Our flawed election system
Last week’s election illustrates, yet again, how our broken voting system makes a mockery of the democratic ideal. No, I’m not talking about union/ corporate campaign spending. Nor is the problem lobbyists, or low voter turnout or an uneducated populace. It’s not even the electoral college.
The problem is plurality voting, which is a fancy term for “one person, one vote; most votes wins.” Yes, everybody from your eighth-grade civics teacher to Schoolhouse Rock taught you that this is democracy, and we fought the British for exactly this right. But plurality is only one form of voting. Sadly, it’s also pretty much the most flawed system possible, with all its shortcomings stemming from the fact that outcomes are subject to “split votes,” meaning that two or more candidates divide a block of voters, enabling another, potentially less-popular candidate to win.
The tactics used to combat split voting are what taint democracy. Candidates who are not nominees of the two major parties (e.g. Ralph Nader) are under tremendous pressure to not run.
When they do run, their supporters are under pressure to not vote for them. Because people vote strategically rather than from their hearts, the results misrepresent actual sentiment. And those who do vote their conscience are left knowing they may have helped their least favorite choice win the election. (e.g. George Bush in 2000.)
Does any of that sound like democracy?
It gets worse. The game theory of split votes means that large cartels are needed to prevent it from happening, essentially through vote-fixing, and those cartels become the gatekeepers for who is allowed to participate. In our case, those cartels are the Democratic and Republican parties.
And like any organization, from a corporation to a union to the State Department, these parties are motivated first and foremost to perpetuate their own power. Which is why Washington politics often seems more like a scorecard between the two parties than an engine of sound policy. We don’t have a democracy; we have a duopoly.
Why do we let this happen? We would take to the streets armed if two private corporations picked our leaders; why do we allow two political parties to maintain this duopoly? Is it because we’re permitted to work for them for free, put stickers on our cars, and go to their conventions? (As an aside, Exxon would be thrilled if you did these things for them, too.) Why do we let these two nearly omnipotent (and, by the way, tax-exempt) organizations decide who gets to be on the ballot?
Wrong ethanol to support
I’m amazed to learn that in this economic climate, Congress is considering legislation that would fill the pockets of the U.S. ethanol industry to the tune of $30 billion over the next five years, and extend the 54 cents-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol.
The U.S. ethanol industry is already the world’s largest, producing more than 12 billion gallons of corn ethanol per year. It benefits from generous government mandates that guarantee profits for years to come.
Americans have spent $45 billion since 1980 to grow this industry. Does it really need more of our hard earned money?
The subsidies and trade barriers also limit our access to clean energy sources like sugarcane ethanol. Sugarcane ethanol is an advanced, lowcarbon fuel that could help the U.S. cut dependence on Middle East oil, save money at the pump and improve the environment, according to both the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. Unfortunately, it’s nearly unavailable in the U.S., thanks to Congress.
As the U.S. emerges from the greatest recession in a generation, we deserve a Congress that chooses sound, stable and secure economic and energy policies which are rooted in fair, open-market competition, and benefit Americans at the pump. Congress should let our current ethanol policies expire on Dec. 31, saving taxpayers $30 billion over the next five years when we need it most.
Fight back, Obama
Mr. President, I’m as solidly with you as is your own shadow, as are many others, but Mr. President, you must proceed to fight, sir! I, we, understand that this is apparently not your nature, that you are, indeed, far more cerebral and intellectually well-balanced in your theoretical approach and analysis.
But this, my friend, is a battle. A down and dirty political fight. And if you’re not prepared to meet this very real challenge in a very real way, how do you expect us to “fight back,” as I saw you asking us in one of your ads, when you, sir, are not? It doesn’t work that way. I still think you can take a punch, but, dammit, man, I need to know that you can really throw one, as well. You’re a peace-loving humanitarian Hawaiian in your heart, no doubt, but it’s gonna take some Muhammad Ali kind of Chicago maneuvering and a lot less of this constant capitulation to people that could care about nothing more than your destruction. Why can you not see this?
I worry. P.S. Oh no, I just heard you just gave in yet again, saying you’ll consider extending the tax cuts for the rich. Are you mad, man? There is no need nor justification for this kind of cowardice. I cannot continue to support this, sir.
Iran’s war on Israel
As Tehran continues to develop its weapons arsenal, the Iranian leadership constantly reminds the international community that it wants to see an end to Israel’s existence.
Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and operates through various proxies, notably Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Iran-backed terrorists in Gaza have fired at least 170 rockets and other weapons at Israel so far this year — despite the fact that it’s been five years since there was a single settler or settlement in Gaza.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force trains troops around the world and covertly supplies weapons to advance “Iranian interests” — including killing Americans. Imagine if they had nuclear weapons?
The United States should press its allies to enact a new round of sanctions aimed at isolating the Iranian Central Bank, which finances and facilitates the Islamic republic’s nuclear program. All options must remain on the table should sanctions fail.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is committed to peace and a two-state solution. However, Palestinians in Gaza must stop shooting rockets at Israel. The Palestinian Authority must live up to the agreements it signed and finally start educating its people for peace.
It is time for Palestinians and their leaders to truly recognize Israel and raise their children for jobs, not jihad. Both sides — Israelis and Palestinians — deserve a better future.
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