How to determine if you’re registered to vote in more than one state

Lots of people are registered to vote in more than one state. Almost no one actually votes in more than one state.

As part of the voter fraud investigation President Donald Trump is calling for, he did, however, note that his administration will target people registered in more than one state:

As evidence that a whole bunch of people are registered to vote in more than one state, take, for instance, Gregg Phillips, who is Trump's voter fraud "expert" — the guy who estimated the number of fraudulent votes at three million. He's registered to vote in three states.

Top Trump adviser Steve Bannon is registered to vote in two states. So are Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. So is Trump's daughter Tiffany. And treasury secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin.

Nobody (including me) is suggesting they voted twice. All we're suggesting is that being registered in more than one state is not evidence of voter fraud. In fact, it's a fairly common thing to be registered in more than one state. After all, you don't typically call your old state and ask to be taken off the rolls.

How can you tell if you're registered to vote in more than one state? It's actually kind of time consuming, and you have to remember the last address (or at least the ZIP code) you were registered at in each state you've left.

While there are sites like Vote.org that can do a search of multiple rolls, the database isn't current and only updates when they get people to update it.

What you'll really want to do is visit the Secretary of State's website and find the part of it that deals with finding your registration. Asking Google if you're registered to vote in your state is a good way to get there. For example, search am i registered to vote in georgia?

I went to the sites for Georgia, New York and Massachusetts to determine that I am, in fact, only registered to vote in Georgia, where I currently live.

Happy searching!

How to contact your elected representatives

We as a people have been griping a lot on Twitter and Facebook. While social media can be an informative and instructive tool — as well as a good medium for discussion if you can stay out of echo chambers and petty sniping — these posts largely are not read by anyone who actually makes laws.

We have the ability to contact our elected representatives, and, as with other rights, this is a use-it-or-lose-it responsibility.

Start here, with a former congressional staffer explaining how to be heard.

Next, follow through.

You'll need to know two things: Who your Senators and Representative are, and how to contact them. Reminder: Senators are elected to six-year terms with a third of the Senate up every two years, and are not currently term limited. Members of the House of Representative are elected to two-year terms without term limits, and the entire House is up for election every two years.

Hey, look! Tools!

To find your Senators — every state has two of them, and they both represent everyone in the state — go here and select your state in the dropdown.

You'll get both Senators' names, along with their websites, phone numbers, office addresses and email addresses,

The House is a little trickier. Each state has a varying number of Congressmen based on population, and districts aren't always drawn with intuitive boundaries (that's another discussion for another time).

The best thing you can do is to start here with a ZIP code finder. If you happen to live in a ZIP code that has been divided by district boundaries, you'll have to go deeper.

Just like with the Senate search tool, you'll get your House member's website, email address, office address and phone number.

Again, here are ways to get your elected representatives to listen to you.

How to get your FBI file

So here's a thing I did: Asked for my FBI file.

Certain kinds of government records are available to the public, but you have to ask. The types of records required to be made public are outlined in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Among those are certain types of investigations (the FBI handles law enforcement inside the United States; the CIA, by charter, is not allowed to operate within the US — I'm not so naive to think they might not be, but that's the way the agency was designed).

Some FOIA requests come in so often, the FBI has just gone ahead and posted them. You can just go read what the FBI has on Al Capone or Jackie Robinson or Martin Luther King Jr. or Marilyn Monroe, should you need a rabbit hole to go down for a few hours. Or a week.

You can request a file on yourself or any dead person. You need some law enforcement reason or court order to allow you to request information on another living person (for example, you couldn't ask for my file).

You can do so by letter or online — this page explains how.

They'll do two hours of research for free; you'll tell them when you submit your request the maximum amount you're willing to spend on the request if it takes longer than that.

The electronic request system is available Monday - Friday from 4am through 10pm Eastern.

I sent away electronically for my file on a Wednesday afternoon, and had a letter the following Monday saying the FBI had no information on me they were required to share under the Freedom of Information Act, but they could neither confirm nor deny there could be other records or investigations on me (no kidding).

Aside: I worked at a federally chartered bank from 1997-2000, so I know there's a folder somewhere with my fingerprints. I have no idea if there's anything else in that folder.

