Entries related to things political.

Street Angel 21

I sit and try to write, but start sneezing. I've got a list of things to write about, but I'm aching from some sort of virus exacerbated by too much shoveling after the great storm. I've tried to rest as much as possible, but I have a restless mind and have been thinking about a lot of different things. One is the 1928 silent movie, Street Angel.

The other day someone tweeted about a massive open online course, The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound, and Color. I signed up, watched the first two lectures and then started watching the first movie.

When I have more time, I'll weave this into a broader story about creative problem solving, tying in McLuhan and Papert. At another time, I'll reflect more on what we can learn about storytelling today by looking at early films. At another time, I won't be struggling to stay awake and write.

So, let me reflect, for a few moments on Street Angel itself. We start off with a daughter committing a crime to get medicine for her dying mother. Today, we have a safety net, but it isn't in the best shape, and I can imagine a young Latina born in Connecticut in a similar circumstance trying to get medication for her ailing undocumented mother.

Angelica, in Street Angel, becomes a fugitive, and their is no forgiveness for those who have broken the law. Again, we see parallels to modern day America. Some people broke the law a couple decades ago, coming to this country illegally. But too many people cannot forgive them, cannot give them a path to citizenship because they broke a law twenty years ago. Right now, there is legislation being considered that would ban citizens of Connecticut who have been convicted of drug related crimes from ever getting public assistance. No chance, ever, for forgiveness. Yet these are probably the people that need it most, and perhaps where we could have the biggest impact, lifting a person out of a life of crime and a circle of poverty.

A twenty-first century Street Angel, Street Angel 21, wouldn't be a silent black and white movie. It might be a mashup of graffiti, pictures, video, and social media, trying to address problems that have been around for a century.

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The SMART Citizens Town Hall

On Thursday, there was another Citizens' Town Hall in Woodbridge. It was a chance for people to get together and discuss what was going on in Hartford. This month, none of the State Legislators could make it, so it was a discussion amongst citizens.

A few had been to a town hall a few weeks before in a neighboring town. That town hall had two State Legislators attend but the people who went to it complained about the lack of specificity by the State Legislators and their unwillingness to commit to anything. Perhaps some of this is because of the hyper-partisan nature of politics today and how divisive some issues are.

As part of the CT Health Foundation's, Health Leadership Fellows Program, I've been thinking a lot about things like the intent of one's action, the actual impact of the actions, and SMART goals. SMART is an abbreviation for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. All of these seem like things State Legislators should be looking towards, even though some of them tend to avoid specificity.

A good example is the discussion about gun control. One of the State Reps danced around the issue saying that it isn't clear what's going to happen yet. However, I've been following the news. I know that a bunch of bills have been introduced recently.

I've been tracking a bunch of bills in Pearltrees. One bill is S.B. No. 604, AN ACT CONCERNING THE SECURE SAFEKEEPING OF FIREARMS.

The purpose of the bill is "To require a firearm's owner to safely secure the firearm in a locked box or container if the owner knows or should that another person residing in the home presents as a danger to self or others."

There are plenty of issues with this bill. Does it lead to further discrimination against mentally ill people? What about veterans with post traumatic stress disorder? On the other hand, shouldn't all firearm owners safely secure firearms? Some would say that they need to keep their guns easily accessible in case of home invasion, so there is an argument against requiring all people to keep their guns constantly secured.

In an article in the New Canaan News, The Nancy Lanza law: Bill focuses on safekeeping of guns, State Rep. Klarides asks, "It's just how to define what the mental health issue is. Where do we draw the line?"

It seems as there are some simple lines that could be drawn. They might not be perfect, but we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. For example, instead of referring to mentally ill people, it might be good to refer to people who have an increased likelihood of misusing guns, including anyone who has been convicted of a drug or alcohol related crime or has been prescribed a psychiatric medicine in the past year.

Legislation, as well as discussions about legislation need to be smarter. They need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Discussing ways to make S.B No. 604 implementable is a good example of ways the legislative process can be smarter.

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What's Happening in Hartford?

Today, Gov. Malloy announced his proposed Fiscal Year 2014/2015 Biennial Budget. There are plenty of news stories about Gov. Malloy and the budget. But what are legislators saying about all of this?

Well, I set up a Facebook list, CT State Legislators which anyone can subscribe to. You can read through the different posts to find a wide array of reactions. Two State Reps have videos on YouTube that you can find from the Facebook list, State Rep. Bryan Hurlburt and State Rep. Sean Williams. It is very interesting to watch both of these videos and contrast them.

It is also great to see various State Representatives praising the work of State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, with the site that his office has produced, Open Connecticut. Hopefully many people will look at this as they think about our state's budget.

I also set up a set of links using Pearltrees for 2013 Bills before the General Assembly. The inner most circle is for various committees whose bills have been added to the set of links. The second circle is a link to the bills themselves, and the outer circle is links to articles and commentary on the bills. So far, ten committees have had bills added, with nineteen bills and twelve articles added. I've added many of these links, but a thing that is great about Pearltrees is that it can be done as a team effort, so some of the links have been added by others. If there are bills of particular interest to you, please add them. Let me know if you need help getting started.

Finally, for those in the Woodbridge area, there will be another Citizen's Town Hall where people can come and discuss with one another the bills being considered and and what they think about these bills.

