Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘Clinton’

The Laboratory of Democracy — Alternative Voting Methods

In Candidate Endorsement, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Democracy, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Local Politics, Politics, Presidential Candidates, US Government on May 1, 2009 at 9:22 am

“It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Dissenting Opinion: New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann (1932)

The above quote from Justice Brandeis’ famous dissent is the origin of the idea of ‘the laboratory of democracy’. This is an idea with much merit but which we have, unfortunately, not seen utilized within The United States to any kind of a significant degree. Whether through fear of losing power, fear of interference from the federal government, lack of imagination, lack of interest or fear of the unknown, ‘experiments’ with democracy in this country take the shape of trying to impose different sets of laws and rules upon the citizens rather than on the process by which those laws and rules are determined. The idea in this nation is that differences in democracy are measured solely by the end result of the legislative process rather than the process itself.

A large problem with mankind, in general, and Americans, in particular, is our hubris. We think that, because we are as far along as mankind has ever been, we are the end of the road and have to have everything right. What we should keep in mind is that we are just another middle age. As we express shock, disgust, and amusement at the attitudes, beliefs and lack of knowledge of the world of a thousand years ago, so will mankind view us a thousand years hence. We will not fail the future if we don’t have everything right; we will fail them if we don’t try new things to give those who come after us additional data which they can use to get closer to being right than we ever can.

I try to occasionally write articles under the Laboratory of Democracy umbrella to look at different ideas which might be worth experimenting with (if not at a federal level then perhaps at a state or local level) to see how our idea of constitutional government can be improved based on lessons learned from our own 225 years of history conducting the American Experiment. Today’s topic is about how we can change how we conduct voting to better represent the views, needs and desires of ‘we the people.’

The reasons to change the way we vote are numerous. A fundamental reason to change it is that Americans tend to vote AGAINST candidates rather than FOR them. We have shaped the idea of democracy into an expression of our personal fears. We seem to feel stronger about candidate’s who we DON’T want in an office than we do about those we support. Usually this is perfectly understandable, as the candidates we have to choose from are often not that good, so it is often easier to identify candidates who are LEAST in line with what we want than it is to identity ones whom we can wholeheartedly support.

One obvious problem with this method is that when people are primarily voting AGAINST a candidate, they are afraid to ‘waste’ their vote by casting it for someone who they might approve of but who has no actual chance of winning. This fear of ‘wasting my vote’ was intensified after the 1992 Presidential election saw a significant number of votes cast for Ross Perot (who supporters of losing candidate George H. W. Bush blamed for costing him his bid for re-election) and after Al Gore’s narrow loss (or win, whichever you consider it to have been) to George W. Bush in 2000, which was partially blamed on those in Florida who had voted for Ralph Nader. Aside from the fact that no candidate is ever OWED any citizen’s vote (a candidate bears the burden of needing to EARN someone’s vote), those who support a candidate (or, more accurately, who OPPOSE a particular candidate) are afraid to ‘waste’ their vote by casting it for third party candidates who have no chance of winning.

Bill Clinton’s first nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Lani Guinier, supported a change in how we cast votes for political candidates in this country. Termed ‘Cumulative Voting’, the method which she supported was that each voter would get one vote for each candidate for a particular office and that they could spread those votes among the candidates and give any candidates as many of their available votes as they wanted. For example, if there were four candidates running for President, then each voter would get four votes to cast for President, any one of those candidates getting any or all of those votes, and multiple candidates being able to be given votes by each voter. While she was on the right road, I believe, she was headed in the wrong direction.

Academic studies and theories on Alternative Voting Methods go back at least several hundred years. In 1770, Jean-Charles de Borda proposed the Borda Count as a method for selecting members of the French Academy of Science. The last 30 years has seen an increase in such studies and research, in large part through the various researches which have been done in Game Theory. There are also MANY historical examples of the effectiveness of quite a few different methods of conducting and totaling votes. The Republic of Venice, for example, thrived for over 1,000 and developed a VERY complex but very effective form of Approval Voting for selecting the Doge which survived almost unchanged for over 500 years, until the Republic was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797. Many articles with additional information about Alternative Voting Methods, including Approval Voting, are available on-line. Some of these include:

http://bcn.boulder.co.us/government/approvalvote/altvote.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_system

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-winner_voting_system

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_systems#Multiple-winner_methods

As with most of the alternative voting systems I have heard of (equal & even; weighted ballots; fractional ballots; instant run-off; etc.) none of them truly address the idea that most people, at least in America, seem to cast their votes, at least for higher offices, against candidates rather than for them. This means that they see ANY method of spreading their voting strength around as weakening their opposition to a candidate they oppose. For example, under cumulative voting, say you have four votes you can use to vote for a particular office and you do NOT want Candidate A to win. You know that everyone else who is voting for that office will also have four votes to allocate and you fear that those who support Candidate A (or who oppose Candidate B) will each cast ALL of their four votes for Candidate A. Will you then be willing to risk the election of Candidate B by only giving him three of your votes while you ‘waste’ your fourth vote on Candidate D?

