Fix the System – Randomize the Primaries

Greetings from Pennsylvania where primary fever and the contest between Senators Clinton and Obama culminates this evening. Oh sure, there are other primaries, but this is the ‘do-or-die’ contest for Senator Clinton, right? And I must say that I see much more electoral enthusiasm here than I did in California two months back, but unfortunately there’s still a subtext that bothers me—a commonality between my home state and the state where I happen to be vacationing: No group should be cut out of the democratic process the way large and influential states have been in the past. Nor should any state be disenfranchised by party elites the way Florida and Michigan will be at the Democratic convention—merely because they had the temerity to make themselves influential through early primaries.

The plain fact is that the sacredness of the primary schedule is an undemocratic blight on the presidential election process. Residents of Iowa and New Hampshire don’t have some god-given right to exert influence far exceeding their populations. Moreover, the unprecedented length of this campaign is not only an enormous waste of money and resources, it’s a waste of the scant attention span that most of us have to devote to the campaign.

The primary schedule is like the Electoral College in the way it perverts the process. Where the former gives candidates the opportunity to attack and hopefully eliminate each other while only catering to small slice of the electorate, the latter does the same for the nominees, reducing the whole election to a few ‘battleground’ states where the margins between parties are razor thin. Good for the parties; good for the candidates; bad for democracy. And we’re not going to be able to fix the electoral college anytime soon, but the primary schedule? That we can fix, and deal with the ‘never-ending campaign’ at the same time. “How?” You may ask. Simple: Randomize the primary schedule.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that nobody gets to announce their candidacy or raise a single dime of money before June 1st of the election year. Then…for 12 weeks beginning the first Tuesday before the July 4th holiday, we hold 4 primaries each week from a randomized list drawn up on the same day as the candidates’ announcements. (We’ll do six in the last week to bring things to a close on a Super Tuesday in September.) Then…two weeks to the conventions and 6 weeks to the general election.

VOILA! How patriotic! How efficient! How democratic! No more elections that resemble candidate-crushing, attention-sapping marathons characterized more by the amount of money spent than the issues raised and discussed. No more watching states that comprise 60% of the electorate get sidelined—2008 being the only counter-argument of the last 40 years. Now if only we could do away with the Electoral College.

A national spiritual holiday

This Friday, the 25th of April, is undoubtedly the most profoundly spiritual day for most Australians. ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) continues to be more than just another day off, a reason to party, even to those of us opposed to warfare.

Even during my teen years opposing Vietnam I recall attending ANZAC Day dawn services, the most moving event I can conjure. The dawn service commemorates the time of the original landing of our troops at Gallipoli during the WWI. The ritual includes ‘standing to’ before two minutes of silence was observed, broken by the sound of a lone piper playing the ‘Last Post’.

I will be going to the local dawn service on Friday, supporting a group of young army cadets. But across the country the importance of the event continues, with the majority of those attending now being under 30 yo.

I can only reflect, from my own feelings, this is has nothing to do with glorifying war, rather recognising that through the generations the courage and camaraderie implicit in just standing up for what we believe is right. We continue to fight for the things we believe in, even if the only weapons are words.

Mind you, the breakfast ain’t half bad. I forgo the rum personally, but I never say no to the early morning glass of beer…

Obama questioned about his temper – ABC News mavens focus on 1970 carpet store trip

Barack Obama was again confronted by probing questions from leading national journalists today, on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary.

This time Obama, the Illinois Democrat and frontrunner for his party’s nomination, found himself having to answer questions about his temper from anchorman Charles Gibson and commentator George Stephanopoulos, both of ABC News.

On the road with the Obama campaign in recent days, Gibson and Stephanopoulos took turns peppering Obama with questions about a 1970 incident in Hawaii, in which Obama accompanied his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, on a shopping trip to a carpet store.

Two witnesses who were at Floor-Tex, a Honolulu store, on November 9, 1970, recall the incident clearly.