For fun, here's the letter they sent me. Emphasis (bold) mine; incorrect usages theirs.

Dear Mr. Shear,
 
This is in response to your Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOIPA) request.
 
Based on the information you provided, we conducted a search of the Central Records System. We were unable to identify main file records responsive to the FOIA. If you have additional information pertaining to the subject that you belivee was of investigative interest to the Bureau, please provide us the details and we will conduct an additional search.
 
By standard FBI proactice and pursuant to FOIA exemption (b)(7)(E) and Privacy Act exemption (j)(2) [5 U.S.C. §§ 552/552a (b)(7)(E), (j)(2)], this response neither confirms nor denies the existence of your subject's name on any watch lists.
 
For your information, Congress excluded three discrete categories of law enforcement and national security records from the requirements of the FOIA. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(c) (2006 & Supp. IV (2010). This response is limited to those records that are subject to the requirements of the FOIA. This is a standard notification that is given to all our requesters and should not be taken as an indication that excluded records do, or do not, exist.
 
For questions regarding our determinations, visit the www.fbi.gov/foia website under "Contact Us." The FOIPA Request Number listed above has been assigned to your request. Please use this number in all correspondence concerning your request. Your patience is appreciated.
 
You may file an appeal by writing to the Director, Office of Information Policy (OIP), United States Department of Justice, Suite 11050, 1425 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20530-0001, or you may submit an appeal through OIP's FOIAonline portal by creating an account on the following web site: https://foiaonline.regulations.gov/foia/action/public/home. Your appeal must be postmarked or electronically transmitted within ninety (90) days from the date of this letter in order to be considered timely. If you submit your appeal by mail, both the letter and the envelope should be clealy marked "Freedom of Information Act Appeal." Please cite the FOIPA Request Number assigned to your request so that it may be easily identified.
 
You may seek dispute resolution services by contacting the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at 877-684-6448 or by emailing ogis@nara.gov. Alternatively, you may contact the FBI's FOIA Public Liaison by emailing foipaquestions@ic.fbi.gov. If you submit your dispute resolution correspondence by email, the subject heading should clearly state "Dispute Resolution Services." Please also cite the FOIPA Request Number assigned to your request so that it may be easily identified.
 
Enclosed for your information is a copy of the FBI Fact Sheet and Explanation of Exemptions.
 
Sincerely,
[Signed]
David M. Hardy
Section Chief,
Record/Information
 Dissemination Section
Records Management Division

Enclosure

Enclosed: FBI Fact Sheet, Explanation of Exemptions.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 42: Now we know

We talk about abundance, and of course Trump's first days. Mostly about Trump's first days.

Links
Get optimized at Onnit
Mushroom coffee by Four Sigmatic
Donald Trump's gag order on EPA employees
That gag order is illegal
Trump and Sean Spicer lied to the media on crowd size, so what else?
Kellyanne Conway: Not lies, "alternative facts"

Scientists considering running for office
My post on the president not having some Americans' backs
Trump wants to build that wall | How much will it cost?
4 cases of voter fraud in 2016
Chicago crime statistics
Seth Horan | Patreon
Me & Paranormal You | Patreon

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What I’m scared of with this administration: Telling the truth, and having Americans’ backs

One of the things that a lot of people have been talking about with this incoming administration is fear. I've been trying to put into words what those fears are, and, well, we're going to go ahead and work this one out. Basically, it comes down to this:

I'm an American, and I don't feel the president has my back.

Also:

My wife is an American, and I don't feel the president has her back.
My parents are American, and I don't feel the president has their backs.
My nieces are tiny Americans, and I don't feel the president has their backs.
As an American, I am lucky to be able to be an example for the world. I don't feel the president cares that the rest of the world needs us.

I want to start with the media, and before you roll your eyes, let's do some civics. This won't take long, I promise. Maybe. I guess we'll see how much I ramble.

The Founding Fathers wrote freedom of the press into the first amendment to the Constitution for the United States because they knew that having a news media operating independently of governmental influence is important to a free republic.

The Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle popularized the moniker "fourth estate," referring to the three estates of the UK Parliament, checked by the fourth estate, the media.

