Category Archives: Theory and Ideas

How to Fix the Nomination Process

Reagan_1980_GOP

Whether you are a Trump supporter, Cruz supporter, Kasich supporter, Sanders supporter, Hillary supporter, or a disinterested observer fed up with the whole thing like myself, we can all agree that the nomination process is a complete disaster. Not that any of this is new to this particular election; the 2016 campaign has only exposed the flaws in the process that have existed since the earliest days of the leading political parties.

No, neither Trump nor Sanders are having the nomination ‘stolen’ from them, at least not in a sense where actual ‘cheating’ is happening (best I can tell from afar anyway). The fact that Trump doesn’t understand how the process works does not mean Cruz is doing something wrong. And the irony of ironies where some of Sanders’s delegates are being redistributed…well, Hillary Clinton would never cheat right?

If the argument is that the game is rigged at worst or just a little screwy at best then I can certainly agree with that. The rules and process as was set up long before the 2016 campaign is really what is causing confusion leaving many primary voters angry and disillusioned. While it may be too late to cure what ails the nomination process for 2016, I believe I have a few ideas that would vastly improve the process and I would encourage any political party to at least give this a try.

A National Primary Day

This incredibly long drawn out byzantine primary system has outlived its usefulness. There is no reason to have a few states vote early while other vote later. If it’s good enough to have the general election on one day than the primary should be no different. My proposal is to have every state and territory vote on the same day, say 40-60 days before the party’s convention. If the states want to follow roughly the same calendar as the traditional primaries holding town halls, debates, or even non-binding straw polls then by all means, do so. The days of a handful of states determining who emerges should be done away with forever.

Allocation of Delegates

In the 2016 South Carolina Primary Donald Trump “won” the election with a whopping 32.5% of the vote. To put this another way, 67.5% of South Carolina voters voted for someone other than Donald Trump *but* because South Carolina is winner take all, Trump will be awarded all 50 of the state’s delegates! While I’m not one of these people who think that “majority rule” is a good thing in and of itself (actually it’s often terrible), it seems that in a primary or caucus which purports to reflect the “will of the people” should at a minimum, require that the winning candidate actually earned the majority of the vote.

If the goal of the nomination process is to nominate an individual who represents the “will of the people” in the party then the parties are not doing a very good job in achieving that goal. My proposal to improve this aspect of the process is as follows:

Each state/territory is to have one delegate for each congressional district and two at large delegates. Each would-be delegate is bound to a particular candidate and can only become a delegate if his/her candidate wins 50%+1 of the vote in the congressional district or, in the case of the at large would-be delegates, 50%+1 of the entire state, commonwealth, or territory. The candidates would keep every delegate s/he won (i.e. no winner take all states). The 50%+1 threshold would be easily achieved by implementing instant runoff voting (this is key). This way every vote actually would matter and the “spoiler effect” would be minimized if not eliminated.

Rather than explain how instant runoff voting (a.k.a. alternative voting) works for those who are not familiar, here’s a short video:

The Nominating Convention

The convention would operate more or less like it does now. The delegates would then go about choosing the nominee by either multiple rounds of voting or using the instant runoff method as described above. Because all the delegates would be bound to their candidate (at least to start with) in the former method s/he must vote for the candidate in the first round, in the latter s/he must rank the bound candidate #1 and the candidate of his or her choice for #2, #3, and so on. Whichever way the convention decided to go, the important thing is no winner would be selected without a majority recorded vote (i.e. no voice votes where the Chairperson decides which way the vote went based on his/her opinion).

Oh yeah, one other thing: no other candidates could be nominated who was not running on National Primary Day.

Would this process be perfect? Of course not. There is no system I can think of which will prevent a truly terrible person from being nominated or even elected. If there’s a better way, I would certainly would love to hear it. That being said, I believe this process is much superior than the one either party is using now.

All this makes me wonder though: if the parties are having this much trouble determining the will of the majority of their party members (assuming that’s really what they are trying to do), how can they be trusted to solve the more complex problems they want us to believe they can solve?
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One Point of Clarification

If you read carefully, you will notice that everything I wrote is just a suggestion about how any political party can improve its nomination process. None of this in any way is meant to advocate that the law should be changed to comply with my opinion. Its free advice and the parties can take it or leave it (and they probably will leave it…who am I to advise them right?).

I’ve come across some individuals who are upset about how some state parties have gone about choosing delegates (which I can sympathize with; I hate how the Colorado Republican Party chooses delegates). What everyone needs to understand though is that regardless of what they think they know about how the system works, the U.S. is not a democracy. It never was and never was intended to be. Some misguided individuals believe that the shenanigans (as they see it anyway) taking place in some of these state conventions is tantamount to treason against the U.S. Constitution.

