Aldon Hynes's blog

Wordless Wednesday

In The New House, originally uploaded by Aldon.

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Quick Updates

Today was Fiona’s first day of kindergarten. This was followed by another day of cleaning out the old house, so, I’ve been away from the computer all day. This was after being away all evening yesterday to attend the Region 10 Board of Education meeting. There are now over 1300 unread emails in my in box and lots of writing that I need to get done.

First and foremost, Avery is today’s hero of the day. If you haven’t checked out Beth and Rod’s A Hero A Day blog, you really should. They have lots of stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. For those of you who are visiting Orient Lodge as a result of Beth and Rod’s blog, you can find most of my coverage about the Avery Doninger case in the Connecticut section.

As to the Board of Ed meeting, I was hoping to put my comments up about it. Perhaps I will get to it tomorrow. Kevin Roberts of the Citizen Register reports Reg. 10 officials discuss free speech case costs. After attending the Board of Ed meeting, and then speaking with my father-in-law about investigations he did into a different Board of Ed, I think it is very important that local newspapers and bloggers do more to cover what is going on at Board of Education meetings, especially in those school districts where there is construction going on.

Andy Thibault, of Cool Justice stays on top of the information issues with FOI requests and complaints about Failure To Produce Billing & Insurance Records and Evaluations, Contracts, Paychecks, Expenses

So, that’s it for now. I need to return some phone calls, do some more writing, put up some posts, and then get to bed.

I’m still waiting for my invitation

Back in March, David Cohn wrote a post about his Geek Thesis: Drupal and the New Left. He raises many interesting questions.

Around the same time, I wrote a blog post, The Innovation Invitation, which talked about a general sense that the 2006 Presidential campaigns are not encouraging innovation the way Gov. Dean’s Presidential campaign did.

I had a good discussion with David on the phone about these issues, and today, I received a follow up email from him. Here is the gist of my response, altered a little to fit the blog.

My post, The Innovation Invitation gets to my key view that it is not Drupal per se that mattered, but an embracing of open source, which in my mind is a simple extension of openness and transparency in government. I think that is one of the reasons Drupal has caught on less amongst conservatives than it has amongst liberals, and part of the reason I've never been concerned about whether or not they embraced Drupal. To the extent that we get anyone, independent of their political orientation, to embrace openness in government, that is a good thing.

Two books that address some of this is Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics edited by Tom Streeter and Zephyr Teachout. It should be coming out any day. I have a chapter in the book describing how I got involved and touches on the ideas of the innovation invitation.

The second book is Extreme Democracy. This book was edited by Jon Lebkowsky and Mitch Radcliffe and came out in 2005. My chapter was more on the nuts and bolts of DeanSpace, but the whole book explores the idea of democracy being affected by technological ideas like extreme programming.

Recently, the Texas Forums has been having a session on the book, and we’ve discussed the lack of an innovation invitation in the 2008 election cycle.

I think it isn’t Drupal per se, that mattered in the Dean campaign, but this invitation to innovate. I think that most campaigns are very hesitant to invite innovation, and that Joe Trippi captured this hesitance best in his blog entry, The Perfect Storm

One of the other reasons I think this has not happened before is that every political campaign I have ever been in is built on a top-down military structure — there is a general at the top of the campaign — and all orders flow down — with almost no interaction. This is a disaster. This kind of structure will suffocate the storm not fuel it. Campaigns abhor chaos — and to most campaigns built on the old top-down model — that is what the net represents — chaos. And the more the campaign tries to control the “chaos” the more it stiffles its growth. As someone who is at least trying to understand the right mix — I admit its hard to get it right. But I think the important thing is to provide the tools and some of the direction — stay in as constant communication as you can with the grassroots — two way/multi-way communication — and get the hell out of the way when a big wave is building on its own.

All of this was prologue to answer David’s questions about my current involvement with the Edwards campaign and if they are using Drupal in any way.

