The Sexist Selective Service System

Selective Service Manual cover with the words "No Girls Allowed" superimposed

Selective Service System is still a good ole boys club

When I turned 18, I went to the post office and registered for Selective Service. About 6 months later, I volunteered to enter the U.S. Army, where I served with women who weren’t required to register.

From the Selective Service System website:

Almost all male U.S. citizens, and male immigrants living in the U.S., who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service. It’s important to know that even though he is registered, a man will not automatically be inducted into the military. In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth. Then, they would be examined for mental, physical and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces.

via Selective Service System: Fast Facts.

I hadn’t given it much thought lately until I heard a PSA on WDPS reminding young men to register. It warned that failure to register could stop eligibility for “student financial aid, loans, or grants; vocational training under WIA; government employment; and security clearances.”

In light of changes to the rules about women in combat, as of Jan. 24, 2013, when:

a unanimous recommendation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today announced the end of the direct ground combat exclusion rule for female service members.

via Defense.gov News Article: Defense Department Expands Women’s Combat Role.

it would seem to me that it is discriminatory to force the “Selective Service System” only on men, and only penalize men for not registering for the draft that probably would never happen. It’s time to level the playing field and ask women to make the same commitment to their country as men, if they also want access to financial aid, loans, grants, etc.

It’s been a long time for this country to live up to the words of the founding fathers – in our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Women can vote, women can go to war, women can become presidential candidates- it’s time for women to register for the Selective Service System.

 

Who did you elect? Who you gonna call? Database 102 for Boards of Elections

On Friday, I was talking to Jan Kelly, the director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. about a form. Trying to figure out how to accurately fill it out- and the cold hard fact was, it requested information that was totally impossible for a voter, or even the person in charge of checking that form to know what the answer was. The correct way to fill this form out was to leave information required blank.

Bad form design aside, how to find the simplest information about who and what we elect, what the qualifications for each and every public office, term dates, forms required, processes to follow are all over the place online- making getting into elected office way more complicated than it has to be. While the axiom of running government like a business is a common crutch for clueless political wannabes, the reality is that even the way to buy elected office is such a convoluted process that if elected office were an online store, it wouldn’t make very many sales.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections has an online portal to tell you if you are registered and where to vote (it’s recently been fixed so that it will even allow those without a middle name to get their information, a flaw identified by this site a few weeks ago) it doesn’t have the ability to tell you all the people who represent you and their offices.

Who represents you?

We often see a little blurb at the end of newspaper articles about how to contact your congressman with their address and phone number, but, who represents you on the State Board of Elections, who is your coroner, your party precinct captain, your county engineer, your state Supreme Court justices? Good luck at finding all that information in one place, yet isn’t this the most fundamental part of a representative democracy?

One of the reasons we have so many elections is because we have so many offices to fill and we’re attempting not to overload and confuse the voters. It’s one of the reasons the big political parties hand out the official “Endorsed candidate slate list” because, frankly, it’s too hard for most voters to fathom who they should vote for in each election without one- especially when the ballot contains candidates like judges who don’t show their party affiliation on the ballot (at least this used to be the case, I’m not even sure of where this stands right now in Ohio).

I also often get calls asking what the qualifications are for office- not just where you have to live, your age, your experience, but what petitions, deadlines, etc., are required to run for U.S. Congress- you don’t actually have to live in the district you are planning to represent, nor do you have to be born in the U.S., but to run for president you have to be born in the U.S. and have to be at least 35. As to how many signatures are required- it depends on if you are running as a candidate of a major political party or not. All these details should be available to each and every voter. For instance, even though it’s not an elected position- you don’t have to be a lawyer or have gone to law school to be on the U.S. Supreme Court- although it’s very unlikely that Congress (a body made up of a lot of lawyers) would ever confirm a non-lawyer to the bench these days, although as recently as 1941 we had a high-school dropout appointed to the bench.

