17 minutes. But that's in a wildly misleading test where the weight was gradually increased. The report should not have accepted this plastics industry assessment at face value.

100 billion bags a year, most of which get tossed out after one or two uses, is a problem.

7.5 grams, 12.6 grams, still a problem.

We started down this rabbit hole from a discussion of climate change. We can't get past "Gee, maybe we shouldn't be putting 100 billion plastic bags out there". The idea that we have the chops to make the kinds of more consequential changes needed to address climate change is a fantasy.

Other places will get with the program. Even China will probably get with the program at some point.

We're gonna stand around and yell at each other about whether government should be allowed to tell anybody whether they can take their groceries home in a plastic bag or not.

The idea that we have the chops to make the kinds of more consequential changes needed to address climate change is a fantasy.

yes, it is.

The idea that we have the chops to make the kinds of more consequential changes needed to address climate change is a fantasy.

Strictly speaking, this should have said "any more."

I think we once did have the chops. But we seem to have lost that ability. (Or, arguably, it has been successfully removed.) Attempts to restore it will likely need to start by examining how we came to lose it.

I don't know what the motivation has been to convince a significant percentage of people that their relatively trivial personal preferences are more important than the common good. I guess some number of people are benefiting in the short term and they don't really care what happens after they're dead.

I don't know what the motivation has been to convince a significant percentage of people that their relatively trivial personal preferences are more important than the common good.

people who make their livings from the culture wars have done a good job of making sure nothing stays neutral.

Wooden buckets tend to leak, and are not so easy to make (you need to have wood of appropriate consistency and porosity).

An example: red oak vs white oak. ONE of them is good for barrels (like for water, but also wine or whiskey). The OTHER has pores aligned in the wrong direction, so the liquid will seep out.

Northern deciduous hardwood forest != African tropical/desert? regions where water is scarce.

So yes, those blue plastic buckets are a net good.

Plus, "I haz a buket" opportunities, that even non-humans can appreciate.

I guess it's better to walk dozens of kilometers with a light-weight bucket full of water on your head, than with a heavier clay jar full of water on your head. water is about 8 pounds a gallon, no matter what you carry it in, but no doubt every little bit helps.

but maybe a well nearer to home would be best of all.

Water, children, and plastics...

"Water scarcity takes a greater toll on women and children because they are often the ones responsible for collecting it. When water is further away, it requires more time to collect, which often means less time at school. Particularly for girls, a shortage of water in schools impacts student enrolment, attendance, and performance. Carrying water long distances is also an enormous physical burden and can expose children to safety risks and exploitation."
Water scarcity: Addressing the growing lack of available water to meet children’s needs.

So, to recap:

Climate change is contributing to water scarcity in many places. This places a large burden on families who may have to travel longer distances to get water.

Solution: plastic buckets, so when women and kids still have to walk for hours a day to get water, the load is merely 40 pounds, plus or minus, for five gallons, rather than 45 or 50 pounds.

This IMO raises "missing the point" to new heights.

It's also worth noting that this is what climate change looks like. The statue of liberty is not underwater, but thousands to millions of people are finding it increasingly difficult to live where they have always lived.

If it continues, they're gonna go somewhere else.

Historically, these kinds of population migrations are extremely disruptive. See also "The Sea Peoples" from the Bronze Age and the Migration Period of 1st century CE Europe.

Or, you know, the Dust Bowl.

If you can't live where you currently live, you're gonna move.

If you can't live where you currently live, you're gonna move.

yet another benefit of rising CO2 levels: increased geographic mobility!

"This IMO raises "missing the point" to new heights"

Among a bunch of things that miss the point. But yeah.

A hospital system in Arkansas is making it a bit more difficult for staff to receive a religious exemption from its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The hospital is now requiring staff to also swear off extremely common medicines, such as Tylenol, Tums, and even Preparation H, to get the exemption.

...

The list includes Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, ibuprofen, Maalox, Ex-Lax, HIV-1, Benadryl, Sudafed, albuterol, Preparation H, MMR vaccine, Claritin, Zoloft, Prilosec OTC, and azithromycin.

walk the walk, clowns.