So, when we explore the idea of alternative voting methods, we MUST consider realistic human nature (and human fears) when we think about the problem. To do otherwise, to pretend that man will make his choices based on the greater good rather than base self-interest, or that he will willingly and comfortably accept the idea of his candidate losing because it is ‘the will of the majority’ and put aside his personal animosities after an election is unrealistic, at best. Therefore, the question is, how can we change voting into a positive process where people vote FOR candidates because there is NO NEED to vote AGAINST any candidates.

One possible solution is simply to allow a voter to vote equally for EVERY candidate that they think would be worthwhile to support. This method of voting is termed ‘Approval Voting’. To use the Approval Voting method, as an example, say that there are five candidates (A, B, C, D, and E). You personally support candidate C; candidate A is a major party candidate who you do NOT want to see in office; candidate B is a major party candidate who you have no real objections to and see as a better alternative to candidate A; candidate D is an independent candidate who you think could be interesting but who has no realistic chance to win; and candidate E is the local homeless wino transvestite who somehow manages to get on the ballot for EVERY election.

Under this scenario, you can not only cast your vote for candidate B (to help oppose the candidate you don’t want to win) you can ALSO cast an equal vote for candidates C (your preferred candidate) and for candidate D (the one you think is interesting and have no objections to). In such a case, you have accomplished all of your positive voting goals, you have shown your opposition to the candidates you do NOT want to see in office (A and E) by not voting for them, you supported your preferred candidate (C) and you gave support to the other candidates that you had no objections to. In this scenario, none of the votes you cast weakened your personal voting power in any way while, at the same time, made it more likely that candidates other than those from the major parties could win because EVERYONE else who liked candidates C and D could also vote for them but, maybe instead of voting also for candidate B, they voted for candidate A. In a very real way, the candidate who had the most REAL support, who was APPROVED by the most voters, would win the election because all votes cast for any and all candidates would count equally to their totals. In this system you can vote for any one of the candidates, any possible combinations of the candidates, or all of the candidates for that office… you can vote FOR candidates rather than AGAINST them.

Now, are there potential problems with a system such as this? Of course there are. A primary one, obviously, is how to prevent ballots being stuffed because the total votes cast for an office can (and would) be greater than the voting population as a whole and not by a predictable percentage (as if every voter HAD to vote for three candidates, no more or less, which would result in a vote total that was three times the number of voters). Another obvious one is to ask if the winning candidate would have to get a majority of ALL votes cast, or just a higher total number of votes than any other candidate. The first of these two possibilities could lead to either a need for a run-off election or a ‘None of the Above’ result. THAT, however, is where the Laboratory of Democracy comes into play. Let’s encourage some cities and/or counties to experiment with it (or, in fact, with ANY of the other alternative voting methods) before any states try it, and then let some states experiment with it. The is the beauty of the Laboratory of Democracy idea, not every location has to use the same processes and, by allowing and encouraging them to experiment with different process, we can gather data about which process variations work well, work partially but need more tinkering with, and don’t work at all.

Too many people in this nation think that trying different ideas of government means having different laws (like using the Ten Commandments as the basis of their laws, for example). They miss the point that democracy is not the RESULTS of the democratic process but the PROCESS itself.

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our constitutional government and how we can improve it by building upon what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all Honor”

© copyright 2008 by Rhys M. Blavier

Clinton makes a token critique of Israel

In Human Rights Abuses, Middle East on March 4, 2009 at 1:16 pm

The article that I’m referring to can be found here. In the AP article Clinton is quoted as making the comment that Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes is ‘unhelpful’. Though, I admit that it’s good that she acknowledged this travesty, I wish that she would have also reminded people that the construction of any settlements on Palestinian land is illegal under international law. Not to mention the fact that the theft and demolition of Palestinian property contributes to the radicalization of Palestinians.

When I talk to people on this topic they are quick to bring up this illusion that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been going on for millennia. I fundamentally disagree with this logic because if this were true; How would there have been a definite beginning or end to the first and second intifada? If they never stopped fighting then the entire Palestinian history should be one long uprising against the Israelis. We must also remember that the biblical Israel and the modern day Israel (state) are two different things. The biblical Israel referred to a people. Today’s Israel refers to the state not the people contained in it. Also there is the fact that Palestinians and Israelis have lived in peace in modern history. So they can live in peace but the repressive and brutal practices of the Israeli regime constantly undermines any peace process that’s underway.