The last justice to be appointed who did not attend any law school was James F. Byrnes (1941-1942). He did not graduate from high school and taught himself law, passing the bar at the age of 23.

via- Supreme Court FAQ

It would seem to me that knowing who represents you, how to contact them, the requirements of the office and the forms to file should all be available to every voter, with a simple look-up of their address, just like they have for where you vote. This should be required by law, across the land, and every effort should be made to simplify and reduce the number of forms (see this page on the Ohio secretary of state’s office for the really long list of required forms: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/elections/electionsofficials/forms.aspx) My really rough count came up at 238 (not including the ones in Spanish).

The SOS site does have a page with a general description of what is voted on in the next election here: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/elections/Voters/whatsontheballot/whatsOnBallot.aspx

There aren’t enough hours in the day, or dollars you could pay me to try to list all the offices from party precinct captains up to POTUS, but I’m pretty sure the list would overwhelm each and every one of you if it was readily accessible. If we want to see any real reduction of government, or better efficiencies via regionalism, this would be an amazing place to start- a simple look-up by address, of every person you are expected to elect, complete with requirements for office, terms, pay, duties and who currently sits in it.

For the closest example of anything remotely like an information page for running for office- see this page from Armstrong County, Pa.: http://www.co.armstrong.pa.us/departments/public-services/elections-votersregistration/running-for-public-office New York state also has a page: http://www.elections.ny.gov/RunningOffice.html

VoteSmart.org has a look-up list that’s semi-useful, but far from complete or up-to-date: http://votesmart.org/search?q=45410&cx=004674700904797117618%3Aiqzskagjgeo&cof=FORID%3A11#.UwnzGl6gaXQ (Gary Leitzell is still Mayor!). Common Cause has an even less complete version here: http://www.commoncause.org/siteapps/advocacy/search.aspx?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4860375

What do you think?

Veterans day shouldn’t be one day only.

A friend in advertising posted this video on Facebook, it had over four million views yesterday and close to 8 million today.

He said “We look, but do we see?”

He’s an award-winning copywriter and his perspectives are often insightful, thought provoking and almost always pithy. He says more with less than most I know. I watched the video, mostly because he was recommending it- and it had a before and after pic- and the before had “US ARMY VETERAN” superimposed. I’m in that group, I should watch.

The video, which I assume you’ve now watched, shows a guy getting a haircut and a suit. This somehow is supposed to say we’ve transformed a homeless drunk vet into a productive, acceptable part of society. When the call for donations came at the end- it just felt shameless to me. Ripping off the Dove “Evolution of Beauty” award-winning spot is one thing- turning it into a donation machine is another.  For those of you who don’t know about the Dove spot- it’s an award-winning ad that isn’t an ad for Dove:

When I see this “Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation” I see propagation of a stereotype of our veterans. That somehow, we all become drunk, homeless, unemployed. Yes, I full well know that the unemployed figures tell us that something like 26% of our vets are unemployed- about the same rate as minority high school dropouts or maybe a little higher. But, there are a lot of veterans who aren’t unemployed- or drunks or drug users. In fact, there are a whole bunch of them who own businesses and hire other veterans. Check out the National Veteran Owned Business Association NaVOBA, an organization that’s run by vets to help grow awareness for supporting the notion of “Buying Veteran.”

Many states have adopted preferences for buying from vet-owned businesses. Unfortunately, Ohio isn’t one of them. When you consider that Raj Soin, an Asian Indian built MTC into a global powerhouse based on being an 8a firm (one the government gives preference to based on being minority owned) and that government contracts go to 8a’s ahead of those owned by Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses SDVOBs, you have to wonder if our country really values its veterans.  I don’t know the exact stat- but, I do know that veteran-owned businesses are way more likely to hire vets than non-veteran owned businesses- and that vets better understand other vets. It’s time this country stopped paying lip-service to military service and put SDVOBs at the top of the pecking order for government contracts.

