I Thought He Came With You is Robert Ellison’s blog about software, marketing, politics, photography, time lapse and the occasional well deserved rant. Follow along with a monthly email, RSS or on Facebook. About 7,250,102,012 people have not visited yet so it might be your first time here. Suggested reading: Got It, or roll the dice.

Gun Insurance could pay for Buybacks

Gun Insurance could pay for Buybacks

Gun buybacks are not a new idea, in fact a mandatory buyback scheme was a big success in Australia. Gun insurance as a means of reducing gun violence isn't either. But what if you combined the two?

Set up a mandatory government run insurance program for all new firearms sales. If you are a 40 year old farmer with a shotgun stored in a gun safe then insurance is pretty cheap. If you are a 19 year old with an assault rifle then it is eyewateringly expensive. The risk that you will do something harmful with the gun is priced into the cost of ownership.

One of the criticisms of gun insurance (and of any gun control measure in general) is that there are so many firearms already in circulation in the US. So take the proceeds of the insurance scheme and use them to buy back guns.

Responsible gun owners are not inconvenienced, we reduce risky firearms sales and slowly draw down the number of uninsured guns in circulation.


Liquid Democracy and united.vote

Liquid Democracy and united.vote

This November there will be a limited opportunity to put liquid democracy into action. Limited to District 19 of the California Assembly (where I happen to live) and limited to the candidacy of David Ernst (which is a long shot).

Liquid democracy is a referendum on every act, with the difference that you can delegate your vote to someone you trust instead of voting on every issue yourself. At one extreme it's mob rule and at the other (if you delegate your vote to David) it's no different than the current system. The potential magic is where various groups of voters are powerfully represented by someone who is closer to their ideal candidate. If elected David promises to vote based on a liquid democracy implementation at united.vote.

I think functionally liquid democracy shares some problems with proportional representation / transferable vote schemes. If you end up delegating to blocks that represent 40%, 45% and 15% of voters then the 15% block holds the balance of power and gains undue influence. It raises new problems as well. If my elected representative is just doing what my delegate says and I can change my delegate at any time then there aren't really elections any more. So we've replaced 1 representative with N delegates. Delegates are going to raise money to gain and hold onto power and will become beholden to special interests. Are there term limits for delegates? If we end up with a small pool of powerful delegates does it make any difference if I switch my vote to a group of 0.025% of the electorate?

I'm interested in giving it a try though. I like that I can take back control on issues that I particularly care about. I might well vote for David in November.

So what about united.vote?

You have to pay $1 with a credit card to sign up. This is for voter verification and it's not a steep cost but it is a massive conversion barrier. When I signed up today there were just over 1,000 participants. The site is currently oriented around the US Congress rather than the California Assembly. You don't need a password which is nice. Instead you get emailed a one time code each you log in on a new device.

One big missing feature is some sort of directory of prospective delegates. You can delegate to your existing representative (which is pointless) or search for someone you know but really I want to find someone who closely matches my views and who has a good voting record. This isn't possible right now. Until that's fixed you should delegate your vote to me ;)

The voting record is hard to parse as well. For example Kamala Harris, one of my Senators, has an F. For the votes where she has a score it's 100%, 100%, 92% and 15%. Most votes have no liquid democracy opinion attached (is this a 0?). I need to see the math here.

Having said all that my preferred option is legislative service.

(Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash)

The Trust Project, Fake News and a Partial Facebook Uninstall

No Facebook app to be found here

The Trust Project is a well meaning but doomed attempt to deal with fake news.

Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter are all on board because it's important to be seen to be doing something about the problem. Sarah Perez at TechCrunch writes:

"Here’s how this will work in practice: starting today on Facebook, an icon will appear next to articles in the News Feed. When you click on this icon, you can read information the publisher has shared related to their organization’s “ethics and other standards, the journalists’ backgrounds, and how they do their work,” according to an announcement from The Trust Project."

Please take a minute to scroll through the Trust Protocol Phase I MVP. Yes, this is a minimal viable product where your most recent Diversity Staffing Report is required. I don't think they understand what an MVP is. Which would be fine if they understood how to fix the problem. They don't.

Back in January I wrote this about fake news on Facebook:

"The horrible danger is that if you don't fact check every stupid quote on image meme the power of repetition lodges them somewhere in your subconscious where they become that thing that you read somewhere. Which is OK if you only read quality news but deadly if you want to catch up on old friends quickly."

And back in 2010 on cable news and the Fairness Doctrine:

"24-hour news stations are especially bad because most days there just isn’t that much news. This leaves a choice between repeating the news that exists which is boring, or making stuff up which is a lot more fun. Unfortunately It’s also corrosive."