In the AP article it is also mentioned that the ‘Palestinian Authority’ is the only legitimate government of the Palestinians. This also leads to another conflict because the only entity who can determine the voice of the collective Palestinian people is the people themselves. They voted Hamas into office. It’s nobodies place to say that any elected government is not fit to represent it’s people except for the people living under it.  Imagine another government stepping into the American political process and saying that republicans or democrats are not legitimate and that they will only recognize one group. It sounds crazy right? So how can we expect for this model to work for another country?

In conclusion, I would just like to reiterate the fact that the entire Palestinian-Israeli conflict is undermind by Israel’s policies and America’s blind backing of Israel. It’s only when all parties are taken out of their comfort-zone that meaningful changes can be made. I’m sure that the Palestinians have not been comfortable for a long time. It’s time for the Israelis to feel some fire under their heels to make a meaningful change. This means that blind American support should be stopped and maybe Israel might have a bit of motivation to stop displacing and killing their neighbors.

Peace….

“The Little Party That Could”

In Civil Liberties, Democrats, George Bush, Green Party, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Media, People in the news, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Republican on April 20, 2008 at 5:47 pm

From TownHall.com:

I like alluding to the classics. When I’m not referencing the great poets and novelists, I try to sneak in books I’m certain actually to have read. Like “The Little Engine That Could.”

Great story. Inspiring. A lesson for all time. Can a day go by when one does not think of that engine chugging “I think I can I think I can I think I can”?



U.S. Presidential Democratic Party candidate Mike Gravel smiles during remarks to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute public policy conference in Washington October 3, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES)

I especially think of that story when the subject of the Libertarian Party comes up.

No political organization in America persists against all odds and all principalities and powers to . . . survive.

The party never quite gets up that hill, chugging as it does (note: allude to Sisyphus’s rock), but it never gives up.

You might think that a political party is there to elect people to office. And the Libertarian Party has elected a few people here and there. But, well, though in general LPers are not exactly the most “spiritual” of folk — they are not as apt as an incense salesman is to spout homilies like “it’s the journey that counts” — they do keep running candidates that, for the most part, get no more than 3 percent, 5 percent, or (occasionally) 10 percent of the vote.

The Democrats and Republicans, on the other hand, elect candidates every election day. Since the LP was formed in 1972, Republicans re-elected their glorious contender (Nixon) and elected three more: Reagan, Bush the Elder, and Bush the Younger. After LP candidate Prof. John Hospers (heavy-duty philosopher) and Mrs. Tonie Nathan (professional media person) received one renegade Electoral College vote for their first-time-out effort, the Democrats have elected two presidents: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The Libertarians, however, have never even garnered a million votes for one of their candidates.

I mention all this merely to say that I prefer to think of the persistence of the Libertarian Party as charming, not pathetic. Everything is stacked against them. The two parties in charge have made sure that it is very hard for “minor parties” to challenge them. Just getting on the ballot is no picnic. The Libertarians have spent millions and millions of dollars and massive quantities of man-hours maintaining ballot status in the forty-odd states they have maintained it, over the years.

And now that persistence has paid off. In a way. The party has become a magnet — a magnet for disgruntled major-party players.

You can read this article in its entirety here.

Democrats Gone Wild: Stabbing words edition

In Barack Obama, Crazy Claims, Crime, Democrats, Health, Humor, Law, Law Enforcement, People in the news, Politics, Shine on you crazy diamond on March 8, 2008 at 10:59 pm

According to The Smoking Gun, Jose Antonio Ortiz stabbed his brother-in-law, Sean Shurelds (who was flown to a hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition) due to a disagreement about Hillary Clinton vs Barack Obama.Yes, you read that right.

Apparently Shurelds supports Obama, and Ortiz supports Clinton. While the two were in the kitchen of someone’s home (it is unclear whose home) Shurelds told Ortiz that Obama was “trashing” Clinton, and Ortiz responded that “Obama was not a realist.”

While for most people that would be pretty much the end of the conversation, not so with these two, for whom those were not just fighting words, they were stabbing words. Ortiz and Shurelds argued, began to choke and punch each other, and eventually Ortiz grabbed a knife and stabbed Shurelds in the abdomen.

Ortiz then went back to doing the dishes, including, of course, the knife he had used to stab his brother-in-law.

Not at all surprisingly, Ortiz has a case of selective memory (not unlike the typical politician), and conveniently denies any memory of the stabbing incident. He has been charged with felony aggravated assault, as well as two misdemeanor counts. Bail has been set at $20,000.

I’m sure Clinton and Obama are proud to have supporters who are willing to go that far for their chosen candidate. Or not.

