Monday, July 31, 2006

Election Reform Part 4

Right now I am involved in a three way race for the Indiana 80th District State Representative seat. Also in the news is the Connecticut US Senate race, in which incumbent Joe Lieberman says he will run under the "Connecticut for Lieberman Party" ticket if he loses the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. So in that Senate race there very well be a competitive race between a Democrat, a Democrat running as an independent, and a Republican. There also happens to be a Green Party candidate, Ralph Ferrucci and two other independent candidates, John Mertens and Diana S. Urban.

Voters in my district and in CT face a dilemma. They might like one candidate better than the rest, but might decide to instead vote for a candidate that they do not like as much but has a better chance at beating the candidate that they really hate.
There is also the possibility, however slight, that Lieberman and Lamont might split the liberal vote and Republican Alan Schlesinger would win by getting a plurality of the votes.

We need a system that lets voters choose their favorite instead of forcing them to just vote against someone they dread. Run-off voting does exactly that. In the first round, voters can choose between anyone of a slate of candidates who met the requirements for being listed on the ballot. If nobody wins a majority, then the top vote getters advance to the next round and the process is repeated.

There is a similar process call Instant Run-off Voting. It allows voters to rate candidates in order of preference. Unlike other run-off voting processes, this only requires one day of voting. Here is a link to explain how it works

Friday, July 28, 2006

How the Social Security Administration deals with the backlog of cases

My dad, who works for SSA's Office of Hearings and Appeals sent me this. A lot of people are turned down for Social Security benefits because they simply have not worked enough and paid enough in taxes. These people file an appeal, which means the government has to A)fight the appeal or B) send the bum a check. So the government has created a rule that lets them do the latter. It's sort of like settling out of court.

Dear taxpayers,

Just thought you would like to know what your government is doing to deal with the crushing backlog of requests for hearing in disability cases in the Social Security Administration. I am particularly intrigued by the "No Work Experience Profile". Consider this: A person who didn't bother to get a high school education ("no more than a limited education"), hasn't bothered to work or has worked "under the table" in the past 15 years ("no past relevant work"), has managed to live to age 55, and has any impairment that causes more than a minimum limitation on his or her ability to work ("severe impairment"). Would you consider such a person to be disabled? Well, the Social Security Administration now does. The lack of past work experience would make the person ineligible for regular Social Security disability benefits, but the person could qualify for Supplemental Security Income. We call this "paying down the backlog." Just thought you would all like to know how wisely your tax money is being spent. The toughest part of my job lately has been holding my nose with one hand as I type decisions with the other.

Michael B. Enders
Senior Attorney
Hartford, CT Hearing Office

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I have been cast in a play

I have been cast in "Sci Fi Blast Off Theater" It is a series of short, funny sci fi skits.

Performances: Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm, Sunday at 1:30pm
July 28, 29, 30,
August 4, 5 & 6.
Firehouse Theater

1245 E. State Street

Fort Wayne Indiana

SPOILER ALERT! I get to kill Santa Claus!!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Election Reform Part 3

Today I am going to talk about gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the art of drawing a circle around as many of your friends as possible on a map then calling that a district. In Indiana, one can always count on the legislature to draw up congressional and legislative districts so that they favor the Republicans. I suspect that the Democrats would consider doing the same thing if they were in power. But both parties resent it when the other does it, and I think both sides would happily give it up if they thought that the other would give it up as well.

In politics, however, you can't count on a gentleman's agreement. Sometimes you really do need a new law to keep things fair. If the Democrats take back the legislature, Republicans are going to wish they passed this law that I am proposing.

The boundaries for congressional and legislative districts should be drawn using the following guidelines:
1. The priority when drawing a district should be to include voters who have geography in common, not ideology.
2. The boundaries of each district must consist of no more than 5 lines running north to south and five lines running east to west.
3. Shorelines of natural bodies of water, county lines, state boundaries and city limits are acceptable district boundaries and do not count towards the totals defined above.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Election Reform Part 2

Proposal #2 End "winner take all" system for assigning Indiana's presidential electors.

If Evan Bayh is nominated for president or vice-president by the Democrats, Indiana may very well become a battleground state in the next election. No party will then be able to comfortably say that they will win this state's 11 electorial votes. This is why it is in the best interests of everyone to consider switching to a more equitable way of assigning Indiana's presidential electors.

Under the current system, if one presidential candidate receives a slight majority, or even a plurality of Indiana's popular votes, they would get all 11 of Indiana's votes.

There are several systems that we can consider switching to. The first is the Maine Method. In Maine, whoever wins the popular vote in the entire state wins 2 electorial votes. Then whoever wins in each congressional district would receive one electorial vote.

The second system is proportional distribution. Under that system, each candidate would receive electorial votes based on the proportion of vote that they get in the election. Let's say Bayh gets 4/11ths of the vote, McCain gets 5/11ths, and Trey Parker gets 2/11ths. Bayh would then get 4 electorial votes, McCain would get 5 electorial votes, and Parker would get 2.