"I don't know what the motivation has been to convince a significant percentage of people that their relatively trivial personal preferences are more important than the common good."

It is usually hard to have a constructive discussion when it starts with telling the other person that what they care about is trivial.

"Look," said Joe Biden. "All this irrelevant back and forth about 'preferences', 'freedom', and 'force' aside, either we adopt effective policies to address human caused climate change, or we don't."

"One side stands ready to do something (but even they argue about a lot amongst themselves-green new deal which see). And one side is just a bunch of lackey lickspittle seeking desperately to preserve their wealth and privilege."

"Pick one."

It is usually hard to have a constructive discussion when it starts with telling the other person that what they care about is trivial.

I hear you.

The flip side of this is trying to have a constructive conversation with people who think they have an inalienable right to carry their groceries home in a plastic bag. Not "the plastic bag is a better choice", for whatever reason, but "you can't tell me what to do!".

Nobody is interested in moving an inch, as far as I can tell.

100 billion bags a year is a lot of bags. It's basically a bag a day for every man, woman, and child in the US. They're cheap to make and convenient, but they generally get used once or twice before they're thrown out. 100 billion of them per year creates a problem.

Nobody wants to be told they can't eat beef anytime they like. But the amount of beef we eat causes a problem.

Nobody wants to be told they can't drive a big-ass pickup if they feel like it. But the fact that the three top-selling vehicles in this country are all big-ass pickups causes a problem.

And so on and so on.

If everybody just does whatever the hell they want, there are some fairly serious problems that won't get solved.

I have no idea how to move forward with any of it.

Small interruption of the conversation to say that I looked over the survey that lj linked to and I have observations.

I think it's entirely understandable that the younger generations are saying that there is little to be done personally for climate change. That's not a reflection of a lack of will to act, that's a more widespread understanding (at least amongst the Millenials and under that I talk to) that the lifestyle choices that they are being asked to make are mostly symbolic choices and that the changes we need to make are big, global, economic things. The younger generation are pretty well convinced that they will not come into their power and influence until after the window of opportunity for change will already have closed with nothing to show but these small gestures.

It's not laziness or apathy driving those answers, it's deep cynicism and despair.

I teach science fiction because it is the one way I know of to keep the young engaged in looking for answers to their problems after the change we don't want to make has become an inevitability. I'm trying to teach them how to live in a future we can't predict, but one for which the old answers no longer hold.

Because that is what we are giving them when we finally hand over the keys.

It is usually hard to have a constructive discussion when it starts with telling the other person that what they care about is trivial.

I have to observe, there is one side that started selling the 'fuck your feelings' tee shirts and it wasn't mine. (some googling suggests that the phrase starts with Ben Shapiro)

It's funny how these things have a way of backfiring...

It is usually hard to have a constructive discussion when it starts with telling the other person that what they care about is trivial.

The begrudgery, it is strong....

It's hard to have a constructive discussion when one side of it is looking for excuses to destroy the planet.

There's only one earth, we're all sharing it. There's nothing special about the USA which means it's ok if everyone there emits three times the carbon dioxide the environment can sustain. Or that it doesn't matter if the sea is full of discarded plastic bags so long as they're American plastic bags.

As is now an internet tradition, it's hard to decide what to have for dinner when one side suggests "how about Italian?" and the other side insists on "tire rims and anthrax".

Yet here we are.

sometimes people behave in ways that are profoundly foolish or harmful.

I don't have the skill set to bring it to their attention in a way that will not cause them offense.

It's a failing or lack on my part, which I recognize. My wife brings it to my attention, not infrequently.

So I'm probably not the guy that is going to turn the tide and change hearts and minds.

If we don't stop putting crap in the environment, it's going to make us and lots of other beings sick.

If we don't stop putting the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the air, it's going to change the climate. It will take decades to hundreds to thousands of years for that to balance out, and in the meantime we're in for widespread disruption, because that's what happens when you change the basic physical conditions that people have to live under.

We could stop it. It would be expensive and disruptive to stop it. It will probably be even more expensive and disruptive not to.

So I'm just not sure what to say.

