Way, Way, Way Under the Radar – Maine Will Use Ranked Voting for First Time in U.S. – Good

So what if in 2016 you could have listed your first and second choices for president so if your first choice is out of the running, or there is no majority winner, your vote then goes to your second choice.

If most Jill Stein voters had listed Hillary Clinton second in WI, MI and PA she could have won those states despite the protest vote.

Maine is actually utilizing this ranked choice system for the first time ever in two weeks.

The system works like this: Voters rank candidates. A candidate garnering a majority of first-place votes is the winner.

If there’s no majority winner, the last-place candidate is eliminated and the losing candidate’s second-place votes are reallocated for another voting round. The computerized tallies are repeated in a game of political survivor until someone captures a majority.

This is a step forward in fixing the many, many, many flaws in our system.

Also, a thought:  of course we need to get rid of the Electoral College, but that will get tremendous resistance from the small states that dominate our senate (that’s the damn problem).  It’s a compromise that would also require an amendment, but it might be more universally acceptable if we changed the system so that the winner had to get the majority of both the popular votes and Electoral College votes.  If no candidate wins both there’s an instant runoff between the top two vote getters, say two weeks later.

Not a bad idea?

We often talk about the disparity in population that the founding fathers could never have foreseen whereby California has something like 70 times the population of Wyoming but they have the same 2 senators.  Bad.  It occurs to me that New York City, which shares its senators with the rest of the state has 16 times the population of Wyoming.  Or as many people as Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, the Dakotas, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island and Maine. That’s 20 senators representing around the same population as NYC.


Matt Yglesias – The Hack Gap, Why Conservatives Have Such an Advantage in Shaping the News in a Supposed Liberal Media

So yeah, Clinton called half of Trump supporters “deplorables” and to this day it’s a talking point on the right.  Last week Trump called anybody who votes Democratic “crazy” – not a story at all.  Funny how the liberal media has such a conservative bias when it comes to stories that reinforce umbrage.

Matt Yglesias at Vox calls it the Hack Gap and analyzes its whys and wherefores.

The hack gap explains why Clinton’s email server received more television news coverage than all policy issues combined in the 2016 election. It explains why Republicans can hope to get away with dishonest spin about preexisting conditions. It’s why Democrats are terrified that Elizabeth Warren’s past statements about Native American heritage could be general election poison in 2020, and it’s why an internecine debate about civility has been roiling progressive circles for nearly two years even while the president of the United States openly praises assaulting journalists.

Which brings us the important point that most of the issues we talk about as being created by Fox News/talk radio are about nonsense in that they’re not inaccurate, they’re just not important.  Hillary’s e-mails or Benghazi are great examples of matters that got blown out of all proportion by conservative media in order to be able to beat their enemy over the head with it.  There is no equivalent on the other side, even for matters that do somewhat matter.

Yglesias points out that when Trump said he was too busy to visit the troops, it’s low hanging fruit to posit what Fox News would have said if Obama said such a thing.  The point is there’s no Democratic politician, or media outlet, that actively made the case in an angry manner that it’s outrageous that Trump said that.  It’s outrageous that he hasn’t visited troops two years into his presidency.  Maybe some Democratic pol said something about that on the stump somewhere but we didn’t hear about that.  If Democrats really wanted to make that an issue to use against Trump and Republicans they would have to make coordinate irate speeches in front of cameras and push that meme as a talking point.  They could do that.  It would be legitimate to criticize Trump on that and make  Republicans have to answer questions about it.

But Democrats don’t manufacture outrage or coordinate messages on what some may call unimportant topics.  They have no problem going to the well on things like Social Security and Medicare, healthcare, racism – 100% legitimate issues.  Republicans have no such reticence.  They make “unimportant” issues into important ones not just for their followers, but for the media at large, which then has to follow that bouncing ball.

If Chuck Schumer and a bunch of other Democrats had made firy spit spouting speeches about how outrageous it is that Trump said he had no time to visit troops and the Democratic Party coordinated messaging (push polls, mailers, e-mails) around Trump’s statement, they could easily push that story into the media in such a way that would have a depressing effect on Trump’s approval and force Republicans to be on the defensive about it.

If conservatives have taught us anything it’s that you have to make arguments not just about what we would all consider important, but also about things that are arguably important, if not actually trivial.

If we want to stay on a higher road and not go down the shameful road of elevating complete nonsense and dishonesty, fine.  No argument that we do not have to make up bullshit about them they way they make up bullshit about us.  There are plenty of actual issues and behavior that we can highlight in a forceful way.  But we do have to do that.  We can’t just save our righteous rage for the massive issues.  The way to create a critical mass of media and public criticism, even for a character as widely despised as Trump, is to push the important stuff like the Russia investigation and the arguably unimportant stuff that you can make a critical argument about like visiting the troops, or the inaction on opioids.

Why People Should Vote – How Government Can Matter

Been having this conversation with people lately whereby they assert that they do not usually vote because “what can politicians do for me?” and they are surprised by my sudden and aggressive passion trying to get them to see the profound wrongness of that viewpoint.  Frustratingly they often think they’re the smartest people in the room for  opting out of the whole democracy thing.

This is easily fixed with bringing back civics classes, but since that’s not going to fix people who have already left High School, the easy terse answer is that if you imagine that government is just a self-driving car that will go where it wants to go without your input, you are wrong.  Cynicism may seem cool, but every great step forward for mankind from fire to universal healthcare was done by people sincerely looking for a better way.

