A New Form of Popular Government

A new methodology for electing government representatives is emerging. Eighteen states already have some form of ‘ranked choice voting’ in place. Instead of using ballots that pit party against party, the ballot will elect the most popular candidate, party notwithstanding. It works exactly like the TV show ‘America’s Got Talent’. Perhaps for elections it should be renamed as ‘American Politicians Got Talent’. Politico.com has the most succinct description:

“Ranked-choice voting allows citizens to rank their candidate preferences on an election ballot instead of voting for a single candidate. If one candidate does not initially win a majority, competitors with the fewest votes are eliminated from the race and their voters’ second choices are applied to the tallies of the remaining candidates until one candidate achieves a majority.”

The process asks the voter to rank all the candidates rather than selecting just one. Then, exactly like voting on ‘America’s Got Talent’, less popular candidates are eliminated to identify the candidate with the highest ranked votes.

So what does the reader think about this?

Dominated by political party machinery, the election environment has become both complex and expensive. For the 2020 primary, mariner’s own state, Iowa, collapsed under burdensome procedures of trying to determine who would be on the Democratic Party’s ticket. Bean counting became an art form involving many qualifiers that confused voters at the precinct level; it grew worse as tallies were transferred up the chain to State headquarters.

Hand in hand with complexity was the amount of cash required to sustain elaborate party machinations and local campaigning. For years at the national level, all political parties continuously have been increasing fund raising to the point that one had to be a billionaire (Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg) to run independent of party machinery. It is conceivable, one hopes, that funding will become a local sport rather than a national one.

Besides the overly complex and expensive processes the parties have created, the party system became competitive in its own right for its own purposes – subverting the idea that it was the voter who was most important. Many pundits identify Newt Gingrich as the politician who made winning as a party more important than winning as a nation. This has grown intense over the decades to the point today where party victory counts far more than compromise in behalf of the electorate. Note only the shenanigans of Federal and Supreme Court nominations in recent years. Today the Senate Majority Leader (McConnell) controls every aspect of business in the Senate; in the House the Speaker has the same role (Pelosi) – the Party comes first.

Lastly, because the founding fathers left voting procedures to the States, there are many different election procedures for each state, each city, each county and each Representative district. In this age of cultural change at the speed of light, even the ballot is under pressure to change for the twenty-first century. The familiar list includes government supported elections without private funding; eliminate the Electoral College; reallocate the Senate to represent the population; allow referendums at the Federal level. Now add ranked choice ballots.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Beginning

May 4, 1970 was the beginning of mariner’s disillusionment with all things politic, including the citizens. His skeptical attitude remains with him today. It was the shooting to death of four Kent State college students and wounding of nine others by the Ohio National Guard. These assassins weren’t every day police, who even today can be expected to do such things; these were part of the Armed Forces of the United States.

Laurel Krause, whose 19-year old sister was killed, wrote on March 7, 2014 “It has been 44 years, and the U.S. government still refuses to admit that it participated in the killing of four young students at Kent State. There has not been a credible, independent, impartial investigation into Kent State. No group or individual has been held accountable.”

One can write all the US Constitutions they want; nothing constrains bias, prejudice and bigotry. The reaction of conservatives was that the students deserved it. They were the same bunch that today rebels against shelter-in-place. They were the same bunch that today rapes children while priests. They were the same bunch that today denies human value by denying health care to those who need it. They were the same bunch that today divides Christianity into racist and elitist factions. They were the same bunch that hoards wealth while thousands die in the US from starvation and disease. They were the same bunch that today elected Donald. They were and are the electorate.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Facts, Ma’am

Mariner would like to contribute to the effort to defeat Covid-19. There are three valuable, fact driven sources for information on the virus:

https://www.usa.gov/coronavirus for fiscal procedures, enforcement policies and other actions taken by governments.

https://www.coronavirus.gov for medical and descriptive information.

https://www.newsy.com/categories/us/ for factual information on statistics and newsworthy activity. On DISH, see channel 283 or on ROKU, see NEWSY. Of specific importance are the factual presentations of New York Governor Cuomo, usually in late morning hours.

Also as a contribution to the effort against Covid-19, DO NOT ACCEPT INFORMATION OFFERED BY DONALD TRUMP’S PRESS BRIEFING! Largely, it is defensive crybaby arguments, campaign snippets, and undependable ‘facts’ that may be offered one day and retracted the next. The overall effect of this source is agitation, a tone that separates the public rather than unifying it, and a blatant cry for approval of Donald.