Yes, it would be nice to have a set of standards around more easily vetting the provenance of "news" that you find on the internet. But the problem is with people taking bullshit at face value (myself sometimes included). When you scroll by something that meets the loose standards of your confirmation bias the damage is done. You're not clicking any Trust Project icon and you're sure as fuck not upgrading Acrobat just to read the Breitbart Diversity Staffing Report.

The Trust Project isn't the answer. Facebook just pulled their disputed flag. The Fairness Doctrine isn't coming back. Is there a technology based fix that might work?

"That’s not going to happen, argues Data & Society founder and Microsoft researcher danah boyd. Google, Facebook, Twitter—none of these companies is sitting on a silver-bullet solution. As boyd wrote for us earlier this year, we have more than a technology problem: “[W]e have a cultural problem, one that is shaped by disconnects in values, relationships, and social fabric."

From The Fake News Culprit No One Wants to Identify: You on Backchannel recently. I see. It's up to me. I have to fix it.

I uninstalled Facebook and Twitter from my phone just over a week ago. I'm not abandoning social media entirely (although I toy with this regularly). Just pulling back a bit.

For the first few days I'd regularly find my finger headed to launch Facebook. Every time I had a minute to kill. Facebook has no end (usually) so it works even when my RSS feed is empty. I stocked Feedly up with more wholesome content (Trust Project approved no doubt). By the end of the first week I was sometimes even leaving my phone in my pocket.

Now I catch up on Facebook on my laptop every day or two. It's a much better experience - when you check 200 times a day the feed algorithm gets increasingly desperate to please you. It panics and serves up lame memes from someone who you think must have been a coworker at some point but don't really remember. I get through a few updates from friends that I'm actually interested in and bail before hitting the questionable stuff.

It's up to you too.

The top four Petitions that will help to Impeach Trump

The top four Petitions that will help to Impeach Trump

Democrats are being rather lame about pushing to impeach Donald Trump. Sure, they don't have the votes. But maybe next year they'd stand a better chance of getting them if they did a little less cozying up on deals that won't happen and a little more talking up impeachment. It would be nice if Mueller wrapped things up and dropped an incontrovertible bombshell but that doesn't and shouldn't matter. It would be nice if the various Congressional enquiries did their job but again that should be viewed as icing on the cake.

Trump assaulted equal protection and religious freedom by banning Muslims from travelling to the US. It doesn't matter what else Mueller turns up. Trump violates the Emoluments Clause on a constant basis. We don't need anything more from Congress. It's hard to see the Comey firing as anything other than obstruction of justice. Democrats need to start beating the drum and get Trump out of office. They're not going to do it without a big push.

You should sign all of these petitions today:

Need to Impeach. Over a million signatures already.

Impeach Trump Now. Over 1.25M.

Impeach Donald J. Trump: The Million American Petition on change.org.

Impeach Trump on Care2.

After all that signing don't forget to call your Senators and Representative and make sure they know how you feel as well.

(Photo by Jacob Morch on Unsplash)

GGNRA Victory

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the National Park Service's effort to ban dogs from much of the GGNRA is dead:

"The National Park Service pulled the plug Thursday on a 14-year-long process for restricting dog access in the 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area, 10 months after revelations emerged that agency officials had improperly corresponded about the process from their personal email accounts."

I've been fighting this for over six years. Some highlights from 2011, 2013 and 2016.

End the Electoral College: Amendment, Compact, or Supreme Court?

Lawrence Lessig and Richard Painter write about the possibility of the Supreme Court taking on the Electoral College in USA Today:

"The Constitution is not going to be amended to remove the Electoral College. It’s possible that states will agree to a compact to allocate their votes to the winner of the national popular vote. But right now, the court should recognize that there is no principle in American law that could justify the unequal reckoning of the votes of citizens of the United States for president of the United States. Call it proportionality, or simple equality: it is an idea that needs urgent legal recognition, now."

It's an intriguing possibility, but they're short on specifics. Who needs to file suit to get this question in front of the court? Should I do this as I live in California and may as well not bother voting for President? If so, please get in touch guys.

I'm a big fan of the The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Until another option looks plausible please follow that link and take one the actions listed to support it.

What do you get when you multiply six by nine? Brexit.


“Good Morning,” said the Electorate at last.

“Er… good morning, O Electorate,” said Cameron nervously, “do you have… er, that is…”

“An answer for you?” interrupted the Electorate majestically. “Yes, I have.”

“There really is one?” breathed Cameron.

“There really is one,” confirmed the Electorate.

“To Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

“Yes, though I don’t think,” added the Electorate, that you’re going to like it.”