"Stop doing stupid shit" appears to be too blunt and offensive. "Please stop doing stupid shit" appears to be too blunt and offensive.

So you tell me what the right thing to say is.

All of this is directed to the rhetorical you. But if any non-rhetorical yous have a good answer, I'm all ears.

Mostly I find myself wanting to walk up to people and say "What the actual fuck?!?". But that's probably not productive.

So I'm open to suggestions.

Not all of you subscribe to the NYT, but this is a pretty fair summary of the degrowth debate.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/16/opinion/degrowth-cllimate-change.html

I have been very pleasantly surprised by the NYT lately. They still have the usual idiots on their opinion pages and some articles still make me angry about but now they also have people presenting issues in a genuinely fair manner ( see above) and also a few genuine lefties like Beinart and Ezra Klein. ( I never used to have that impression of Klein, but either I was wrong— I didn’t read him much— or he changed.)

So you tell me what the right thing to say is.

The right thing to say to them is, "Yeah, I guess you are right. Doing little, or better yet-nothing is the right thing to do, because anything more is simply not right."

This is the only thing you can say to get a positive response, because they simply will not take any other point of view as having any validity.

You do not convince these folks. You beat them.

I've always liked Klein and I seem to remember that Hilzoy had mentioned him as a very much not a bomb thrower (I'm struggling to find the right phrase. Mild-mannered? Neutral? Fair and unbiased? Use those and you are asking to be ridiculed)

So you tell me what the right thing to say is.

Sometimes, the right thing to say involves changing the field of play. An example (about which I confess to being a trifle smug):
At the polling place I was working Tuesday, traffic was light. 113 people voting in person over the course of a 13 hour day, and perhaps another 125 dropping off their mail-in ballots. Not exactly a crowd -- voting by mail seems to be taking over; maybe we'll follow Utah, etc. And go to all mail voting.

Out of those 100÷, we had two who pushed back on the requirement that everyone coming into the polling place wear a mask.** I could have insisted that the county elections department required them to do so. (Not to mention the county Board of Supervisors requiring everyone in a public building, including not just government buildings but schools, resyaurants, etc, wear one.) Which would likely have gotten into arguments about the merits of masks, authoritarian governments, etc. So I didn't.

Instead, I simply pointed out that we were guests of the church whose building we were using. And they expected everyone inside to wear a mask (as, in fact, they do). So it was just good manners on our part to wear one. Somehow, nobody was up for ranting and railing against good manners. So they dutifully put on a mask and came in to vote.

Perhaps the most effective tactic for getting people to support addressing climate change might be something similar. Admit to ourselves that the opponents are not going to be persuaded by reason. Change the subject to something which hasn't yet locked into the culture wars framework. Not sure what that might be. But it seems like an approach worth exploring.

** If someone just wouldn't, we had provisions made to check the in outside, bring them their ballot, and let them vote there.

Not exactly a crowd -- voting by mail seems to be taking over; maybe we'll follow Utah, etc. And go to all mail voting.

I'll be really surprised if CA doesn't stay with sending a ballot to every registered voter. The bill to make it mandatory for all counties passed both chambers by very large margins and has been on the governor's desk for a week now. Assuming he signs it, CA will be the 7th western state to adopt the practice, along with OR, WA, CO, NV, HI, and UT. AZ, MT, and NM each sends mail ballots to more than two-thirds of their voters.

With CA included, more than 90% of all ballots cast in the West will be mail ballots. I have a vision of russell shaking his head in sorrow.

With CA included, more than 90% of all ballots cast in the West will be mail ballots. I have a vision of russell shaking his head in sorrow.

Somehow, I see a time (say by 2040) when only the reddest of red states are NOT on board. It's just too sensible a way to go.

But what will happen when the next GOP president finally kills the postal service?

(OK OK this will be the least of the problems should a GOPster become POTUS in the forseeable future.)

But what will happen when the next GOP president finally kills the postal service?

All those old folks who have been reliably voting Republican by mail (and also Trump**) won't be voting. Oops.

** Can't call him "reliable" after all. In this as in anything.

How are you going to fix it the first time 250,000 votes are delivered 6 weeks late? Or not at all?