The other change that needs to happen in government contracting to put real teeth into a buy veteran preference program is that size standards for “small businesses” not include companies that gross $150M a year. Really? That’s a small business? Changing the requirements for a GSA schedule (an overly complicated contract with the government to provide goods and services at an “appropriate” rate) from being a 200-page plus monstrosity to something more like a 1040ez for small businesses under $10M a year. This is a proposal I wrote back in 2005 that got about a minute’s worth of attention on the Hill. GSA EZ Schedule Proposal

There is an old proverb- give a man a fish and eats for a day, teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime. If our country wants to help our vets, who now make up around only a single percent of our population, yet give us the freedom and protect our democracy, from enemies foreign and domestic as the saying goes- it’s time to build a more friendly vet support network. A haircut and a suit are just window dressing.

Jobs and opportunities are what will make the difference.

Thank you for your service to all my veteran brethren. May your sacrifices never be forgotten or in vain.

 

Random morality

General Petraeus should have resigned as CIA director, not for having an affair, but for being stupid. When decisions you make aren’t measured by profits and losses but by lives lost and history being made, you don’t have time to be sneaking around to have sex. In this case, the likelihood of a fellow West Point graduate being a spy is nill, but the chance of being inaccessible when something like Benghazi is taking place is inexcusable.

As the saying goes, with great power, comes great responsibility.

But the right wing nut-job idea that exposing this the day after election day and the delays are some kind of way to stop the General from testifying about Benghazi is ludicrous. I think the General has more to fear from his wife than he does from a Congressional investigation. Sixty years of work building credibility as a trustworthy leader just came crashing down in a very public way. The man knew he’d screwed up and accepted it. Time for the country to move on.

However, the idea that the four deaths in Benghazi are somehow more important than the deaths of over 6,000 US service men and women in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is where we really need to examine our moral compasses. Where is the outrage over the failings of 2 presidents to end these meaningless wars? And, when you put things in perspective, the loss of US lives pales to the numbers of Iraqis and Afghans that have died.

There are somethings that you just can’t do in some professions. Airline pilots shouldn’t be drunk or high on the job, firefighters shouldn’t be out of shape, police officers shouldn’t be visually impaired, and chiefs of our spook service shouldn’t be caught sneaking around.

But, then again, is extra-marital sex really any of our business? Should it be? Had the General been single would this have been an issue? Had he still been in the Army, Paula Broadwell is clearly a subordinate as a Lt. Col. and he would have not had any business sleeping with her. But, he was CIA director at the time of the affair and UCMJ doesn’t apply. As a single man, he would have been showing bad judgement by risking the wrath of an angry husband, who may be slightly intimidated by the fact that this man has the power to order people detained or killed (arguably not US Citizens, but even that line is getting fuzzy). The job he has requires a focus and level of integrity that just doesn’t allow for this kind of distraction. The coordination of an illicit rendezvous, sucks time and energy out of a person who has a position that isn’t forgiving of lapses in concentration and focus.

This isn’t a congressman, who isn’t on the clock 24/7/365, this is the CIA director.

Of course, the next question is what about the president? Did Bill Clinton deserve to fall for an extra-marital blow-job by an unmarried intern? In the sliding scale of things, the real damage here was between Bill and Hillary and not one for the public. Yes, Monica Lewinsky managed to take our country off track with her actions, but, in the grand scheme of things- this is because we set some kind of impossible standard for morality among our leaders that isn’t shared by other nations. People do have sex, the question to ask is how many people were affected? Clinton’s whereabouts are known 24/7- and other than the embarrassment of his private business being exposed, blackmail shouldn’t have been an issue, nor should his ability to perform his job been questioned. In fact, shouldn’t all leadership have some down time allowed?

Should we have hard and fast rules about adultery and competency? Or should it be on a case-by-case basis? The critical questions shouldn’t be about the sex- but, about the risks that are taken. Had Broadwell been single, the only question should have been who, other than the General’s wife didn’t know about his whereabouts and if it impacted his job. Had he still been in the Army, UCMJ should be applied. The only remaining question is if Lt. Col. Broadwell will get busted under UCMJ for clearly violating the standards, if she doesn’t, then, and only then should we question the true nature of this political hot-potato.