There is also a system being proposed in other states in which all of the most populous states simple agree to have their electors vote for who ever wins the nationwide popular vote. This would require the cooperation of many states, but it could end the possibility of lawsuits deciding who gets to be president.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Election Reform Part 1

If elected, I will push for the following election reforms. These reforms do not neccesarily favor any party over any other party and will better reflect the will of Hoosier voters.

1. Use voting machines that print out paper receipts so that voters can know that their votes will be counted even if the machine malfunctions.
2. End "Winner take all" system for assigning Indiana's presidential electors.
3. Adopt a law specifing the drawing of congressional and legislative districts that makes gerrymandering more difficult
4. Adopt a run-off voting system in which a candidate in a 3-way or 4-way race must win the majority of votes in order to win.

In this post I will start by talking about my first proposal. When you push that button in November, how do you know that the machine is in fact registering your vote? Most of us trust election officials to do their job properly. A small but significant minority contends that electronic voting machines are subject to covert tampering. There also exists the possibility that a voting machine may be accidently damaged, that a programmer might make a sincere mistake, or that it may spontaniously malfunction due to a bug in the source code.

To borrow a phrase from Ronald Reagan, I trust the election officials but I wish to verify. Election results are too important to screw up. Democracy depends on both winners and losers recognizing the legitimacy of the results. This is an important step to take that will reassure voters that their votes are being counted.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Next LPAC Meeting

The next monthly meeting of the Libertarian Party of Allen County will take place at 7pm at the Munchie Emporium on Taylor Street. Our meetings are open to the public and everyone is welcome to come.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

No Indiana Democrat is running for Senate this year

I have a question for any Hoosier Democrats reading this. Are you going to vote for Richard Lugar anyway? Are you going to vote for Steve Osborn, the Libertarian candidate? Will you cast a write in ballot for Eric Cartman? Or will you simply abstain from voting for a Senate candidate?

Dick Lugar may be a wonderful guy, but he is still a Republican, and he can be usually counted upon to vote the party line in the Senate. If you're concerned about Republican control of Congress, voting for Osborn is your best chance for depriving the GOP of a seat in the Senate.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Red Cross faces critical blood shortage

The Red Cross is facing a critical shortage of donated blood. Normal they ask that I donate platlets and plasma because of my rare blood type (AB+, only 3% percent of the population has it), but they called me and asked for a whole blood donation. I would have donated, but I am taking an antibiotic for my infected finger.

I'm asking my fellow political bloggers to give blood if they are able. All of us clamor for health care reform, I push for less government involvement while other push for more. But a blood shortage cannot be solved with legislation. Anybody regardless of ideology can make a positive difference today by rolling up their sleeve.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

News-Sentinel can print whatever it wants in whatever language it wants.

Neither Maria Burns nor the News Sentinel should have to apologize for publishing articles about soccer in Spanish. This is America. A newspaper may whatever it wants in whatever language it wants so as long as it is true. It may in fact be the case that there are more Spanish speakers than Anglophones in this city who want to read about soccer. Any soccer fans who speak English exclusively can get their news elsewhere.
I have forgotten most of the Spanish that I learned in college. It would be quite frustrating for me if the Sentinel decided to have the front page, editorial page, and metro section in Spanish. Since my interest in professional soccer is nil, they can publish articles about it in Sanskrit for all I care. But since it is in Spanish I try to skim it to see how many words I still remember.
Most of my mixed up ethnic heritage happens to be German, as it is with most of northeast Indiana and the country at large. In case any of you have forgotten, here is a brief summary of the history of German American immigrants.
When the Declaration of Independence was signed, there were German speaking soldiers serving in the Continental Army fighting for the freedom that we enjoy today. Baron von Steuben was one of them, helping General George Washington to bring organization and discipline to the Army. King George III had hired German Hessian mercenaries who fought for more beer money. When the war ended and England recognized the United States, many Hessians had elected to stay and become American citizens.
Prior to US entry into World War I, Fort Wayne was known as a “most German town”. There were German speaking stores and newspapers. Some German Americans advocated entering into the war on the site of Imperial Germany and the Central Powers. After Congress declared war in 1917, anti-German sentiment was rampant in the US. Having an accent or a German sounding name was often enough to get one lynched. German cabbage became liberty cabbage, German shepherds became Alsatians. Many had modified their last names to sound more Anglo-Saxon. Some immigrants, having fled Germany in order to avoid being drafted into the German Army, found themselves drafted into the US Army and shipped overseas to fight their former countrymen. Most, when forced to choose between loyalty to the country of their birth and US, chose America.
Most did not know English when they crossed the Atlantic, but made an effort to learn it once they were here. Typically it takes a immigrant family, irregardless of country of origin, a generation or two for them to become fluent in English.
In the 21st century, Germanfests and Oktoberfests are held throughout the country. In downtown Fort Wayne, German banners were displayed from lamp posts, and nobody complained.