We regularly have to trace mail, it is not actually reliable. We send contracts but only with a tracing number. No important documents just get stuffed in a first class envelope and mailed.

It's not that mail in general works poorly, it's that there isn't any way to recount missing votes.

It will happen. Then 90% of the voters in the west will not want to trust the mail again.

It's a very strange level of trust in a demonstrably flawed system.

How are you going to fix it the first time 250,000 votes are delivered 6 weeks late?

I'm not positive, but I don't think there has ever been a time when the USPS has not been able to deliver 250,000 pieces of mail and didn't know why they were held up. Even the delays in 2020 were totally explicable

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_United_States_Postal_Service_crisis

That number seems strangely similar to this one
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2021/04/28/fact-check-false-claim-arizona-audit-found-evidence-election-fraud/4860721001/

Ken Bennett, Arizona Senate liaison and former Arizona secretary of state, told USA TODAY claims that the audit found 250,000 fraudulent votes were “absolutely not” true.

I also wonder if Marty has been reading the storied that were debunked here

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/05/politics/usps-missing-ballots-fact-check/index.html

I didn't read any of those stories. I have used the USPS my whole life, they are not that reliable.

"There has never been a case is an assumption and my guess is its a poor one.

Compared to putting your ballot in the machine yourself it is one shitload less reliable.

I have been waiting for online voting to become a thing, of course it has its own problems, but it is beyond me how the USPS is considered a safe alternative. There is simply no check on whether the votes were delivered or not, it's just an odd level of confidence to me.

So why the number 250,000? It's just an odd level of coincidence to me.

As I don't live in the states, I really don't know if the USPS has problems or not, but in the absence of any kind of link, I really can't know, can I?

So now that, for once, the Pentagon felt pressured into admitting it killed civilians in a drone strike, maybe they could be pressured into holding people accountable and explaining why they initially reported a “ secondary explosion”? It almost looks like reflexive bureaucratic lying, something that seems bad in a heavily armed organization.

I tried asking this question ( or close to it) at a local appearance of a congressman ( not mine, but next door) but didn’t get the chance. I am going to email it.

Sorry, another thought occurred to me. I have no idea what percentage of total mail the ballots would represent, but if we said that 1 out of 4 pieces of mail of them were mail-in ballots (and I can't believe that 25% of the mail would be mail-in ballots), that would mean that a million pieces of mail were 6 weeks late. That would also be confined to a single state, so it seems to me that if something happened that was that momentous, we would probably be worried about stockpiling canned goods and signs of a zombie creating virus rather than whether an election came off.

How are you going to fix it the first time 250,000 votes are delivered 6 weeks late?

if this really concerns Republicans, maybe they should try funding the fucking USPS.

173 million pieces of first class mail each day

https://facts.usps.com/one-day/#:~:text=On%20average%2C%20the%20Postal%20Service,First%2DClass%20Mail%20each%20day.

I have a vision of russell shaking his head in sorrow.

?!??!!?

I don't have a problem with voting by mail...

also:

the USPS delivers 173 million pieces of first class mail per day. About 160 million votes were cast in the 2020 election.

I'm not seeing a problem with scale.

I personally have also never had an issue with the USPS and reliability. If given the choice between USPS, UPS, or FedEx, I generally prefer USPS. Definitely prefer USPS over FedEx for reliability of delivery, and generally prefer USPS for packages, which UPS tends to beat up in transit.

YMMV, naturally.

It makes sense to trace mail that has important legal or financial information attached, not just to prove the USPS didn't screw up, but to make whoever it was delivered to accountable for the fact that they received it.

And, in fact, as Marty notes, the USPS offers that, so if we need it for votes, it's available. I voted by mail in 2020 and I was able to trace the status of my ballot through the process of being delivered and counted. So, that appears to be in place, at least in MA.

I live quite near my polling place - I could walk to it in about 5 or 10 minutes. That's because I live in a densely settled area. Other people live much further from their polling place. Voting by mail makes the voting process accessible to them.

And I'm in favor of as many people voting as is possible. Because that, at least in principle, is the basis of the authority and legitimacy of our government.