The news cycle has once again been derailed, from the important matters of negotiating our way off the self-imposed “fiscal cliff” to how we’re going to fund our schools and local government if our economy doesn’t take a radical turn. The real damage of the growing disparity between the rich and the poor is a much greater threat to national security than where a general sticks his privates.

 

Inspector Gotcha at work in Vandalia

Last night we heard both Presidential candidates talk about being pro-small business.

What we needed to hear was that if either was elected, “Inspector Gotcha” would be put on America’s Most Wanted List and hunted like Bin Laden.

Thanks to Vandalia, we get to see another prime example of stupidity in power:

One building code issue remains unresolved between the city and the new Scene 75 entertainment complex on Poe Ave. near Wyse Rd. next to Interstate 75.

The city says the fire alarm system isn’t loud enough. Scene 75 owners say it meets code, especially since it is teamed with a visual system.

Until the issue is resolved, an occupancy permit will not be issued and the building will continue to operate under a temporary permit.“We think we’re in compliance,” said Les Sandler, part of the ownership group of Scene 75, which opened in early July. “We have two systems, a sound system and a sight system. The place lights up when the system goes off.

“We’re continuing dialogue with the city. We’ll get past this.”Vandalia building inspector Ted Baker informed the city council in a work session this week the sound system for the alarm is not enough, especially on weekends when 1,000 or more people are in the building, which contains a restaurant, bar and snack areas and several entertainment venues such as go-karts, miniature golf and a 4-D theatre.

“The system designed on paper met code,” said Vandalia building inspector Ted Baker, “but it didn’t pass muster when it went into the field.

”Because of that, Scene 75 has been granted three occupancy extensions as long as firemen are on the scene as a temporary measure in what is called a “fire watch” in case there are problems.

via City, Scene 75 in dispute over fire alarm system | www.daytondailynews.com.

Let’s be absolutely clear- the system meets code. However, if there is a fire, Inspector Gotcha doesn’t think’s that Scene 75’s patrons will be able to hear the alarm and will stand around, despite the lights all coming on, sirens going- and continue to play their games as if nothing is going on. Employees, who have been trained on evacuation techniques and procedures, will also stand around either mute, or will high tail it out, leaving the video gamers and go-cart drivers to fry into crispy critters because, well- the sirens aren’t loud enough.

This has caused the owners of Scene 75, or the citizens of Vandalia to pay to have firemen on the scene while Scene 75 is open (over 3 months) and frustrate and hassle a new small business that has more important things to focus on.

While I’m sure Inspector Gotcha thinks he is doing his job, this isn’t the seventies or the Beverly Hills Supper Club. The risk to the owners of Scene 75 of not having a system and procedures to evacuate a building in case of a fire is clear and they have met code. It’s time to stop Inspector Gotcha from rewriting the laws on the spot. If government bureaucrats had their livelihood on the line and had to take responsibility for their actions, we wouldn’t see this kind of pedantic, capricious behavior.

This is the kind of over-regulation small business really worries about, and the kind that Wall Street Banks aren’t.

Fire Inspector Gotcha now- and let Scene 75 have their occupancy permit.

Misguided government waste

As a small business, registered in Central Contractor Registry,  now called SAM. I get asked to bid on various projects based on our NAICS codes (an arcane government numbering system that identifies what your business does with a numeric code) through Fed Biz Ops, the central clearinghouse for government contracts over $25K.

As an ad agency, we supply ad specialties for our clients, so that is one of our NAICS codes. For those of you who don’t know what an “ad specialty” is- it’s also referred to as “trash and trinkets” – or trade show bait, or “ad promotional materials.”

Common items run from pens and notepads – all the way to custom engraved iPads.

So when I see an Air Force buyer looking for trash and trinkets for a “Sexual Awarness Prevention and Response Campaign (SAPR) Supplies” I really have to wonder? What, we don’t want people to be “sexually aware” (we’re preventing it right?) or telling people how to respond to sexually aware people (those who didn’t get the training).