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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

Angry voters recall Mayor for fitness photos

In Censorship, Congress, Crazy Claims, Entertainment, First Amendment, Humor, Local Politics, People in the news, Politics, Shine on you crazy diamond on March 8, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Carmen Kontur-GronquistVoters in Arlington, Oregon, are very, very angry. That’s not unusual, since there are very angry voters everywhere these days.What is unusual is the reason why they are angry.

Apparently their Mayor, Carmen Kontur-Gronquist, had some photos taken to send in for a fitness magazine, and in them she was dressed in her bra and panties. This all happened before she became Mayor, incidentally. A relative posted the photos on MySpace, hoping to find the single mother a date.

I didn’t see a thing in the world wrong with the photos; the most controversial of them is posted at top left. Basically, she’s showing off her rock-hard abs, and if I had abs like hers, I’d be showing mine off too. So what. Those photos are no different from any other photos for a woman’s fitness magazine, because I used to read some of those periodicals myself, back when I was into bodybuilding and fitness. In fact, her photos actually showed a lot less than they usually show in those magazines. Those types of photos are not at all sexual in nature, though, because they are intended only for other women to see, as inspiration in their fitness routines.

The people of Arlington, however, are absolutely outraged over those photos, and they actually threw her out of office for it.

When I first heard this story back when it first broke I thought, no way would a town actually recall their Mayor for posing for a fitness magazine. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger made his living as a bodybuilder, and even posed fully nude multiple times, and he’s the Governor of California.

I was wrong, because they did recall her. The vote was 142-139 in favor of throwing her out of office.

If we are still so backward in this country that we’d throw a woman out of elected office merely for posing for a fitness magazine, covering more than the average bathing suit covers, are we really ready for a female president? Or would Congress impeach her the first time they see a picture of her in a bathing suit?

What do you think? Is it just that one town, or is most of American that narrow-minded? Given this, are we ready for a female president?

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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

Project Vote Smart

In Barack Obama, Christine Smith, Congress, Democrats, George Phillies, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Politics, Republican on February 14, 2008 at 8:02 am

Project Vote SmartI just ran across a website called “Project Vote Smart“. This site gathers information from various candidates for office, so you can view it all in one place, and even very easily compare the candidates if you open them up in side-by-side tabs on your browser.

It is very interesting to see the “political courage test”, which pins the candidates down on the issues. Unfortunately, it appears that most mainstream candidates (including all of the presidential frontrunners from both major parties, and including Ron Paul) have refused to complete the quiz portion. However, Barack Obama did complete the questionnaire when he was running for the Senate, which gives a good insight into how he views the issues; while Hillary Clinton and Ron Paul both refused to complete it even when they were running for Congress. There is no older questionnaire information for any of the other frontrunners.

I think it’s obvious why candidates wouldn’t want to complete it, since it can later easily be used against them. Accordingly, I think any candidate which refuses to answer those questions should be viewed with suspicion.

Some third party presidential candidates did complete the “courage test” though, including libertarians. I was quite surprised to see that I disagree with some libertarian candidates on a few issues I thought we’d agree upon. For example, I was extremely surprised to see that neither Phillies nor Kubby have chosen to eliminate inheritance taxes (Phillies wants to slightly decrease them, while Kubby wants to greatly decrease them). Yet why should the government get any of it, since it’s a gift from one person to another? Christine Smith is the only libertarian candidate to propose eliminating that tax.

On the other hand, Kubby wants to greatly decrease gasoline taxes and certain “sin” taxes (alcohol, cigarettes, etc) while Phillies and Smith want to eliminate those taxes altogether. On those tax issues, I agree with Phillies. I would agree with Smith, but she wants to eliminate ALL federal taxes (including income taxes); and while that’s an idea I’d love to get behind, I don’t think it is realistic, at least not at this time.

I will have to study the candidates’ responses a lot more closely, and I strongly suggest others do the same. While it won’t help much with regard to mainstream candidates who have refused to answer the questionnaire (and personally, I hold that against them because it is to my mind proof that they plan to say one thing to get elected, and do another once they are in office), it does give quite a bit of insight into third party presidential candidates.

Originally posted on Adventures in Frickintardistan

UPDATE:  I received the following comment from Tom Knapp, Steve Kubby’s Communications Director:

I worked with Steve on filling out the Political Courage Test, and “eliminate” was not offered as an option on the document we got from VoteSmart. I sent them an email when I saw that it appeared on other candidates’ answers, but haven’t ever heard back from them.

Without going over the PCT line by line, I can’t say offhand that EVERY “greatly decrease” would actually have been “eliminate” had that option been visible, the inheritance tax would absolutely have been an “eliminate” item.

Thanks for that info, Tom!