The advantage of voting by mail over online - or any other form of voting vs online, for that matter - is that there is a physical artifact associated with the vote. Online is also vulnerable to hacking in ways that other forms - in person or by mail - are not.

Lastly, what cleek said. Conservatives do nothing but b*tch about the USPS, while at the same time advocating policies that freaking cripple it.

actually, Marty, if you don't trust the USPS, why use them to send contracts? Why not FedEx?

serious question. I'm trying to understand why you would conduct important business using a service that you wouldn't trust with your vote.

wrs, plus:
(local elections board): "we're sending you the ballot you requested, look for it"
...
"we got the ballot you returned, stuff on the outer envelope is valid, it's set to be counted."

The links in the internet are unreliable*, yet the system is set up with end-to-end protocols to result in reliable transmission (and notification when it fails).

SYN/ACK, it's not just for blogposts.

(*much more reliable now, go back a decade or three and it's clear why the protocols were designed to work around link failures)

russell, I mostly use FedEx. Occasionally USPS is more convenient. USPS is ok if you send with a signature required or overnight where it's trackable.

I do admit I haven't seen how the return envelopes are setup for votes. But just sticking my vote in a mailbox as standard first class mail won't happen as long as I can go vote. My home mailbox receives misrouted mail on a regular basis.

The challenge isn't that the votes are too much for the USPS, it is that they are a small untrackable percent of the total mail. Yet 150 million pieces automatically mailed to last known address invites significant if not widespread error. And "it hasn't happened yet" doesn't really mean much.

Except Snarki, the idea in the West is you don't request it. It randomly gets sent. And unless you remember to check, the lack of an affirmative response from your board is likely to get overlooked.

I don't have a problem with voting by mail...

Unless I'm misremembering, though, you have always been an advocate for the community benefits of waiting in line at the precinct with your neighbors. Once a state goes to mandatory mail ballot distribution, regular precinct voting disappears soon after. In Hawaii, for example, with its shiny new mail ballot system, there are a total of eight places in the entire state where you can wait in line to get a ballot and vote on election day. Colorado has more, because there's a requirement that there be at least one in each county. My 2600 square mile Colorado county (population 360,000 and growing furiously) has six. Colorado actively discourages in-person voting unless you're one of the edge cases the vote centers are intended to serve.

We get sent regular mail about the elections: to verify addresses; to give us sample ballots; notice that ballots are being sent; the ballots themselves (all individually numbered and tracked by the state in their own systems).

We are told when the ballot should arrive and what todo if it does not. We are told how to check if our ballot has been received (online check, not sure if this can be done by phone). We are told how to verify the information on our ballots to make sure they were counted correctly.

I have no worries about mail ballots.

I do admit I haven't seen how the return envelopes are setup for votes.

I believe our system here in Colorado is representative. Ballot return envelopes are distinctive in size and appearance. A sizeable majority are returned to county-operated drop boxes rather than by USPS. Distribution and return by mail are handled under special contracts negotiated with the USPS -- at least for the larger counties, outbound ballots are presorted and delivered directly to the sorting centers, priority handling is paid for, regular sweeps of post office facilities to avoid misplaced ballots are conducted. It's not just "throw some first-class envelopes in and hope."

nous, if you were an average voter that would be great. It's odd to me that people are concerned about the difficulty some people have figuring out how to vote in person, yet are confident they will be able to follow the process you just described.

you have always been an advocate for the community benefits of waiting in line at the precinct with your neighbors.

I don’t actually have much of a preference for how people vote. There is a bit of Norman Rockwell-sequel civic enthusiasm in going to the polling place but it’s more important that people vote at all. And what works in places like where I live, where you can literally walk to the polling place in not much more time than it takes to drive, vs places where folks are more spread out.

Whatever works, wherever that works.