The logo- says it’s a “Sexual Assault Prevention Response Program”- so it’s already looking like someone is trying to cover something up.

Here is the link to the RFQ: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=1c4369dc2ebb279d41c78ff6c09c517e&tab=core&_cview=1

And here is what they want prices on:

:
F1C0BW1259A002
:
Combined Synopsis/Solicitation
:
Added: Sep 22, 2011 3:32 am

This is a combined synopsis/solicitation for commercial items prepared in accordance with the format in Subpart 12.6, as supplemented with additional information included in this notice. This announcement constitutes the only solicitation; quotes are being requested and a written solicitation will not be issued. This solicitation, F1C0RH1259A002, is being issued as a Request for Quotation (RFQ). This solicitation document and incorporated provisions and clauses are those in effect through Federal Acquisition Circular (FAC) 2005-53. This procurement is a 100% Small Business set-aside IAW FAR 19.502-2(a). The NAICS code is 541890 and the small business size standard is $7,000,000.00. The following commercial items are requested in this solicitation:

Logo for USAF HQ Sexual Assault Prevention Response Program

Is it Sexual Assault Prevention Response Program or Sexual Awareness Prevention Response Program?

NOTE: SAPR Stock logo is provided. See attached pdf.

CLIN 0001 – Collapsible Can Cooler
Quantity: 750ea
Color: Teal
Folds flat; pocket/ purse storage
Printed SAPR Logo with “Andersen AFB 366-SARC”

CLIN 0002 – Circular Keyring (chrome)
Quantity: 250ea
SAPR Logo with “Andersen AFB 366-SARC”
(Laser engraved)
CLIN 0003 – Stainless Bottle (25 oz.)
Quantity: 400ea
Color: Teal
Height: Appx. 9 inches
Printed SAPR Logo with “Andersen AFB 366-SARC”

CLIN 0004- Leather-bound Journal with ruled pages,
business card holder and pen loop.
Dimensions: 8.5″H x 6.5″W x 0.75″L
Quantity: 50ea
Embossed with with SAPR logo

CLIN 0005- Insulated Cooler Drawstring Cinch Bag
Nylon exterior; adjustable nylon cord w/
shoulder straps
Quantity: 400ea
Color: Teal
Printed SAPR logo with “Andersen AFB 366-SARC”

CLIN 0006- Tumbler (15 oz.)
Quantity: 50ea
Double wall construction with stainless steel liner; leather holder; removable sleeve.
Printed SAPR logo

Somehow, giving away can stainless water bottles or insulated cooler cinch bags is somehow going to prevent either “sexual assault” or “sexual awareness”?

This is in a country where we can barely give our kids proper sex ed, and the idea of distributing free condoms to youths most at risk of either getting preggers or STDs is against the law?

Despite the problems with the horrible logo- which won’t screen print or engrave easily, the whole idea of our government spending around $20K on trash and trinkets, just before year end, as our government is bordering on bankruptcy has to make someone wonder.

I know this is less than rounding error on a sub-sub-sub line item of just the Air Force budget, but, as an American – working as a contracting officer, shouldn’t you be putting your foot down? This mess might have been caused by Congress- but there is nothing stopping government employees from asking real questions like “What is an engraved keyring going to do to stop sexual assault?”

So much for photo ID at the polling places

While Republicans in Ohio have been busy trying to use smoke and mirrors to distract from the real issues at hand- by wasting time with stupid ideas like requiring state-issued photo IDs at  polling places, to combat a self-proclaimed “voter fraud” issue that doesn’t exist- the Chinese have already a foot in their door to help in the subversion of the American voting system….

uh, that was total BS.

Yep, instead of laying down the law and eliminating over half of our Podunk jurisdictions by state mandate, the Republicans are worried about people voting 2x or more, to sway elections. This is SUCH a widespread problem (gag).