For those who think this way, I’m about to drop a giant atomic truth bomb so here it goes…

There is no constitutional right for the average citizen to vote in a presidential election (neither in the party primaries nor in the general election). No, really there’s not.

For those who don’t believe me, the part of the U.S. Constitution that addresses how the POTUS is to be elected is located in Article II, Section 1, Paragraphs 2 through 4. I’ll share the most relevant part (paragraph 2):

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

As stated from the excerpt above, each state determines how Electors are picked to vote for POTUS. This means that if the state legislature wants to choose Electors by drawing names out of a hat or by roshambo, the state legislature may do so. As it happens, every state legislature has decided that the people have a right to vote for the Electors provided they are eligible to vote (as determined by that state’s laws).

Did you notice something else? What about all the explaining about the nomination process of delegates of a particular political party?

Read the excerpt again, no actually read Article II in its entirety because I know some people reading this think that I cherry picked one small part from the U.S. Constitution to make my point.

Did you notice that there wasn’t a single word about political parties, much less how they go about choosing a nominee for president?

Themoreyouknow

Libertarians Debate on Stossel (Part 1 of 2)

Watch-Part-One-Of-The-Libertarian-Party-Debate-On-Stossel-702x336In case you missed it, the first half of the Libertarian Party Presidential Debate aired on Stossel on April 1st (the second half will air on Friday, April 8, 2016). The three participants were 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, software developer John McAfee, and the founder of the blog The Libertarian Republic Austin Petersen.

After watching some of the GOP debates and the first Democrat debate, watching the Libertarians debate was refreshing. No name calling or commenting on the appearance of the other candidates. No scolding the debate moderator for asking questions the candidates didn’t like. To the extent that one candidate challenged or disagreed with another they were on the substance of the issue at hand (more on that in a moment). There seemed to be more areas of agreement than disagreement (and even a kiss on the cheek) among them. This debate was more about presenting to a national cable audience the case for Libertartian policy alternatives to those of the Republicrats.

Did any candidate “win” Part 1 of the debate or help/hurt his chances with the LP faithful or viewers who are open to supporting a third party candidate?

I can only answer for myself. I enthusiastically supported Gary Johnson in 2012 all the way back from when he was running for the GOP nomination to election day as the LP’s nominee. Of the three, he’s the only one I was all that familiar with. I took the Isidewith.com survey on the issues (mentioned in the debate) several weeks ago and found that I sided with Austin Petersen 97%, Gary Johnson 92%, and Ted Cruz 77%. I’m not sure why John McAfee wasn’t among those I sided with because I found myself in agreement with much of what he said in the debate. Due to these results, though Gov. Johnson is sort of my default favorite I watched with an open mind.

To my surprise, indeed I did find myself agreeing more with the thirty-five year old Austin Petersen than the other two. For libertarians looking for “purity” of libertarian principles, Petersen is your guy it seems (based solely on one half of one debate). When asked about whether a cake decorator should be forced to make a cake for someone based on personal or religious reasons, Johnson (to my profound disappointment) said they should while Petersen said the market should decide making the freedom of association argument (an argument every good libertarian should have down pat).

The second strike against Johnson and for Petersen was the question of the so-called gender pay gap. Johnson sounded like a progressive echoing the “equal pay for equal” work line but said he would be hesitant to sign any equal pay legislation because “the devil is in the details.” Petersen on the other hand skillfully explained why the gender pay gap is a progressive myth. McAfee, for his part argued that if a person doesn’t like how much they are being paid they are free to look elsewhere.

There’s certainly more in the debate that I didn’t get into here. My conclusion as far as my opinion goes: Petersen helped himself, Johnson hurt himself, and McAfee is intriguing. In a world where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are looking to be their party’s nominee any of the three would be hands down a better choice.

A Simple Question

mexico-drugs-sfSpanSo… hardcore drug warriors out there… I have a very simple question for you…

Why?

You can’t stop people from getting high. It’s NOT POSSIBLE.

It literally does not matter how far you go, you cannot stop it.

We can’t stop heroin from getting into supermax prisons, where there are no visitors allowed, and everyone is body searched in and out.

I just had a dedicated drug warrior fully sincerely advocate that we completely seal the border, and that every vehicle, container, and person should be fully cavity searched.

When I pointed out that cavity searches didn’t stop heroin from getting in to supermax prisons, he said that we need to have full walls on all the borders, and boats to patrol the coastlines to stop smugglers.

You can’t stop people from getting high. This is not an issue of sealing the borders.

Even if you actually sealed the borders successfully, then they would just grow it here.