“Doesn’t matter!” said Cameron, “We must know it! Now!”

“All right,” said the Electorate, “The answer to Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? Is…”





“I’m going to get lynched, aren’t I?”

“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the Electorate, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”

“But it was Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” howled Cameron.

“Yes,” said the Electorate with the air of one who suffers fools gladly, “but what does that actually mean?”

“Well, you know, enjoy the benefits of the single market without being part of it, points based immigration here but still retire to Spain, restore the sovereignty of parliament without actually letting it vote…” said Cameron weakly.

“Exactly!” said the Electorate. “So once you do know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.”

“Look, all right, all right,” said Cameron, “can you just please tell me the question?”


“But can you do it?”

“No, but I’ll tell you who can,” said the Electorate.

“Who? Tell me!”

“I speak of none but the referendum that is to come next,” intoned the Electorate, “A referendum whose merest subordinate clauses I am not worthy to comprehend. A referendum that will actually tell us what Brexit is. A referendum of such infinite and subtle complexity that understanding ATM modernization under Single Sky and the medical implications of leaving Euratom shall form part of its introductory reading material…”

(Apologies to Douglas Adams)

(Previously, Previously)

Resist Report

Resist Report

My February resolution was to do something to #Resist Trump every day. Here's the breakdown:

Calls to Congress: 77

Non-profits donated to: 15

Failing media subscriptions: 4

Protests attended: 2

Advocacy sites launched and promoted: 1

I'll ease off a bit and try something else in March. But the routine of doing something every day has been really helpful. I've gone from saying I really should do something to actually getting in the habit of actively resisting.


February resolution: do something to resist Trump every day.

Today I renewed my membership with KQED (which I had shamefully allowed to lapse after moving house) and for the first time ever subscribed to the failing, fake news New York Times.

Out of interest the signup flow for a LastPass devotee with a reasonable password policy is:

"Please provide a password that is between 5 and 15 characters in length."

Fiddle with settings...

"Passwords can contain only letters, numbers, periods, underscores, and hyphens."

Fiddle with settings...

"We're sorry, but we're having a technical issue right now. If you continue to have problems, please call Customer Care at 855-698-8545."

So my NYT password is a bit retro and easy to guess. Maybe Trump is on to something with this one...

Updated 2017-02-03 00:10:

Today I called my Senators (Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris) to oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Updated 2017-02-03 21:00:

Donated to the ACLU.

Then doubled it via donation matching at work. And tripled it via matchingdonations.us. Satisfying!

(Turns out to not be a tax deduction and not eligible for matching, so only doubled. But no regrets.)

Updated 2017-02-04 21:53:


No Ban No Wall

Updated 2017-02-05 20:41:

Donated to IRC, doubled with work donation matching.

Updated 2017-02-06 23:38:

Donated to Planned Parenthood. Again, doubled via the magic of work matching.

Updated 2017-02-07 21:07:

Called Representatives Matt Gaetz, Thomas Massie, Steven Palazzo and Barry Loudermilk to ask them to withdraw HR 861, a bill that would terminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Updated 2017-02-09 00:42:

Donated the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-09 15:52:

Contacted my Representative (Nancy Pelosi) to oppose HR634, the Electoral Assistance Commission Termination Act. Read more here.

Updated 2017-02-10 13:56:

Today's action is a little self serving, but they might just goad Trump into impeachment: purchased season 42 of Saturday Night Live.

Updated 2017-02-11 19:49:

Resist Trump - Now!

Resist Trump - Now! at Ocean Beach.

Updated 2017-02-12 23:55:

Donated to Let America Vote.

Updated 2017-02-13 21:14:

Donated to FairVote and doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-15 00:24:

Launched democracy.vision, an advocacy site for the National Popular Vote.

Updated 2017-02-15 21:13:

Via the magic of Fancy Hands called all the Republican members of the House Oversight Committee and asked them if they'd care to investigate  the circumstances leading to Michael Flynn having contact with Russia’s Ambassador and the Trump campaign’s alleged contact with Russia last year.

That's Representatives Jason Chaffetz, John Duncan, Darrell Issa, Jim Jordan, Mark Sanford, Justin Amash, Paul Gosar, Scott Desjarlais, Trey Gowdy, Blake Farenthold, Virginia Foxx, Thomas Massie, Mark Meadows, Ron Desantis, Dennis Ross, Mark Walker, Rod Blum, Jody Hice, Steve Russell, Glenn Grothman, William Hurd, Gary Palmer, James Comer and Paul Mitchell.

I was expecting and mostly got either a refusal to comment, or the party line that the Intelligence Committee should be the one to investigate. There were some more promising responses though.