And yes, the Chinese do play a part in it- because for about $100 you can get a most excellent, number one, knockoff of an Ohio driver’s license via the Internet:

The counterfeit version of Ohio’s driver’s license has been intercepted by federal authorities in at least two cities with international mail facilities — Chicago and Cincinnati. But countless IDs have reached college students and others who ordered them online.“It is a considerable problem that we’re dealing with,” said Robert Booker Jr., executive director of the Ohio Investigative Unit, an agency within the Department of Public Safety that enforces liquor laws.

via Fake IDs contain features of real ones | The Columbus Dispatch.

Fake Press ID for David Esrati

With a $.99 app, I'm a member of the Press

In a story the DDN ran in the print edition of today’s paper- the Columbus Dispatch uncovers a dirty little secret- that IDs are still easy to forge. They do claim that the Chinese knock-offs don’t have the right data encoded on the magstripe- but, in all my years, the only places I’ve seen the magstripe swiped for data has been in c asinos and a tech trade show. Besides, any smart college student can re-encode a magstripe pretty easily. Doing a search on fake ID generators online gives you a ton of choices- I just bought an iPhone App for .99 that allows you to become a secret agent, Lifeguard or a member of the Heineken Party Squad- seriously.

Ohio supposedly upgraded the security of the IDs this year to meet federal standards, but this will take at least a few years to fully propagate.

The real problems with our elections have nothing to do with voters, it has to do with the systems we have for drawing districts, what positions we elect people to (the coroner? really?) the processes for getting on the ballot, the way the local boards of elections are staffed by political patronage and last but not least our arcane methods of how we register and track voters and how we go to vote (that 78-year-old woman at the polls is really going to be able to tell a fake ID?).

Ohio has election problems galore- but they won’t be solved with photo IDs or by the politicians we have- they’ll only be solved when we totally reinvent the state’s way of divvying up power. First to go are urban townships, next to go are cities smaller than 25% of a county’s population- and we even could reduce the number of counties- by half and not miss anything.

But instead- let’s blame the Chinese for helping subvert Ohio’s election process, it’s a lot easier than fixing what’s really broke.

Choice: American as apple pie, unless we’re talking politics

America talks about spreading “democracy” across the globe- but, I believe we need to reexamine what passes for “democracy” in this country. We talk about the right to choose who leads, who makes our laws and our “certain inalienable rights” that grant us the right to have choices- unless of course, it’s to have an abortion, marry someone of the same sex, or have more than two choices when going to the polls.

Yet, when it comes to our consumption economy- we’re overwhelmed with choices. The modern supermarket shelves offer us endless options- even under the same brand name. I get more choices in types of dryer sheets than I do in political thought in our country- and, the price tag on choosing between the two proffered brands has become obscene. We spend around $5 billion dollars (or more as this evolves) every two years to pick between two indistinguishable candidates? Trust me- with that kind of budget Procter & Gamble gives us hundreds of clearly distinguished brands- and all of them come with a modicum of a guarantee- something strangely missing from the American political model. Term limits have been a knee-jerk reaction to politics as a profession- but why should we be forced to part with a product we might love- if one ever managed to make it up from the primordial muck our system has “evolved” to? We’d have to throw our one beloved product out? What good is that?

Back in 1962 John F. Kennedy introduced a “Consumer Bill of Rights”- of course, our chosen brand of president got term limited by a gun, which totally screwed up the carefully planned process. It’s also sad that in a country with over 300 million people, the guy JFK beat came back to win later- only to resign in disgrace. To think that the best this system can do is give us only two choices (and that if we have to recycle the ones at the top until they win or go away) is just obscene.

Conscious Consumers Bill of Rights

Click on image to download large PDF

JFK’s proposed CBoR has recently been resurrected by an ad man who seems to have gone rogue from the business of selling high fructose corn syrup and fast food to the obese and bad operating systems to the masses. Alex Bogusky is trying to redefine the consumption economy with a sustainable, sound and reasoned process. Sort of like a physicist searching for the “grand unification theory” or the early alchemists trying to turn garbage into gold, Bogusky’s new mission is a work in process, evolving- but he has begun with a new “Conscious CBoR”- and the third maxim is:

The right to choose–to be assured access to a variety of products and services at competitive prices (as long as those prices do not come at the exploitation of others); and in those industries in which competition is not workable and Government regulation is substituted, an assurance of satisfactory quality and service at fair prices.

via The New Conscious Consumer Bill of Rights – alexbogusky’s posterous.