The process for vote by mail here in MA was:
* applications for a mail-in ballot were sent to registered voters at their last known address
* if you want, send in the application and shortly thereafter get a ballot mailed to you
* fill out the ballot, put it in an envelope that you sign on the outside, put that in a big envelope that is clearly marked as a ballot
* either drop it into a ballot box (like a big mailbox, in our case in front of town hall) or send it in the mail

From there, there was an online thing where you could track the progress of your ballot - arrived at town hall (or wherever the vote tabulation is done), outer envelope opened and signature verified, vote counted.

I guess the ballot could just go totally missing, in which case you’d never see it arrive at wherever it was mailed to. Or it could take too long to get there, but in our area there was a ton of publicity around mailing it early enough to account for COVID related delays etc.

It worked out pretty well.

I will say that I’m not in favor of online. I do buy and sell stuff online regularly, but also have to follow up on bogus transactions at least several times a year. IMO there are vulnerabilities in the online context that simply don’t exist for in-person or by-mail.

-sequal should be -esque

I hate auto correct.

More broadly, I hate freaking machines trying to ‘help me’ when I didn’t ask for the help. I know how to spell, and I know what I meant to say, thank you very much.

I will say that I’m not in favor of online.

Neither are the experts. When various states' systems are evaluated for accuracy and security, one of the very few down-checks for Colorado's system is that we allow a small number of military personnel on certain kinds of overseas assignments to vote online. We do that because those assignments make it unlikely/impossible that they can receive paper ballots in a timely fashion.

My home mailbox receives misrouted mail on a regular basis.

You definitely have my sympathy. But I don't see anything like that here. A couple of times things have gotten misrouted, within the same ZIP code, because someone misread "Gwen Ct" as "Glen Ct". But beyond that? No problems. Certainly nothing that would suggest that the bright purple (postage paid) ballot envelopes would get misrouted.

We get sent regular mail about the elections: to verify addresses; to give us sample ballots; notice that ballots are being sent; the ballots themselves (all individually numbered and tracked by the state in their own systems).

Important note: It's the return envelopes which are individually numbered and tracked in California. The ballots themselves are properly anonymous. So you can track you ballot being returned and counted. But nobody knows how you voted on anything.

IMO there are vulnerabilities in the online context that simply don’t exist for in-person or by-mail.

In particular, there is no hard copy to check, should an audit be required. That is why voting machines which merely recorded votes, without producing a paper ballot, are getting replaced with ones which do provide a paper trail.

nous, if you were an average voter that would be great. It's odd to me that people are concerned about the difficulty some people have figuring out how to vote in person, yet are confident they will be able to follow the process you just described.

I am an average voter. I registered when I got my driver's license. Before the election they mailed me a ballot. I filled it out and dropped it in a ballot drop box. If the drop box were farther away, I would have mailed it in as I have done before. A few days before election day I checked the status.

That's it.

All my difficulties with voting were earlier in my life when I was in my 20s, working shit jobs with irregular hours, had no car and an out-of-state driver's license, and did not have a birth certificate on-hand.

It's not a trivial thing to ask a person to get a copy of their birth certificate from another state and bring it and a narrow list of documents for proof-of-residence to an office miles away that is open for very limited hours during the work week. Doing that required trips to the public library to find out how to get the birth certificate and *having to mail things* to the county where one was born (assuming there was ever a certificate), then waiting for them to *mail it back* so that you could then take another bus on a multi-hour trip (or arrange a ride from a friend, or pay for a ride) to go to an office with your documents and then waiting some more. Time might have to be taken off from work to do that.

Then you have to figure out which voting location is your local polling precinct and maybe take off more time from work and arrange another ride to go and cast your vote, hoping that your documentation will be sufficient. You don't see the ballot until you get there. If you get any of it incorrect, you have to ask for a provisional ballot and suffer through all of the worries about that ballot being counted.

(I've done all of these things. I've also been unable to do all these things a couple times and been unable to vote as a result. Having read some analysis of these voting systems, my situation was not unusual.)

Hands down, I'd take my current vote-by-mail over that any day, whatever my employment status, whether urban, suburban, or rural.

It's more consistent, convenient, and transparent.

All features that make it less-than-ideal for the people who want to make voting more difficult for people without means.

Important note: It's the return envelopes which are individually numbered and tracked in California. The ballots themselves are properly anonymous.