It translates well to the U.S.

I know you learned this in middle school, but let's have a little reminder. We have three branches of government with a check-and-balances system. The Executive branch has veto power over the Legislative branch and appointment power over the Judicial branch. The Legislative branch has advise-and-consent power over both branches, along with the power to override a presidential veto. The Judicial branch has the ability to strike down laws written by the Legislative branch and enacted by the Executive.

What happens, then, when there's collusion?

You are aware of what the government does because of media. If the three branches of government are our three estates, then the media are our fourth, and it's their job to tell us what they see — not what they're told to tell us.

There are absolutely fake news sites out there. So when Donald Trump, then president-elect, called CNN "fake news" and refused to take a question from the network's reporter, it was a sign that the war Trump had waged on mainstream media during his campaign was going to continue into his presidency.

CNN, some of you might be old enough to remember, brought us the first Iraq war in real-time. It doesn't get a lot less fake than that. Has CNN developed something of a bias over the years? Maybe, but even if so, that's not super-important (we can argue about it here, or you can go read my post on objectivity vs. transparency in media).

Flash forward to Trump's inauguration. It was well-attended. In fact, it was probably the third- or fourth-best-attended inauguration in the past 35 years, and certainly the most well-attended inauguration for a Republican in that time.

It was not the best-attended ever, as the president's spokesman, Sean Spicer, asserted Saturday during his first press conference — right before not taking any questions from the media at all.

You read that correctly. The press secretary lied to the press, then didn't take questions from the press.

How do I know Spicer lied? I have eyes. Here, take a look at these photos (I'll explain what you're looking at underneath it).

There's a camera on top of the Washington Monument. It provides a live feed. These are screengrabs from that feed. The top is from Barack Obama's first inauguration; the second is from Donald Trump's. Both are taken at the time the incoming presidents are taking their respective oaths of office.

Can you objectively look at that bottom photo and tell me there are more people in it than in the top photo? Even if you have no idea how many people are in either, there are clearly more in the top photo. However many people there are in that top photo, there are certainly more people in it than however many people there are in the bottom photo.

There's not a partisan issue here. The media are responsible for telling citizens the truth when their government lies. That's the issue.

Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway went on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning and told Chuck Todd Spicer didn't lie to the media, he merely had "alternative facts." Here's the clip.

Here are some alternative facts: I'm a seven-foot-two Mexican midget.

Conservatives like to make fun of special snowflakes getting butthurt? We officially have the most special and unique snowflake ever in the White House, and he hasn't even been there a week.

It appears that the president and his administration are at war with the media. Remember that this isn't the media's fault. Media aren't combative by nature, they're skeptical. Without a skeptical media, you get whatever the president wants you to hear. Like in North Korea, or Russia.

And before you ask me why media gave Obama a pass? It's because you weren't paying attention. Even an outlet like The Washington Post — which is certainly reporting on Trump from a contrarian position — rated Obama's administration one of the most secretive ever.

Again, media should be skeptical. That's how they protect us. It's their check against all three branches of the government. Really, it's our check against the government.

OK, so I lied. I rambled a lot.

Let's talk about what's really bothering me about this administration. And by bothering, I really mean scared. Honestly frightened. Like, it might be time to start selling stuff and become a prepper frightened.

Like I said at the top, I don't feel like the president has my back as an American.

It's the government's job, above all else, to keep its citizens safe. Not safe-space safe. Safe. Like I don't have to worry about going to the gym and having a racist blow me up safe.

If the president does nothing else well, he certainly talks — and tweets — a good game. He said nothing last week when several dozen synagogues and Jewish Community Centers across the country had bomb threats called in.

Or when the institution that trains a fair percentage of the rabbis in the U.S. was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti. Or when it happened at an Upstate New York college. Or in South Philly.

The thing these incidents all have in common is that they've happened since the election. Some were accompanied by "Make America Great Again" accompanying it. The vandalism is by people who feel empowered by Trump's election to bully others.

All Trump had to do was say, "This kind of thing won't be tolerated."

It's too late now, I think. I don't think I'd believe him at this late date.