Yes, I am supporting Edwards. In that, I add comments to blogs and on social networks when I have time indicating my support. I have suggested using Drupal to try and replicate what we did with DeanSpace, but no one was interested enough to follow up. Yet even that would simply be replicating what has been done before and not inviting people to come and innovate. I do not believe any of the campaigns are inviting people to innovate the way the Dean campaign did, so I believe that the innovators have moved on to focus on things other than presidential politics.

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That Sickness Where You Feel Cold and Don’t Want to Talk

At dinner last night, my five-year-old daughter wanted to know about that sickness where you feel cold and don’t want to talk, and I was very glad to explain it to her. I had been talking about my latest blog post on the Avery Doninger case and the “chilling effect” the actions of the school administration was having on Avery.

She is at an age where we can have interesting discussions about ideas like “freedom of speech”. We talked about how in some countries people could get punished for saying bad things about their leaders, but that that is not supposed to happen in our country. We spoke about how sometimes leaders don’t understand that and punish people for saying things that they are allowed to say and how it can make people afraid to say things that they have every right to say.

At the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) annual meeting, David McCullough spoke about the importance of dinnertime discussion. Dr. Jack Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University spoke about the importance of the early childhood years in a presentation on a A Science-Based Framework for Early Childhood Policy

The early childhood years lay the foundation for later economic productivity, responsible citizenship, and a lifetime of sound physical and mental health,”

This dinnertime discussion is part of the foundation that I hope Fiona will carry with her into her adult years as a responsible citizen.

Miranda, my fourteen-year-old daughter is off at school, so I haven’t had a good chance to speak with her about the lessons of the case, but there is a very important lesson for her as well. Miranda, like Avery, is bright, outspoken and has relished serving in student government. This summer, she attended the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) program and studied dissent. They read great works, like Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail.

One of my concerns with courses of study like this, and I do not know if the CTY program fell into this problem, is that they present these great fighters for our civil rights as larger than life heroes that we cannot aspire to be. Perhaps Emerson said it best,

Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duties to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given; forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books.

The same applies to young women standing up for our civil rights. To use the words of a great old hymn, “for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.” One of the things that is so important about Avery’s case is that she reminds all of us that the great fighters for our civil rights, were people just like you and I. I hope the story of her battle gets told to many high school kids and encourages them to stand up as well.

This takes me back to another aspect of the NCSL annual meeting. I spoke with many people there who bewailed the lack of involvement of their constituents in civic life. Is it because civics is not taught well enough in our public schools? Are people to scared to step out into civic engagement? Do people believe they are powerless? In many ways it seems as if Avery is being punished for exactly what political leaders across our country are fighting for. She got involved. She tried to get others involved and those in power didn’t like it.

In 2003, my wife and I were very involved in Gov. Dean’s Presidential bid. For us, and I believe for many, a key message was about all of us having the power change our country for the better. When he ended his bid, he encouraged his supporters to stay involved, to get more involved, to even consider running for office. My wife heeded Gov. Dean’s words and ran for State Representative. It was a great experience for both of us and I wish more people had these sorts of experiences. Like Avery, Kim is a regular person just like you or I.

So, just as I hope Fiona learned something about “that sickness where you feel cold and don’t want to talk”, I hope we all learn a little bit more about the importance of civic engagement from Avery Doninger and that we all stand a little taller and a little firmer in defense of our rights.

Relevance, Subtext, Comprehension, and Irony

Due to our move on Thursday, I was tardy as I rushed to the Federal District Courthouse for day three of the Avery Doninger Civil Rights case. I stepped into the spectator’s gallery of the courtroom quietly hoping to avoid any disruption of the hearing. Fortunately, the proceedings of the day had not yet started and if I missed anything it was the part where the announce says, “Today’s proceedings are brought to you buy the words relevance, subtext, comprehension, and irony.” Yes, my years of watching Sesame Street still colors my how I seek for the educational opportunities in life around me.

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