just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 1 comment on Politics, Amendment One, and some thoughts

Politics, Amendment One, and some thoughts

As I’m sure we all know by now, North Carolina recently passed Amendment One which institutionalized marriage as between one man and one woman in the state constitution. It is a black eye for a state that was so pivotal to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. 60% of North Carolinians who voted disagree with me, but I don’t think that 60% of North Carolina’s registered voters do.

This is the point that I want to speak to in this blog post.

The passage of Amendment One was a clear demonstration of how democracy in the US is a misrepresentation of the majority through the zealotry of a motivated minority.

The California proposition system is another example of the same.

Specifically, the motivated parties bring forward a change at a point in the voting cycle in which they are guaranteed to win as opposed to when the majority at large is motivated to vote. In North Carolina, the motivated minority was actually the majority party of Republicans in the General Assembly. Polls showed that most North Carolinians thought civil unions, and through civil unions the benefits of marriage, should be had by all. The Republicans in the General Assembly did not.

A couple things that the Republicans did masterfully:

  1. They put the issue on the ballot in May instead of in November. This put most students back home or in exams. It also meant most Democrats, who are not in a presidential primary cycle, would not be motivated to vote.
  2. They prevented any debate from occurring when the issue was brought to the floor of the legislative houses. Debate could have derailed support, and may have prevented the issue from getting on the May ballot.
  3. They used the evangelical community to rally support around the bill. They turned Amendment One into a social issue when at its core it is truly a legal issue.

And so, through these rather undemocratic means, the Republicans democratically pushed through Amendment One.

Would it have passed anyway? I don’t know. But I am certain it would not have been 60-40 had the vote happened in November.

I’ve thought quite a bit about how I would fix such a system. For this specific case, I’d like to kill the word marriage from all government documents. I’ll come back to that in another post. However, for the more general case, I wonder if we need to dampen true democracy. Have a randomly selected group of individuals act as guardians of common sense. What we have now is clearly broken, but a solution isn’t easily forthcoming either.

Ultimately, I think Socrates was right – democracy just doesn’t work.

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 1 comment on Jury Duty – What an experience

Jury Duty – What an experience

I was summoned for jury duty about a month ago, and thought to myself, well shit, there’s no way I’m getting out of this.

I got to the court house at 1pm this past Monday, and hunkered down for what I thought was going to be a long and boring day. They quite quickly called us into the court room, and then sat the original 23 in the box. Who was juror #9? Me!

The judge asked a bunch of standard questions; the lawyers asked a bunch of standard questions; a couple of folks got dismissed; and then we were seated. I was juror #9 on a three-day DUI case where they defendant had refused to plead.

And that’s where it gets interesting…

You see, this wasn’t a standard DUI case at all. This was a case of did he see what he claims, did he do what they claimed, and whose credibility is the most dependable. The story goes something like this – on a Saturday morning less than a year ago, someone drove a car down a street in San Francisco without their headlights on. At the same time, a CHP cruiser was turning onto that same road. The individual noticed, parked their car, and were waiting the CHP out. The CHP did a loop around the block to find the same (or similar) car (but a slightly different color), and a fellow getting out who was clearly intoxicated.

There were two counts:

  1. Driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage
  2. Driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher by weight

I didn’t know those could be different either, but oh I learned!

The cops (there were two) had legit stories, but didn’t (for me) remove all doubt about the consistency of the car. At night, under street lights, a car that moved for a few seconds a distance of 50 feet feels like the eyes playing tricks on you. It just didn’t sit.

The lab folks were a unique bunch. The head of the labs was amazing. Great personality. Fantastic tie. Told the story professionally, and really taught us about the mental state of an individual at 0.08 & 0.12+ blood alcohol content. It turns out that at 0.08, most individuals are still convinced that they can drive. However, above 0.12, folks start to understand that they are way too intoxicated to be able to drive. That played a very interesting role in the deliberation as well. The actual lab tech clearly didn’t want to be there, and it was a wasted 30 minutes for the prosecution. For him, lesson learned.

The defendant was quite the character. Vietnamese immigrant. Didn’t speak a word of English. If he did, it was 10 words max. Clearly believed he was innocent, and had gone through, according to the defense lawyer, many lawyers who disagreed.

Let’s stop to analyze this for a second. The SF City government got this guy a lawyer. They got this guy 2 translators who switched every few hours. And the US legal system guaranteed him a fair trial even though he wasn’t a citizen. If that isn’t amazing, then tell me what is. This fact alone made me realize that I was party to something amazing, humbling, and, I think, relatively unique.

Back to the case.

When we got the case, and started to deliberate, it was clear that intoxication wasn’t a question. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was intoxicated. The real question was whether the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt in the evidence that it was the defendant who was driving.

A bunch of us said no, some of us said yes. I got elected foreman. We debated, questioned, and challenged. At the end of the day, we couldn’t get past a bunch of us said no, and some of us said yes. The judge declared a mistrial, and we were dismissed.

I have to say, I won’t ask to get out of jury duty if it can be contained to one week. It’s an amazing process; you meet great people; and you make a difference in a system where even the little guy has a chance. I was really honored to be a part of it all in the end.

Last note: I hope when they re-try the case, that justice wins. Justice is the only side that any of us should root for

just thinking out loud, Sports Stories, Uncategorized 0 comments on Avenue of the Giants – Results

Avenue of the Giants – Results

Last weekend, we headed up to Humboldt County to run the Avenue of the Giants half-marathon. It was quite a crew – my dad came from Istanbul, my buddy James came from Raleigh, Matt came up from San Jose, and then Micky, Amelia, and I filled out the group.

We found a place in Ferndale, and setup base camp. There was no wireless, which made for a desperate attempt to steal from the neighbors, which went exactly no where. That did mean though that we spent a lot more time just hanging out, playing guitar, and chasing Amelia around the house. There was a cute little grocery store in town where we got our food for the weekend, and spent the day before the race checking out the North Coast.

Massively windy. Massively beautiful. Don’t know that a coastline like California’s can be rivaled. There’s something to the cliffs and the sheer coldness of the water that makes for this beautiful yet distant combo. Unrivaled in what I’ve seen.

On to the race!

The race sucked. I just didn’t train enough. I got to 7 miles and some steps at a perfect pace. I was really happy with what I was doing, and then I just couldn’t keep going. I hit neither my time (2:28:56) nor my objective to not walk (about half-a-mile over the course of the race). There was an epic hill at about 1.8 miles to go, and it just knocked me flat.


I ran the last half-mile as hard as I could, and Amelia and Micky were both at the finish line to cheer me on. It was quite awesome. That was by far the best part of the whole thing.

Lessons learned for next time:

  1. Do a training run more than 7 miles
  2. Set realistic goals, and accomplish them
  3. Bring Micky along for the whole ride

Don’t know when it will be, but looking forward to the next one.