Representative Rod Blum's office said "The Oversight Committee's priority is to investigate Michael Flynn. Since this is a fairly new occurrence in the last 48 hours, no statement has been released with details."

Representative Jody Hice's office said "A hearing will take place on the matter."

Representative Steve Russell's office said "It will be all over the news once it comes out."

This is my people talking to their people so third hand intel at best, but maybe something will happen.

Updated 2017-02-16 23:10:

Just donated to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And of course doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-17 21:08:

Called the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to oppose the appointment of Steve Bannon to the National Security Council.

Updated 2017-02-18 21:07:

Donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is a good one as you can donate in honor of someone and have them mail a card. You might be able to guess where mine went. Also doubled via work matching.

Updated 2017-02-19 18:24:

Donated to the League of Women Voters.

Updated 2017-02-20 20:14:

Just donated to the Sierra Club.

Updated 2017-02-21 23:50:

Donated to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-22 22:59:

Donated to the International Refugee Assistance Project, doubled with work matching.

Updated 2017-02-23 23:45:

Donated to Trans Lifeline (and yes, doubled).

Updated 2017-02-24 21:00:

Called Representatives Bob Goodlatte, Jim Sensenbrenner, Lamar Smith, Steve Chabot, Darrell Issa, Steve King, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Ted Poe, Jason Chaffetz, Tom Marino, Trey Gordy, Raul Labrador, Blake Farenthold, Doug Collins, Ron Desantis, Andy Biggs, Mike Johnson, Ken Buck, John Radcliffe, Martha Roby and Matt Gaetz to ask them to support Jerrold Nadler’s Resolution of Inquiry into President Trump’s potential ties to Russia. Which apparently they're going to try and bury on Tuesday.

That's every Republican serving on the House Judiciary Committee. Thanks again to Fancy Hands.

Updated 2017-02-26 19:30:

This one is for yesterday, because sometimes you just drink too much Tannat and then forget to resist for one night. Subscribed to The Washington Post.

Updated 2017-02-26 19:35:

Donated to Human Rights Campaign.

Updated 2017-02-27 23:58:

Donated to NORML.

Updated 2017-02-28 11:00:

End of February finale - one more push to actually investigate Trump's ties to Russia. Representative Darrell Issa actually came through on this so the list is one name shorter. Called Representatives Bob Goodlatte, Jim Sensenbrenner, Lamar Smith, Steve Chabot, Steve King, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Ted Poe, Jason Chaffetz, Tom Marino, Trey Gordy, Raul Labrador, Blake Farenthold, Doug Collins, Ron Desantis, Andy Biggs, Mike Johnson, Ken Buck, John Radcliffe, Martha Roby and Matt Gaetz to ask them to follow Representative Darrell Issa's lead and appoint a special prosecutor.

I didn't think I'd ever fall for fake news of Facebook

I seriously considered giving up Facebook as a New Year's resolution when it became clear that fake news was one of the many things that cost Hillary the election.

Not because of what other people might believe. The problem is me. I get my news primarily from the BBC and NPR. I cruise through RSS feeds and podcasts. I'm a savvy media consumer with a well honed bullshit filter. And then I fell for this:

I didn't think I'd ever fall for fake news of Facebook

It just continued to show up in my Facebook feed reposted from various friends and it wormed its way in as something totally Trumpian and plausible and, well, truthy. Which it isn't. I felt like I'd got as far as filling in the wire transfer form before stopping to think that the Nigerian Prince probably didn't need my personal help with expatriating his fortune. I didn't share it or quote it thankfully but it's like that study where everyone thinks they are a better than average driver. I'm vulnerable to this shit.

I keep reading articles about being a better Facebook user and always checking that the site hosting a story is reputable and written by people who have a footprint outside the site and reverse-searching any images to see if they've been used out of context etc etc etc. Which is implausible if you have more than one friend and comes across as victim blaming.

The horrible danger is that if you don't fact check every stupid quote on image meme the power of repetition lodges them somewhere in your subconscious where they become that thing that you read somewhere. Which is OK if you only read quality news but deadly if you want to catch up on old friends quickly.

What I really want is the friend part without the democracy ending bullshit part.

I tried Diaspora and App.net but they make Google Plus look lively. Facebook, I would pay you for an ad-free, brand-free experience. Also a ban on text on images.

I've been trying to block all the fake news sites that show up in my feed but for some reason that option isn't always available. Also that's probably an impossible task unless Facebook decides to offer shared block lists. Which is probably against their best interest.

I wrote this post to talk myself out of not using Facebook but I don't think I've managed to convince myself yet...

(Meme image grabbed from CNN).