By the way, mariner’s Non Sequitur desk calendar is a fine source of wisdom:

Ancient Mariner

Gig Workers

Why are gig workers striking? “The sharing economy is built on a risk shift from the companies onto the workers. As a result, the workers don’t have access to basic protections, and they don’t have the kind of power that we imagine even a Walmart worker has. I can’t imagine a starker power dynamic than the CEO of Uber, who has direct connections to everyone in Congress, and then a gig worker who can’t even get a low-level bureaucrat at Uber to answer his or her basic questions.” [Protocol Source Code]

Gig workers are workers whose employment relationship with their employers is temporary. The term ‘gig’ probably is best known by show business types saying, “I have a gig in Houston.” There are several conditions under which a person is hired temporarily but not as a full-fledged employee: construction, show business, clerical, consultant, instructor, and so forth.

Mariner is unusually aware of the gig life. For decades he was a gig worker – a systems consultant for operating system conversions. Except for an active market, his first gig could have been his last.

Specialized, in demand gig workers make decent salaries often well above the standard wage in their profession. On the other hand, their job security is short-lived and typical benefits are not available. Mariner has witnessed countless times when gig workers were required to take residence in the government jurisdiction that held their contract. They would sell their homes, move family, and adjust to new standards of living – only to be terminated months later when the winds of corporate finances changed.

A chimera gig worker is a worker who may appear to be normally employed, receive benefits and draw a standard paycheck. However, this worker is still a gig worker in that they are used sporadically, do not have union rights, and have no guarantee of being called to work. A substitute teacher (associate) is a common example.

For a creative person or one with exceptional skills or education, gig work can be an entertaining, well paid career. However, in times of economic uncertainty or great cultural shift, gig workers are the first to be dismissed.

The nation is in the midst of historic cultural and economic change. Gig workers may be the heroes who help adjust to the change but they also are the most expendable. There is no doubt that restructuring the job market in anticipation of artificial intelligence will take an unusually large gig force – temporarily. There needs to be a special unemployment structure for gig workers.

Ancient Mariner

Where Forth Labor Unions?

Nevada is one state where unions still play a significant role in political negotiations. A number of news outlets have published articles in lieu of the Nevada primary. The point was made that Mike Bloomberg has never publicly backed unions. It is true that as corporations gained political power during the end of the twentieth century, state governments in particular pushed hard to defund union membership, impose right-to-work legislation and otherwise paint bad images of unions.

Unions are no less saintly than politicians and corporate conservatives. All of them are aggressive in defending their perceptions of economic purpose. However, in this age where citizens no longer participate in the profits of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), where salaries linger at a small fraction of what they should be, where corporations are trying to drop benefits of any kind, having a union fight for a fair share for the workers may not be a bad idea. But unions represent only 1 in 10 hourly workers – down from 1 in 3 in 1955. State legislation in most states would have to go through a philosophical, highly opinionated and greatly resisted battle to reverse the disadvantages imposed over four decades.

Mariner wrote a post “About Labor Unions” (August 28 2019) that suggested the familiar union organization that has prevailed since the 1930s may not work in this new age of automation, rapid data learning and the ability for corporations to move operations anywhere in the world.

As corporations have become an economic force across governmental boundaries, it is difficult for unions to sustain equally flexible membership given location and nationality. Even more problematic, governments have difficulty managing corporations. In this campaign season where ‘socialistic’ ideas are being touted, union leaders may consider joining the national noise of the campaign to back a new national strategy for unionism.

Trying to maintain the traditional ‘local’ organization will not be influential enough to tackle market issues that cross national boundaries. In the recent post mariner suggested the ACLU organizational model. Further, mariner feels that a governmental agency (a new version of the Labor Department) could set regulatory policy similar to the Environmental Protection Agency today – Donald’s interference notwithstanding. The new labor department could negotiate treaties similar to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) except with a fair set of rules for workers.

In any case, righting the economic ship is more than just fixing taxes. It is setting new protective rules for workers in an age where moving from job to job may be the new norm and sustaining economic viability in unemployed neighborhoods may have to be part of the agreement language.