Note, the place where competition is least working these days is in politics- and the regulators (voters) almost seem like inconsequential minions in a process now ruled by big money and big media.

Something needs to change. Sooner than later.

Here is my presentation from Pecha Kucha Dayton #7, on June 30, 2011, offering choices to change the way we choose our leaders. The room was dark, hot and crowded. The video is less than professional- and the presentation unrefined. For those of you not familiar with Pecha Kucha (or PK for those who don’t want to massacre the Japanese) check out the Pecha-Kucha site, the format is 20 slides, 20 seconds each- and that’s about it.

 

 

Hand marking an instant runoff ballot

Instant runoff ballot allows voters to rank candidates

Instant runoff voting was invented by an American architect in 1871 and is in use worldwide. While it may sound complex, with computer vote tallying it becomes quite simple. With a list of candidates to rank, voters can give their vote to the person or party they feel most aligned with, knowing that if their candidate doesn’t get enough of the vote, their second or third choice still has a chance. The system gives opportunities for other parties to have a chance to form, grow and gain traction. Voters don’t have to feel as if they are voting against a candidate or making a choice between the lesser of two evils. The common complaint is that too many candidates can make voting difficult (the so called “Jungle Primary” is used in California- yet it’s proven that voters end up choosing respectable candidates over the superficial ones). This is a country that has no problems ranking and following over 40 NASCAR drivers and accepts the arcane BCS college bowl system to choose a national champion- our voters aren’t incapable of picking from a large field.

Public financing of elections is the key second part of this overhaul. We currently have a system that favors incumbency by a wide margin- mostly because access to campaign cash is easy for those in power, and because the ability to get easy free media coverage is denied opposition candidates. If you ever found it odd that you get a “newsletter from your congressmen” most frequently just before election season- and note that the mail is “franked” (free postage to members of congress) you are just scraping the surface of the uneven playing field we’ve created.

Our presidents serve for four years, but we can only expect work in the first two years of the first term, and the real president to emerge in the second half of the second term because the rest of the time, he’s busy raising money for his re-election or trying to influence congressional elections.

With public financing, politicians can no longer accept any donations, bribes or gifts. Campaigns are given equal media time, equal opportunities to present their case and we remove all opportunities for special interests to buy influence- giving the voters back the power to choose their leadership. Senator Dick Durbin has proposed a “Fair Elections Now” act that forces small dollar donations from voters to leverage into vouchers to run campaigns more like what we’re used to, however, it is possible to totally take money out of politics if we want.

Our current single day election system is easily influenced by bad weather. Elderly voters who have proven to be the one segment of our pathetically small voter base (only 79% of eligible voters are registered, and of those, many are infrequent voters) that reliably votes- can end up staying home in adverse weather. We have no provisions for weather calamities- such as major snow or wind storms, to provide for alternative voting days.

What a combined voter guide, ballot publication would look like

The voter guide/ballot would be mailed to every registered voter

Voting by mail changes all this- giving voters the opportunity to spend time analyzing, researching and deciding without pressure of a single election day, or worrying about being confronted at the polls by opposition or last-minute attack ads. Sending every registered voter a publication with equal space for all candidates as well as a ballot to be mailed can help change the way campaigns have devolved to last-minute cage fights and unfounded “swift boating” attacks. Candidates can have complete control over their websites, where they can say anything they want- but in the voter guide- candidates must only present their positions, qualifications and put their promises in writing.

The last part of the proposed reform package is to limit actual campaigning, debates and media to the six weeks before elections. The idea that congressmen spend half of each two-year term campaigning is a colossal waste of resources- and our current political ad barrage in the critical fourth quarter of the year makes it hard for commercial interests to buy media and advertise in the critical holiday buying season. Many have proposed that “election day” be moved to the Fourth of July- to give some additional significance to the celebration of the day that we declared our intent to overthrow the government and to celebrate our democracy.