I've been saying since the election I want to be wrong on Trump. If he succeeds, America succeeds, and if America succeeds, I succeed. Unless he succeeds in making us something else.

If you've been listening to the podcast the past couple of weeks, you know I've been worried to the point of paranoia. I didn't really have words for what I was actually scared of until now.

If the president doesn't have my back as an American Jew, he definitely doesn't have my back as an American who works in news media.

With no details of the president's health plan rolled out, I'm concerned for my parents, who are getting up there in age. If Medicare goes away, if Social Security goes away, will they have insurance as they head toward retirement? Will they be able to afford it?

I'm also worried about health care for my wife, of course — if we go back to a private, largely unregulated insurance market, should she get pregnant, will that be seen as a pre-existing condition? Will she be able to be covered at all?

This is not to mention all the allegations of sexual assault and that tape that got Billy Bush fired. They may or may not be important politically, but knowing what you know, would you let Trump date your daughter?

And my nieces. Again, Trump's problems with women. But also, did you watch those Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings? She's more concerned about grizzly bears coming into schools than mentally ill adults with weapons. She's long been a proponent of for-profit charter schools that have no requirement to meet any educational standards.

She's a candidate for education secretary who can't be bothered to proofread her own tweets. I'm no angel when it comes to social media and grammar, but this, more than any other time in her life, is a time to be a good example for students.

As my nieces' parents have to decide where to send the girls to school, will there be viable public schools? If not, will charter schools that get federal money actually teach them facts, and the tools they need to survive as adults?

And finally, the US has never been out front on human rights. We've declined to sign the United Nations' Universal Decleration of Human Rights. I get that. But after Trump spent a part of his campaign slamming the UN, a few Republican congressmen on Jan. 3 introduced a bill to have America leave the UN, removing us, essentially, as a world citizen.

I suppose this shouldn't surprise me. During his campaign — and now on the White House website — he prefers the phrase "America First." While this sounds merely isolationist on its face, it harkens back to a racist, anti-Semitic group called the America First Committee, which wanted to keep America out of World War II — not because they wanted to keep citizens safe, but because they wanted Europe to worry about Europe.

They clearly hadn't thought about what that meant for trade or innovation.

That group disbanded shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 41: Stay vigilant

Happy birthday, Dad.

Here comes the inauguration. Hold on tight, here we gooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Links
• Want a free audiobook? Go sign up for a free trial at AudibleTrial.com/JKWD
JKWD Podcast
Betsy DeVos hearings
V for Vendetta
Episode 40 of this podcast
RealClearPolitics
Josh on political correctness

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Political correctness, civility and real-world problems: Communicating better

I've been thinking, again, about political correctness, civility, and how far we need to go to be nice to each other. Forgive me as I ramble here, and work some of it out.

Kelvin and I did a podcast on rules for good communication. One of the rules is that the communicator should come in without malice, and that the listener should come in assuming the communicator is coming in without malice.

That is, if I say something subtly offensive, I probably didn't mean to offend you. If it's bothering you, speak up. On the other hand, I definitely shouldn't come in overtly offensive.

This is more-and-more front of mind as I see the way our outgoing president and our president-elect interact with people in public. During Barack Obama's farewell address, people started booing when he mentioned handing over the reins to Donald Trump. His response to people criticizing a political rival? "No, no, no, no, no."

Trump's response to someone like Meryl Streep criticizing him? "She's overrated." The number and variety of awards she's won is actually an objective measure of the fact that she's not.

She just disagreed with him. It's OK to do. Seriously.

One of the things I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in a post about things to think about is dominant culture still being a culture.

Then I read something about university students in the UK demanding philosophers like Plato and Kant be removed from syllabi because they are white. While it's totally beside the point that Plato was probably not white, coming from the Mediterranean some 3000 years ago, the fact that great thinkers were members of the dominant culture doesn't diminish their work.

I haven't heard any calls for the art works of da Vinci or van Gogh to come out of museums. Or for John Grisham and JK Rowling to be excluded from bestseller lists.

At its heart, I think a lot of eye-rolling at "political correctness" these days is lazy people refusing to be civil to other humans. But it's another thing altogether to decide how much work to do to do what someone else might consider polite.