Just thinking that such car is just going to keep going and it’ll be okay is truly dangerous thinking.  There’s no end of government success stories that people forget about because good public servants were elected, (or appointed), and also no end to the list of government failures, sometimes tragic, caused by the election of people of ill will because citizens opted out.  Let’s go right to Flint, Michigan.  Hordes of people stayed home and allowed a small turnout, predominantly of Republicans, to elect Gov. Snyder in 2010.  That governor, a businessman who campaigned on running the state as a business, took affirmative actions to undercut democracy in the majority minority areas of his state.  They made a decision to save money on water to be delivered to citizens in a predominantly African American city.  That decision further victimized people who already had a bad situation and poisoned thousands of innocent citizens who had no say in what was being imposed on them.  When people who want power and really don’t understand public service are elected, the results are very bad.

This is all a prelude to where we can go in the very near future if public servants are restored to positions of power in our capitals.  Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has proposed a modified basic-income style plan that would be a great step forward along with Medicare for all.

First, Bernie Sanders unveils his Medicare-for-all bill; then Kirsten Gillibrand comes out for a job guarantee (and Sanders follows suit). Elizabeth Warren announces a plan to give workers seats on corporate boards, and Kamala Harris and Cory Booker propose new tax credits to help with rising rents.

The latest volley in the competition is the LIFT the Middle Class Act from Harris. As the Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey explains, the bill would offer a sizable cash payment to most middle-class households. Single people would get $250 per month or $3,000 a year, married couples would get $500 per month or $6,000 a year, and it would phase out for singles without kids making $50,000 or more, and for married couples or single people with kids making $100,000 or more. It costs about $200 billion in the first year or $2 trillion over 10, roughly in the range of the price tag for the 2017 tax cuts.

Obviously, we are way behind the social democracies of Europe in strengthening and expanding the social safety net that can lift all people and increase their opportunity to live up to their potential.  The U.S. is 13th as of 2018 in human development as measured by the United Nations.  We have a ways to go to strengthen the middle class and create a more generous state with affordable healthcare, education, childcare, etc.  The next step is the universal basic income, which is still on the drawing board in a Europe that has been retrenching since Thatcher.  But let’s be hopeful, ambitious strivers like the people that discovered fire, sliced bread, and the like, and have always pushed things forward.  The United States threw off monarchy first, and then Europe ran with our Constitution and surpassed us.  It’s our turn to catch up and surpass them with a burst of enlightenment.

These are the kinds of ideas that breed hope and engagement and can bring people in.  FDR’s New Deal wasn’t just the most successful program of social and economic reforms, they also created a generation of people that would never ever doubt the power of government and collective action.

And start up the damn civics classes again so I don’t have to yell at people.



Khashoggi Murder – This is Exactly Why We Have the Emoluments Clause

The Founding Fathers got a bunch of stuff wrong – their deification is white male privilege taken to the nth degree.  And that’s from a person who decries the misguided revisionism that says we have to judge slave owners by the values of our time, not theirs. So yes, we’re grateful for their boldness and the thoughtfulness and vision that went into so much of their legacy, but they weren’t infallible by a long shot and they never claimed any such godlike quality.  One thing that was a no-brainer was declaring that a chief executive can have no ties to foreign nations and cannot accept any gifts or titles from them.  They didn’t have cars, automatic weapons or women they had to respect but they sure had seen the consequences of those pesky “foreign entanglements” and the constraints of foreign policy that corruption can cause.

Like for example if a country is a human rights nightmare, as bad as the worst countries in the world in that regard, but our policy towards them is constrained by powerful financial ties.  Our foreign policy towards Saudi has been deranged since they discovered oil there.  We’ve castigated other countries with less blood on their hands as part of evil empires, and an axis of evil, and conspired for regime change.  Not Saudi.  Beheadings just go with the territory.  Moral relativism is evil, but all that oil and cash, well, let’s engage in real politik here!!

From FDR on we’ve been willing enablers of horrors in Saudi and other Middle Eastern nations that have always, always blown back on us.  The Iranian revolution  and the kidnapping of Americans was all about the CIA coup that dispatched a democratically elected nationalist president for a corrupt western puppet like the Shah.  9/11 was literally carried out by Saudis that hated America for supporting murderous dictators.  So we’ve been putting financial factors ahead of democracy and morality in Saudi for a long damn time.

Trump takes it to a new level of galling hypocrisy and venality.  The chief executive, his family and especially his son-in-law are dependent on Saudi money for their complex and mostly obscure private businesses.  It’s bad enough to base foreign policy on our thirst for oil, to cover up for a corrupt and inbred royal family because the first family didn’t disentangle their business interests is a new low.

His likening the implication of the Saudi Prince in the Khashoggi murder to the Kavanaugh affair, claiming that both are unfairly being labelled “guilty until proven innocent” means that the president has upped the ante from covering up the sexual assault of one arrogant frat boy for the murder of a human being by the worst dressed frat boy of all time.

This is why you do not elect a business man.  This is why you do not elect a businessman who will not put his finances in a blind trust.  This is why you do not elect a businessman who will not release his taxes.  This is why you do not elect a businessman with murky foreign ties.  This is why you do not elect a businessman who was helped in his election by foreign countries.

Sure we’re getting all these tax cuts and the infrastructure is coming and Americans are so happy that therapists are retiring early, but I assert that there may be a downside to Trump.