Thanks for the correction. I had never done more than checking that my ballot was received.

Y’all do a good job with CA voting.

My home mailbox receives misrouted mail on a regular basis.

The house where we lived for 32 years had the street address "6925". The next stop on the route, around the corner, had "9625". We got each other's mail for all 32 years. Same families all of that time, so it was like a tradition.

I was particularly attuned to the tracking issue after last November's election. We had a guy come in to vote in person, but the system reported that he had already voted. (Yes, we do check that in real time, so nobody gets their vote counted twice.) He insisted he had not.

Eventually he figured out that, when his wife had voted by mail, she had used the envelope that came with his mail-in ballot. Simple solution: he went and got her envelope, put his mail-in ballot in it, and dropped it off at the polling place. Not really a perfect solution, but it made sure they both got to vote, and only voted once.

If you don't trust the mail or the drop box, dropping your mail-in ballot at the polling place lets you avoid the lines (if any). You can drop it off at any polling place in the county, not just your own, and it gets counted at the same time as in-person ballots. (Actually, you can use any polling place in the state, e.g. one near your work. The ballot then gets forwarded to the right county, and counted with mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day.)

Hands down, I'd take my current vote-by-mail over that any day, whatever my employment status, whether urban, suburban, or rural.

Opinion polls in western states that have gone full vote by mail for an election cycle or two are overwhelmingly, "You can take my mail ballot system back when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." Across all of the political parties.

It is unsurprising that in AZ this year, where >80% of registered voters are on the permanent mail ballot list, the Republican leadership in the legislature bottled up all of the bills their more extreme members introduced to make mail balloting harder in committees and let them die. The AZ Republicans are facing enough problems without campaigning against programs that are popular with their voters.

Eventually he figured out that, when his wife had voted by mail, she had used the envelope that came with his mail-in ballot. Simple solution: he went and got her envelope, put his mail-in ballot in it, and dropped it off at the polling place. Not really a perfect solution, but it made sure they both got to vote, and only voted once.

The Colorado system would have rejected both ballots. Return envelopes here are keyed to a specific voter, and both would have failed because the signatures were wrong.

The Colorado system would have rejected both ballots. Return envelopes here are keyed to a specific voter, and both would have failed because the signatures were wrong.

Signatures are an interesting issue. People's signatures change over time. And some people (e.g. me) use use varying degrees of precision on the lettering, depending (to some extent) on what we are signing. So, unless there is reason to do a really close check, "similar" is generally acceptable.

Which may not please the paranoid, but has never produced a significant problem. Spouses, assuming the use the same last name, will typically have signatures which are close enough. If we had a situation where the results, at the precinct level, were wildly different from the expected (based either on registrations or poll numbers) then a tighter check might be warranted. But otherwise? And note that percincts are small enough that you'd have to have a problem in a lot of them to impact statewide results. A conspiracy with that many people involved wouldn't need to cheat.

Spouses, assuming the use the same last name, will typically have signatures which are close enough.

No one would ever mistake my wife's "Mary L. Cain" for my "Michael E. Cain". They differ in almost all the ways that are considered when matching signatures.

People's signatures change over time.

A few years back, the Colorado Secretary of State told a story during some interview. His daughter, recently turned 18, had voted for the first time. Her ballot was rejected because of a signature mismatch. He asked her if she was still fooling around trying different signature styles while she looked for whatever she liked best. "Well, yeah," she told him. "I probably signed the envelope with the backhand version."

Last year I had reason to pull my original Social Security card out of the safe deposit box. Signed it the spring I was in sixth grade. They're not the same, but my current signature is plainly descended from that one. Call it 55 years. I spent too many years in jobs where some aspect of it required a legible, repeatable signature.

Marty, thanks for the reply, but you realize what I'm pointing out? Let's say that 250,000 votes are the votes on one day. If it were not someone going in to specficially screw up only the mail ballots, it would be a problem that would screw up 179 million pieces of mail. Is that realistic?