Ancient Mariner

 

A Nasty Crossbreed: Communism and Capitalism

Communism – a political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned (Think Donald’s base, oligarchs, government and the proletariat in disarray; think data gathering corporations that know everything – even about each of us and that information is used to make billions of dollars without a penny owed directly to “the public.”)

Capitalism – an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. (Think corporatism and actually owning the government as well thereby eliminating government altogether).

The crossbreed is the worst of both ideologies: The public at large owns nothing, not even houses, automobiles or privacy. The end result is controlled classism with a socialistic flavor, citizens having no real say in anything, and continuous class war.

What follows are examples of crossbreeding.

֎ [NEWSY] The internet has revolutionized how donors behave. People now give more frequently and in smaller amounts than ever before. But every time you donate online, there’s a processing cost. A Newsy analysis, published in partnership with Politico, found that the small donor revolution has also helped direct millions of dollars to the middlemen that process donations. While it’s a matter of cents on the dollar, those pennies can add up fast. And in recent years, as small-dollar donations have ramped up, credit card processing costs have exploded.

Banks and data tech companies want in on everything and at the moment are getting what they want. Just today mariner received a ‘gift’ from Dish Network. The gift is a TV remote paired with Google’s voice recognition software. It won’t be installed. As to charitable donations online being skimmed by banks, mariner enjoys even more than usual covering that cost by writing a check to the charity and posting the donation through the Postal Service, with a wry smile while he does it.

Put in context the National Rifle Association (NRA), the fossil fuel industry, the government (owned by corporations), mega corporations like Amazon, Walmart, Google, Microsoft, AT&T, and other independent, do as they like multifunction, multinational corporations, and one realizes the citizenry has nothing to do or say about the US economy, its scruples or its original ‘freedom and justice for all’ myth.

Does the ‘public’ own anything? Does the ‘public’ share in GDP profits? Does the election process have any significant contribution?

Aside from citizens with enough excess resources to invest in capitalist ventures (Wall Street) or actually have enough assets to own a house not compromised by bank oversight, the citizenry is on a path to controlled communist social structures and little or no opportunity to share profit with capitalist corporations.

This is indeed a difficult circumstance for the general public. What makes the situation even worse is that the crossbreed feels no obligation to compensate for the global warming situation, environmental health, free medical support or anything else ‘free’ from the corporate-owned government, or the impact of automated intelligence (AI).

On the good side, it was an unusually warm, sunny day; mariner worked in his garden.

Ancient Mariner

 

It’s a Fifty State Election, er, Six State Election

Don’t listen to the gossip on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, etc., nor listen to the scary fake news on Fox and Sinclair-owned stations. Don’t even listen to the cleanest news broadcast NEWSY. Don’t listen because none of these news stations report the reality of state by state polls.
It isn’t a national election. It’s fifty states voting their parochial politics, that is, red states, purple states and blue states. These polls don’t vary much because they are indigenous to state politics, not national politics.
The truth of the matter is the state polls suggest Donald may win again. Eerily, the statistics of favorability are identical to the 2016 election. The presidency may be determined again by the Electoral College where it took only six states to ignore their state-wide popular vote and flip the balance to Donald: Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The vote in just a few purple states, which state-by-state polls suggest hasn’t changed much, will determine the next president.
In similar fashion, state polls indicate that only a few switches from republican to democrat are likely in the Senate. Even if democrats secure a majority, it is likely they will not secure 60 Senate seats. Hence, all the progressive plans of the democratic House will die in the Senate.
Every vote is important, of course, but gerrymandering and regional divides between large populations and rural populations will disregard the nonsense that news media puts out every day.
2020 will be another close election.
The impeachment process is highly saturated with politics rather than focusing on the destruction of the Constitution. Donald has used the power of the presidency to dismember the democratic and Constitutional structure of the US – not only by way of administrative confusion but in his promotion of Russian and Saudi interests – as well as his own pocket. Over the next twenty-five years global power will be redistributed around the world. Every day that Donald is in office weakens US opportunities to participate in that redistribution.
On a similar international slant, the immigration issue, stirred by Donald into a big mess, has distracted futurists from realizing that the US must be aggressive in becoming a political force in Central and South America. Russia already is active on the African continent and China is focusing on everything except perhaps a few European nations. China has targeted Mexico and South American nations adjacent to the Pacific Ocean.
In other words, the US must invest in and “save” its southern neighbors in the Western Hemisphere instead of issuing inhumane and divisive policies based on racism. Frankly, such an investment may be a less expensive way to resolve immigration issues and may be more effective than Donald’s wall.
Ancient Mariner

How Herding Cats has Changed

This is the last in a series focused on herding cats (AKA managing democracy). As the last one hundred years have passed, socialization has dwindled. The district concept of local government was a natural fit to a society that required a high degree of comingling to maintain an awareness of local activity, business interests, and the latest tidbits of political and educational interest.