In a country where our “rights” are broadly discussed, the right to choose our leadership has sadly not made it to the top of any list of debate. If we truly want “Change we can believe in” as our last successful presidential candidate promised, we need a system for choosing candidates that we can believe in.

Right now, we have one that gives us the best politicians money can buy, and they come with no guarantee of performance. By transforming our electoral system from an auction to a fair market, we may start to get a democracy that works.

 

Of course lying is still constitutional

With an increasing number of “Beltway Patriots” running this country and our military defense budget- lying about past military service had become sport. So, Congress decided to do something about it with the “Stolen Valor Act” back in 2006.

Problem was- it made lying punishable by imprisonment- which if it had been extended to Congress – they’d be meeting in prison.

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld an earlier ruling by three of its members that a law making it illegal to lie about being a military hero violates free speech.The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision strikes down the so-called Stolen Valor Act passed by Congress in 2006.

via Federal court: Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional – San Jose Mercury News.

As a veteran, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into jerks telling me they were in Special Forces- and when confronted with my unit coin- I’ve drawn a blank stare.

The reality is- our country doesn’t value integrity or military service anymore. We reward CEOs who destroy our economy, we elect idiots who embarrass us, and we pass a lot of laws that we don’t enforce- including one requiring 3% of all government contracts are supposed to go to Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses- and then ignore it.

Lip service is the best we can do these days- military service has been trivialized.

If you want to “Thank a Vet” – start here: Buy Veteran. It’s a voluntary program.

Desperation and Morality: where to draw the line?

When people are desperate, some turn to crime. When governments are desperate they just redefine crime- now, online gambling is getting looked at as a tax source. Why not just go all the way- legalize prostitution and marijuana too? It’s ok to fleece billions on Wall Street- and get paid millions for failing- but, sell crack and get sent to the slammer.

So when the New York Times reports that online poker may be ready for prime time- look out- the Treasury is broke and they’re becoming flexible:

With pressure mounting on the federal government to find new revenues, Congress is considering legalizing, and taxing, an activity it banned just four years ago: Internet gambling.

Congress banned Internet gambling in 2006, but is rethinking its stand. Supporters say the shift could yield billions in taxes.

On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee approved a bill that would effectively legalize online poker and other nonsports betting, overturning a 2006 federal ban that critics say merely drove Web-based casinos offshore.

The bill would direct the Treasury Department to license and regulate Internet gambling operations, while a companion measure, pending before another committee, would allow the Internal Revenue Service to tax such businesses. Winnings by individuals would also be taxed, as regular gambling winnings are now. The taxes could yield as much as $42 billion for the government over 10 years, supporters said.

The two measures — which are backed by banks and credit unions but have divided casinos and American Indian tribes — are far from becoming law.

via Congress Is Rethinking Its Ban on Internet Gambling – NYTimes.com.

Of course, the whole “gambling” is something to protect the public from thing went away long ago. Lotteries were allowed- “to pay for schools”- and Casino’s “would bring jobs to Ohio” are the way those in power rationalize changing their tune.

Never mind they refuse to protect American workers from being either exploited or tossed aside- pretty soon, the United States will be a giant Gomorrah- because we’ve forgotten that the huge middle class was really what made this the country of opportunity- not our Military Industrial Complex or Wall Street.

I’ve never been much of a gambler in life. It’s only recently that I’ve learned how to play poker. I have zero interest in a cash game- but don’t mind playing in a tournament with a fixed buy in. The strategy of the game, especially when playing with good players- can be a fascinating way to spend an evening. Too bad the government still thinks this is a part of life they believe they need to control. Their efforts to ban it were as successful as Prohibition with alcohol, the “War on Drugs” with addiction and the non-smoking ordinances without enforcement in Ohio.

Go ahead- deal me in. Let’s start working on things that really matter in this country. This is only poker.