How exactly would you stop that?

It would require constantly patrolling millions of acres of property, both public and private; searching all greenhouses, and all forests, and all fields of any kind, at least once every 90 days… in the entire country.

Doing so… aside from the massive violations of peoples rights, would require millions of law enforcement officers dedicated to it.

That would cost more than the entire budget of the United State by the way.

Even if you manage to completely eradicate all opium poppies, and all coca plants on the planet, they will just synthesize it in labs… and by labs, I mean, any quiet room with an electrical outlet, or anywhere you can run a generator, or a blow torch.

If you completely ban all substances that people could get high with, you ban thousands of legal products with legitimate and critical uses, including a huge number of critical medications.

You also have to ban all lab equipment, or closely license and track its sale. And all chemicals of all kind… and many kinds of foods. And most kinds of flowers.

And all machine tools, and glass blowing equipment… and blow torches, and pipes and tubes and sand…

And you’ll have to dig out and burn out millions and millions of acres of plants.

We have 7,500 miles of border. We have 13,000 miles of coastline.

You can make it a death penalty offense to posses, sell, or use drugs, or get high. Many countries do in fact… and people still get high.

This dedicated drug warrior said that it didn’t matter what it took, it didn’t matter what it cost… It didn’t matter if it wouldn’t work at all… That we had to do it anyway.

When I asked why, he said:

“Because to do otherwise would be to surrender”

Then I asked “Surrender what? To who?”

He said “Surrender to the junkies and the dealers”

I asked “Surrender what?”

He refused to answer.

And again I asked “Why”

He refused to answer.

I said “You’re advocating a police state, in order to stop people from getting high. Why?”

He refused to answer.

So… I have a very simple question for you…

You cannot possibly stop people who want to get high, from getting high.

You can’t make it illegal enough. You can’t ban or control enough. It’s not possible… you have to know that it isn’t possible..

Prohibition PROVED beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.

The last 45 years of the “War on Drugs” have proved beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.

Maximum security prisons prove beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.

But you still think we have to do it… No matter what it takes… No matter the harm it causes… No matter what rights get violated…No matter how much power it gives the state. No matter how much it costs…

Why?

It’s a really simple question…

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

The Social Media Revolution–An American Spring?

"Television". Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

Regular readers know that I–an irregular contributor here–have long said that the power of the internet is as-yet poorly understood and mostly untapped. Sure, we’ve seen the Arab Spring, but what is the internet really going to do in America beyond providing us endless hours of cat videos?

Well, Scott Adams [of Dilbert fame] suggests that it’s broken down our electoral politics and is turning us into a direct democracy:

The media has led you to believe that this is a presidential contest between Democrats and Republicans. But Sanders is barely a real Democrat and Trump is barely a conservative Republican. If Bloomberg jumps into the race, we will have three candidates with ambiguous party affiliations. So maybe there is a more helpful way to frame this contest.

Naval Ravikant calls it The American Spring, and points out that social media has become the real conduit to power. That’s a revolution. We the People are on the brink of replacing the entrenched powers and their monied interests. If the patriots in Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other early primary states put both Sanders and Trump in commanding leads, they will be – in effect – firing the government. But they would also be firing the system of government that was created by the Founders. Direct democracy via social media – chaotic and ugly – is about to replace the Republic. No longer can a strong leader ignore the will of the people when it is pounding on every door and tapping on every window. The Republic was designed to give elected officials the power to decide for the people. But the elected elites have lost their legitimacy and The People are on the brink of taking back power.

I’ve said before that technology has led America to an increasingly centralized society, culture, and government.

  1. The printing press itself was the first step in creating durable broadsheet dissemination of information to a wide audience. The pen is mightier than the sword, but owning a printing press is like being the general of an army of penmen.
  2. Newspapers have followed an overwhelming consolidation and much of their news-gathering is centralized via the AP. And they had real power, because you “never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.
  3. The introduction of radio enabled a true real-time broadcast to allow single voices to reach much more widely than ever before.
  4. TV came along, and video truly killed the radio star. Because of the expense, consolidation into the “big 3” networks meant that the largest corporations could filter and control the presentation of information to the masses.

"Television". Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

“Television”. Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.


Each step increased the flow of information. But each step also drove the control of which information would flow into a narrower and narrower group of people. But technology marches on, and the filters of broadcast media are increasingly being sidestepped, democratized, and subsumed. It started with Cable, as the cost of getting into the television business dropped dramatically, and the appearance of the 24-hour cable news station widened the number of voices in the market. But nothing has come close to becoming relevant as quickly as the internet and social media. We now see major news productions no longer driving the reporting, but rather highlighting the tweets of feet on the ground. And Presidential primary political debates are taking questions from YouTube “stars”.

