It’s time we stopped thinking about democracy as a chamber music concert. Democracy is meant to be a drum circle.

Like a drum circle, democracy is supposed to be participatory and open to all. Everyone brings their own unique rhythms. Drumming together, we find a beat. Each of us adds our own flourishes. Both democracy and drum circles work best if you bring a few friends.

Democracy isn’t supposed to be a place you save up your pennies to buy a ticket once or twice a year, sit quietly in the audience while experts do all the work, then applaud…


The third and final presidential debate of 2016 ended up being very much about words. Nasty. Hombre. Bigly. As with so much of the media coverage in this campaign, the focus has been on Donald Trump, which is both a mistake and a disservice to the voters. Hillary Clinton uses words too. In fact, she uses quite a few more of them.

As I did after the second debate, I ran a copy of the third debate transcript through word count software and did some analysis. Based on a few questions I got last time around (thank you, readers!), I…


It was the word “disaster” that caught my attention in the second presidential debate on Sunday night, the way Donald Trump seemed to relish using it. It wasn’t just that Hillary Clinton presented a very different America, it was the fact that she actually used the word “America” and talked to “Americans.” At the end of the debate I wanted to know more about the words they were using and how they compared. I’m a writer, after all, and I know that words matter.

So I got the transcript of the debate and did a little analysis. It started with…


People are helpful and kind, but you might never know that on the internet

As 2015 drew to a close I felt overwhelmed by all the angry anti-refugee rhetoric I was hearing. I couldn’t get online for a minute without reading about yet another politician (actual or would-be) on some rant against refugees. The way they talk, you’d America was an impoverished, overpopulated island without room for anyone else. It was as suffocating as it was heartbreaking.

Their rhetoric stood in stark contrast to the face-to-face conversations I was having with people about the refugee crisis. From actual humans, I…


A vicious cycle for individuals; a policy challenge for states

It’s fairly well known that the prison rate in the U.S. is the highest in the world, well ahead of countries like China, Russia, Mexico and Nigeria. Within the U.S., it’s also true that prison rates vary across jurisdictions. I recently ran across a table where Southern states stood out dramatically for their higher prison rates.

Another unfortunate fact of American jurisprudence is that a very large number of people in prison are poor, often lacking basic education and employment skills even before they enter. …


  1. Is there a retweet for every tweet?
  2. What if you believe what happened next?
  3. There is truth in photoshop.
  4. Is Facebook inside or outside of your mind?
  5. How much does an algorithm weigh?
  6. Do dogs on the internet know they are dogs?
  7. The value of the valuation may be greater than the valuation.
  8. Do you like what you like?
  9. Where does the startup end?
  10. You will find the peace you seek at the place where the internet ends.
  11. Which came first, the zero or the one?
  12. Before Facebook, how did we know who our friends were?
  13. Since Facebook, do we…

It’s that time of the election cycle when a person’s thoughts naturally turn to ideology. On my bike ride home the other day, the jacarandas were in bloom and my reflections on ideology lined themselves up in a list:

  1. The allure of ideology is undeniable. It offers paint-by-numbers solutions to situations where the lines themselves aren’t clearly drawn.
  2. No ideology should be treated as more imperative than its impact on living things.
  3. If you have to keep making exceptions to your ideology for yourself and your loved ones, then your ideology is broken (see #2).
  4. The way religion is practiced sometimes seems like ideology. I don’t believe it was intended that way.
  5. When is an algorithm an ideology?
  6. Think for yourself. Don’t outsource your mind to ideology.
  7. Bicycle is the opposite of ideology.
Opposite of ideology

I love a good protest.

Back during the “Battle in Seattle” I was part of a group of people who organized a human chain at the opening reception of the WTO meeting. Our demand to the WTO and the governments represented there: cancel the sovereign debts of impoverished countries of the global South so they could use that money to help their own people.

We applied for a received an official permit from the Seattle police for our event. The reception was taking place in a small building adjacent to the Kingdome sports stadium. The cops and the WTO welcoming…


short fiction by Bronwyn Mauldin

“No way in hell I’ll do that dray for seventy-five!” I shouted down the radio. “That’s a one hundred dollar trip.”

“Offer’s seventy-five,” Kurt the dispatcher yelled back.

“Rate’s one hundred dollars since July.”

“Take it or leave it.” Kurt don’t care. He’s on salary.

“It’s sixty miles, railhead to Auburn and back,” I said. “You know how much fuel that is?”

Kurt snorted. “I’ll get you some good runs tomorrow, Bud.”

“Bullshit.” Tomorrow he’ll sing a different tune. Sorry, Bud, all we got is landbridge.

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll call Tesfaye. …

Bronwyn Mauldin

Author of Love Songs of the Revolution. Cultural worker by day, cultural creator by night.

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