In fact, mail ballots offer a certain protection that voting machines do not

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/apr/15/virginia-hacking-voting-machines-security

https://apnews.com/article/elections-colorado-cbef9943d72a6c4015f861237f3029f8

https://www.npr.org/2021/08/12/1027225157/after-data-is-posted-on-conspiracy-website-colo-countys-voting-machines-are-bann

It should be borne in mind here that Marty's objective is to make it as difficult as possible to vote. Especially for poor people.

In fact, mail ballots offer a certain protection that voting machines do not

Almost every expert evaluation of states' voting systems for accuracy and security put Oregon, Washington, and Colorado in the top five. Utah's new vote by mail system has started to appear in that group.

To Marty's point, it's not hard to imagine lots of ways in which vote by mail *could* go sideways.

The burden of proof he faces is to explain why the actual vote-by-mail systems that are in place now, today, aren't prone to those hypothetical failures.

Are there ways in which it *could* go wrong? Yes.

Does it actually go wrong, in real life, using the systems that we currently use in a number of states? The answer appears to be no.

Marty's argument boils down to this: "If the universe ended tomorrow, then what?"

Do any here take such an argument seriously in any other context?

Marty's arguments are like the arguments in debates about gay rights and marriage, and trans visibility and rights, that I summarized a few weeks ago. Anything that a particularly imaginative fiction writer could imagine going wrong is brought forward as a barrier to making any kind of change, even if the status quo exhibits all those drawbacks and more.

Transcendent boneheadedness, or trolling. Take your pick.

I don’t participate in these voting discussions because I assume the reason voting isn’t made easy for everyone is because Republicans and probably some “moderate” Democrats don’t want it to be. Election Day should be a paid national holiday for everyone, voting stations should be very common and within easy reach for most ( unless you are in the middle of some very remote area) and for military people or people who have mobility issues or out of the country we have mail in ballots and a bureaucracy set up to make it easy.

People who genuinely want voting to be easy and without fraud could argue about the details, but that’s a technical issue that could be resolved by people arguing in good faith.

Voting has always been really easy for me— the whole process from leaving my home and coming back is less than 45 minutes and I have no job hour conflicts, transportation issues, massive lines, or childcare difficulties. It should be that way for virtually everyone.

And no, I am not picking on Marty or saying he is arguing in bad faith. But the Republican Party and probably some Democrats are.

Ezra Klein is starting to get it here. The problem is not that our politics are so bitterly divisive, it is that they are so cramped.

Unleash the political imagination, OK?

I was going to post that Ezra Klein link. He has become ( for me) one of the best pundits around, which is like saying the tallest skyscraper in Manhattan KS, but Klein really is good. He reads widely and take arguments seriously.

Klein​ seems to be tippy-toeing out on a slippery slope to a libertarian point of view while holding onto a rope to progressive views and policies.

Klein has always been just a bit outside the mainstream of Democratic viewpoints. he's kindof like Matt Yglesias (with whom he founded Vox): just a bit contrarian, and just a bit less concerned about orthodoxy than many political columnists.

it's always weird to see his name at NYT and WaPo; he'll always be the guy who got promoted up from comments to the front page at Pandagon, to me.

Not seeing that Charles. On foreign policy he is opposed to our military interventions for the most part, which is where the far left and many libertarians see eye to eye.

On domestic issues he wants progressives to find ways to encourage innovation without letting companies make monopoly profits— for instance, he mentions a Sanders proposal to award millions or billions to a company that finds a cure for some disease, but them make the cure immediately available to be manufactured by anyone. This sounds like something liberal economist Dean Baker would say.

For me, the thing that I remember Klein catching my eye on was that when the ACA was being discussed, he said 'let's look at other countries and see how their health care works'. That willingness to investigate seems unfortunately rare.

Klein​ seems to be tippy-toeing out on a slippery slope to a libertarian point of view

Alternatively, he could be approaching that edge, making sure that he is firmly belayed off so he doesn't get sucked into a black hole of whataboutism and bad faith argumentation. He wouldn't want to be quoting neo-nazi tracts...

Not seeing that Charles.

Klein makes a number of the same criticisms of government policies that libertarians have been making for years. Then he advocates for the continued involvement of the government to fix problems that the government created. This often just leads to another layer of problems.

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