For instance, New York City has a long list of acceptable gender pronouns. It's upwards of 70, I hear. And if you're an employer or a landlord and use the wrong one, the Post writes, you could be fined a quarter-million dollars.

Turns out that's not entirely true. You can be fined if you're an asshole about it. For instance, if a transgender individual asks you to call her "Miss" and you insist on calling her "Mister" after repeated requests, that's when you're liable for a fine.

It was while I was sitting there thinking about political correctness and wondering how we got here that I opened Twitter, and, ta-da!

The short take on where political correctness comes from is that it harks back to Communism. Facts didn't matter, but you had to say what the State wanted to hear. Here's the longer take.

This is sounding eerily familiar, and it's actually different from the thing being called political correctness.

Then again, maybe it's not. University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson warns that we're teaching college students lies (more Peterson on Joe Rogan's podcast). Indeed, some colleges are having to cater to students with "unique and special snowflake" complexes. [Update: Peterson is on Duncan Trussell talking about this, also.]

We need to start growing up and tackling actual issues. Here's a game plan for moving forward:

(1) Go a little out of your way to be civil to people. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, after all.
(2) If you're offended by something, particularly speech, ask yourself if your expectations are reasonable. And by reasonable, I mean, put yourself in someone else's shoes — if doing so requires an entire overhaul of your worldview, you're not being reasonable.
(3) Understand both language and context. You might reasonably describe your teenage kid as behaving uppity, but understand that word means something entirely different to black Americans who lived through the 1960s and 1970s.
(4) Shut up and work on real problems. If using whatever words you want or stopping people from using the words they want are high on your agenda, maybe go volunteer down at the soup kitchen or something for a day. There are actual problems in this world.

Here are some more writings on political correctness and group relations:

Thoughts on the Confederate flag, plus Trump and Amy Schumer on Mexicans
Holidays and political correctness: There is no war on Christmas
Implementing movements and Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter
Why context matters
Stopping the mediocritization of america

Here, let's wrap with a little bit of thematic comedy:

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 40: Black helicopters

Shhh...the helicopters are coming. Also, a little catch-up.

Links
• Want a free audiobook? Go sign up for a free trial at AudibleTrial.com/JKWD — maybe go read about Eric Hoffer or something.
Ben's Neighborhood Grill & Tap
Georgia Download Destination
Live Oak Public Libraries
Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers | David & Goliath | What the Dog Saw
Get toilet paper!
What's up at the Detroit auto show

Thanks to Chester Barrett and Mike Koenig for the helicopter sounds.

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What gratitude actually looks like

Every time you hear about someone's peaceful journey to success, you're going to hear about gratitude.

You'll hear about waking up every day and being grateful for what you have. About a gratitude practice.

I'm not here to poo-poo that. I think it's important. I write about it once in a while.

You didn't get to where you are by yourself. The good things in your life, the bad things in your life, they all led you to today, and you had help the whole way.

If you're reading this, you're on the right side of the pavement. On top of the grass. Not among the dead. There's a thing to be grateful for. Also, you have Internet access, or a friend good enough to print this out for you. And you can read (or you have a screen reader, which means you can hear).

You're doing OK for yourself. That's all I'm saying. You may have some unhappy stuff going on in your life but hey, it's all a matter of perspective.

For as much as you say thank you to the universe, how often do you say thank you in real life? I've been fortunate enough to say thank you plenty, and to have people say thank you, even unexpectedly.

Here's a public thank you fest that happened recently; I'm going to assume it's among strangers, though I suppose I don't have any reason to believe Kotler and Sukel don't know each other:

So say thank you to people for the things you're thankful for. It's definitely a thing worth doing. And clearly people appreciate it. You can't beat that for value for your dollar (or effort).

Listen to "Episode 24: Let's Talk Gratitude" on Spreaker.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 39: Ethics, facts, nuance and where we need to get

Hoo, son, we get rambling about ethics, nuance, context, gun laws and empathy. Just listen!

Links
Connect: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram
#NotJustWords
Nuance and 9 other terms to define us
Thinking opposite with Alison Donaghey
Context matters
Office of Congressional Ethics
House GOP drops ethics changes

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