Today, in stark contrast, comingling is a disappearing behavior. Mariner’s metaphor is that society has moved from baking cakes from scratch to using box mixes. Similarly, comingling among peers takes lots of time and effort that isn’t easily available anymore; the pace of society has pushed into the background what was once a natural balance between citizens and political districts. Local and Congressional representatives had no choice but to comingle as much as possible to maintain their popularity and relevance.

Technology has changed this, of course. Everything from Interstates to television to business expansion to the Internet and computer-telephones enables a solitary individual to be in a state of continuous processing without input from real humans. Conversely, the solitary individual has no influence on other humans.

Just as box mixes made baking cakes a less involved process, so too has the election process, sans comingling, become a matter of who can muster the most money to campaign on television and, surreptitiously, use the organizational influence of their political party rather than acquiring influence among constituents. To push the metaphor, using a box mix means one can make only one kind of cake regardless of the occasion. Today, the box mix doesn’t taste so good.

As unnatural as it feels, as inconvenient as it seems, as awkward as it may be to comingle, it may be time to rediscover the joy of making cakes from scratch.

There are many TV series about house renovation. The same holds for what the voter must do to the house of government. A side effect of streamlining any process is that it concentrates function in a smaller space needing fewer people. Some functions that need to be re-democratized:

Gerrymandering
Proportional representation
Term limits
Open access to money from any source
Voter suppression
Access to voting days, times, methods
Lack of referendum in federal and state governments

There are many other issues. One that is troublesome is the lack of voting by citizens. In parts of India, voters dip a finger in ink and don’t have to worry about participation which is high. In the US, voting may have to be forcibly required through cash or denial of governmental benefits. Americans are a tough, basically capitalistic bunch. Mandating an individual’s behavior seems so, well, socialist.

Day in and day out, herding cats seems a bother. Yet, because of indifference, US democracy has become a plutocracy. The rich call the shots and take all the profits.

Get off the smartphone, turn off the TV and talk to some human beings about restoring democracy.

Ancient Mariner

 

How to Herd Cats

In lieu of civics not being taught in public school systems, and in light of the immeasurable importance of a presidential election at this point of social and political change, mariner will remind readers of the ease and indeed the right for them to communicate their opinions to their elected representatives – state as well as federal.

Expressing one’s opinion to a representative is as simple as using a telephone, email and text or more deliberately, a face-to-face at a town hall event or visiting the representative’s office. And always there is a handwritten or typed letter, seemingly old fashioned but surprisingly influential. Do not be intimidated; these folks are sensitive to a voter’s influence on their job security – a voter is a member of the Board of Directors.

Aside from the vote a citizen has, communication directly with their representative is a very important activity. It is how a citizen manages their democratic government.

A voter can communicate indirectly with their representatives by attending legislative hearings, attending political party meetings, and in Iowa, at least, attend the caucuses. See to it that one’s name is on the mailing list of all direct representatives and the mailing list of one’s preferred local party committee. Always vote at every chance for everything from dog catcher to school board to primaries and elections. Even vote for the judges.

Be aware of and participate in current petitions, referendums and activities by related unions, education, housing, seminars and social presentations of cultural or political issues.

All this sounds like a second job. It is. Certainly one’s own career and life experience comes first but herding political cats is as important as going to the grocery store. Make time!!

A warning: social media and television news are as convoluted as walking through an endless swamp of alligators. It is very, very important for a voter to have a personal compass that reads motive. These sources, every one, have ulterior motives. The activity isn’t herding cats, its hunting cougars.

As to donating money, contain it to causes as much as possible. Donating to one’s specific jurisdictional campaigns is okay but put one’s money where it will do the most to promote the voter’s opinions – typically large organizations promoting the voter’s perspective.

Every citizen must realize that they are as much a part of a democratic government as any elected official. There are four branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial – all who work for the fourth: the citizen.

Ancient Mariner