The internet has been around the “mainstream” less than 20 years now… Since then, it’s basically broken or fundamentally changed multiple business models in all sorts of industries, as any unemployed former travel agent will tell you. Politically, by 2004, blogs had changed the political landscape enough to give us Rathergate. But 2004–a mere 12 years ago–only brought us the first inklings of the social media future with MySpace. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all of these hadn’t even been invented yet. Essentially the “modern” social media landscape was built in ~2006, with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and integrated with the “computer in a pocket”, the iPhone and Android devices, over the following few years. We’ve been living with it for only a decade.
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The first decade of television was exciting, but raw. Everyone could tell that this was something new, and something important. Much like they can tell with the internet and social media now. It created new stars and obsoleted many former ones. It changed the world of politics. Much like internet and social media has done since. And now, as streaming video is replacing broadcast video for more and more households, and with Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu becoming production companies in their own right, the traditional hold of the TV networks is breaking with it.

The “out of the blue” appearance of Ron Paul and now Bernie Sanders? Voices who have spent decades with no “mainstream” platform are now finding their audience. The growth of “outsider, anti-establishment” candidates gaining real traction? This is due to media conglomerates no longer being able to control the message and marginalize them. These candidates, rightly or wrongly, stand in stark contrast to the politicians who have been screwing us over for years while growing their own power. And can you imagine the quick changes in public opinion on the gay marriage, medical/recreational marijuana legalization fights, and civil liberties issues without a democratized communication platform like the internet? And the internet is not only domestic–it’s making these changes on a global scale.

So, what is the point? Well, it remains to be seen. We are witnessing the greatest social transformation the world has seen since at least the invention of television, but probably since the creation of “mass media” at all. We’re seeing the replacement of “broadcasting” with “narrowcasting”, or “sidecasting”, or “targetedcasting”, or “peercasting” or whatever you want to name it. But the fact is that information no longer only flows downhill from the powerful to the rest of us. Now, while each of us may individually be no more powerful than we ever once were, all of us are collectively more powerful than any individual media magnate or opinion-maker on the globe. While much of Scott Adams post goes into suggesting an idea that I don’t think will ever come to pass, the question of demolishing our system of government is well under way, whether the visible structures of government change or not.

Is this a good thing? Will it advance liberty? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly different, and the world–be it politicians, media folks, leaders of industry, etc–hasn’t quite figured out the implications of that yet.

Quote of the Day: ‘Constitutionalist’ Inconsistency Edition

The poster child for faux Constitutionalism

From Mike Maharrey’s post: The Constitutional Inconsistency of Many “Constitutionalists”

This short statement sums up many people’s views on “constitutionalism” and “limited government” in a nutshell. It goes like this. If the government tries to do something ‘limited government guy’ disapproves of – regulating light bulbs or soda consumption – he will scream “limited government” and point at the Constitution. But when the federal government does something ‘limited government guy’ deems necessary, he makes excuses for it, and supports it, whether authorized by the Constitution or not.

The federal government lacks the constitutional authority to do any of these things. But ‘limited government guy’ wants the feds to enforce airline security because he finds it “a good idea.” Here’s the thing: a lot of people think telling ‘limited government guy’ how many ounces of soda he can drink is a good idea. A lot of people think telling ‘limited government guy’ what kind of light bulb he can screw into his fixture is a good idea.

So, why exactly should the federal government implement the things ‘limited government guy’ likes (airport security) and not those others things he dislikes? He really doesn’t have any basis to object, other than his conception of “good ideas.” He’s already tacitly admitted the federal government can do pretty much anything. Now it only comes down to whether it should.

[…]

Of course, this is all pretty much moot in 2015 because Americans don’t really give a crap about what the Constitution says or means any more – unless it relates to abortion, porn, gay marriage or keeping somebody from slapping the 10 Commandments up in a public space.

By the way, I bet ‘limited government guy’ thinks it’s a great idea for the feds to meddle in some of those things too.

I’ve encountered quite a bit of these “constitutionalists” and “limited government guys” recently. For example, there are actually “limited government” people in my social media feeds who think anything related to Islam should be banned (burkas, mosques, “Sharia Law” in private family matters, the very practice of Islam itself etc.). “Islam isn’t a religion, it’s an ideology (or cult, or philosophy, or…). Even if I were to concede that point (which I don’t), banning Islam or any other expression of conscience which does not violate the rights of others would still be a flagrant violation of the First Amendment. A true “limited government” person supports the rights of people with whom s/he disagrees.

Mike Maharrey is definitely onto something here. Most people aren’t really in favor of liberty for “others” but only for themselves.

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