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Understanding Social Media

It's been about half a century since Marshall McLuhan published Understanding Media and a lot has changed since then. The need to understand media, and especially social media, has grown considerably since then.

As the Social Media Manager for a non-profit health care organization, I often speak at conferences about social media. Besides my role in non-profits, I also talk about social media from the perspective of a politician and a citizen journalist.

Recently, I spoke about how I like to use social media when I'm at conferences. Typically, I try to take notes at the conference using Twitter. I need to refine the thought down to less than 140 characters. Sometimes, this can be a challenge. Sometimes, people might not get what I'm tweeting, without the context of the surrounding tweets. People need to learn more about context, especially for tweets, where additional context can often be found in the hashtags used in the tweets.

When I mentioned this at one event I was at, people said they felt uncomfortable doing that because others might think they were busy doing things online and not paying attention. As a social media manager, I don't often run into that problem, but it is a common misconception.

Just because a person is writing something on their computer, perhaps via Facebook or Twitter, doesn't mean they aren't paying attention. If they are using social media as a means of taking and sharing notes, they may be paying much more attention than others who are just sitting casually at the meeting.

Another aspect of social media note taking is that it is conversational. It is like being able to take notes and see other people's notes at the same time. It can produce brief interchanges that further enhance the understanding of the topic being discussed. I recently ran into this as I was taking notes via social media of the hearings in Hartford about Newtown.

State Senator Beth Bye posted about a nuanced statement from DMHAS Commissioner Patricia Rehmer about outpatient commitment and forced medication. A few different people commented on different aspects of this and I believe everyone came out better informed as a result.

Yet this style of note taking and communications may be unfamiliar to some. Some people may have a mistaken impression that Facebook is just for games or talking about parties. What is worse, some people may try to capitalize on this misimpression to cast aspersions on others. This is perhaps most likely by those who do not want a serious discussion about the issues our country faces and simply want to force their opinions on others.

Such people may, in fact, use social media to distort, and to try to get traditional media sources to spread the distortion.

This appears to be the case of opponents of gun control legislation that Sen. Bye has introduced. Perhaps it backfired on them because the broadcast that NBC had showed a gun control opponent who was not at the hearing criticizing Sen. Bye for being at the hearing and using Facebook to communicate with constituents about the hearing. It helped paint the gun control opponents as uninformed. Fortunately for those opposing gun control, NBC ended their segment with a gun control opponent who was at the hearing and who lauded Sen. Bye for her efforts to keep people informed.

Over the coming years, I expect to see more and more legislators using social media to communicate with the constituents, especially during hearings. Sen. Bye and several other Connecticut legislators provide a good example of how this can be done to improve civil discourse. Of course, during this time, there are bound to be more issues like this one and we all need to spend more time understanding social media.

Gun Control Bingo

Today, I watched parts of the "Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety Public Hearing at the Legislative Office Building about Gun Control".

While I haven't seen any talking points sent out by people supporting or opposing gun control, but it sure sounded like a lot people were reading off of one script or another.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. The only thing that stops a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun. Cars, alcohol, airplanes, etc., kill people, why don't we ban them? We need our guns to protect us from tyrants, terrorists, and home invasions.

However, a lot of what people say is contradictory, just plain false, or even nuts.

For example, people say that limiting high capacity magazines wouldn't have slowed down the shooter. However, banning high capacity magazines would make it difficult for law abiding citizens to defend their homes.

People opposed to gun control talk about 9/11 and how that didn't cause any new legislation to be quickly passed. However, the Patriot Act was passed 45 days after 9/11. Anyone who thinks that 9/11 didn't change things, hasn't flown in an airplane over the past decade. It is notable that other people opposed to gun control cite the Patriot Act as a reason they need to keep their guns.

Those who talk about cars, alcohol and airplanes would most likely be abhorred if guns were as regulated as cars, alcohol and airplanes, and we do require car owners to have insurance.

One of the great talking points is the issue of mental health, and I think that is an important point. When I listen to people saying things like "We're already close to civil war because of a certain man in the White House" and "I call about all gun owners to nullify any law" which limits gun ownership, "I don't trust the government anymore", and "the AMA has drugged our youth", I think mental health is a big issue, and I do hope that Secret Service is paying attention to some of the testimony.

I also have to wonder how many of the people who are calling for more spending on mental health are some of the same people who are calling for lower taxes and less government spending.

Then, there is the argument that no law will prevent criminals from getting guns. No law prevents criminals from doing many different things, but that doesn't mean we should have no laws. However, it seems like the common thread is that we should be making it more difficult for people who should not have guns to get guns.

This is not to say that the hearings have been without content. A spokesperson for the Police Chiefs' Association had what sounded like well thought out suggestions on how to combat gun violence. Likewise, the spokespeople for the Connecticut Council of Municipalities talked about about what efforts were most likely to have a real effect on gun violence in our state.

Perhaps the most interesting was the spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation who exercised some sophistry to try and dance around comments from Sen. Williams. Sen. Williams called him out on it, but it struck me as if the NSSF has about as little credibility the NRA. On the other hand, the spokesperson for Sturm and Ruger actually spoke persuasively about trying to improve gun safety and wanting to work with the legislature.

I wish more people would speak like the Police Chiefs, the Connecticut Council of Municipalities and work together to find ways to make our country truly safer.

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