Clinton William Jefferson, who describes himself as born and raised in Hawaii, says nine year-old Obama showed no interest in the carpet samples, tiles and area rugs.

“This white lady was with this jug-eared black kid, who was just sulking around,” said Jefferson.

“He went limp at times, lying across carpet rolls and flopping around on the floor, complaining in a whiny voice that he was bored.” Finally, said Jefferson, the boy flew into a red-faced rage and his mother abruptly escorted him from the establishment.

“The mother said, ‘It’s one of those days’,” recalled Jefferson.

“The kid was so disrespectful, I’ve never forgotten it,” said another eyewitness, “lifelong Hawaiian” Jeff Clinton Williams, who said he had gone to Floor-Tex that day looking for astroturf.

“Talk about a kid you don’t want growing up to be president,” said Williams.

“Then last week I saw Barack Obama on TV calling Pennsylvanians bitter. I immediately thought, ‘oh my goodnesss, it’s that whiny jug-eared kid from 38 years ago’.”

So far, Obama has refused to explain what was going through his mind that day.

Senator Hillary Clinton, campaigning to hold on to her narrow lead in Pennsylvania, was quick to seize on the new disclosure.

“Barack Obama’s behavior on 11/9, and his refusal to apologize now, disrespects not only the carpet shoppers of Pennsylvania, but also the carpet and floor coverings industry,” she said. Congoleum, a leading residential and commercial flooring manufacturer, is a major employer in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Clinton’s campaign also released a new TV commercial on Sunday addressing the issue of Obama’s temper.

Over a color photo of Clinton dressed as the beloved Quaker Oats Man, a narrator intones: “We need a president who is one of you. A president who doesn’t get cranky and need a nap. A president who can answer the call at 3 am, instead of having to go to bed early so he can do well at school the next day. Experience, maturity AND no set bedtime. Vote Clinton.”

Those troubled Olympics

Power politicsChina has joined a long list of countries seemingly dedicated losing one the biggest single benefits of the Olympics, the PR super race. The history of the modern Olympics clearly shows the even is not about sports, but rather marketing.

There has been major debate here in Australia over wayward athletes bringing the local Olympics team into disrepute. They still think this is about sports. The history of the modern games should have made it clear these events are about anything but sports.

The industry related corporations understand this, and manage to ramp up sales significantly on the back of the games. It is the competing and host nations that have repeatedly failed to gain any useful advantage as they play politics. The history is littered with farcical national PR failures.

Risking another local reflection, even the benign 1956 Melbourne Olympics were boycotted by the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, because of the repression of the Hungarian Uprising by the Soviet Union. Go figure…

Now it is China’s turn to screw up this great national publicity stunt. The great torch relay, symbol (laughs to himself) of peace and harmony, is looking mare like the parade of a clumsy, lumbering giant across the world’s stage.

As Dick Cheney has shown us, the corporations are incredibly adept at these PR games. It’s only when they dabble in politics their shortcomings are revealed. Perhaps the Olympics should really become a sporting event at last and keep the power plays for political events.

iNews Friday – 4/18/2008

From the iNews 9000 Turbo Wi-Fi headline translator–

Headline: Bushes pay taxes on $923,000 income
Translation: Overtaxed Bush gives himself tax cut

Headline: Taco Bell, NRA fund ‘black ops’
Translation: Taco Bell debuts no-knock home delivery using SWAT teams

Headline: Bush Says He Approved Torture
Translation: “Doesn’t everyone torture their Barbies?”

Headline: Republican lawmaker calls Obama a ‘boy’
Translation: Geoff Davis claims he called Obama a ‘buoy’ – “I’m no Al Campanis,” says Kentucky Republican

Headline: FBI’s Monroe Sex Flick Sold For $1.5M
Translation: “Highly unlikely person shown is the 5th president” – Smithsonian docent

Headline: Senator Vitter won’t testify on ‘Madam’
Translation: Will get off of her first

Headline: ‘We have tech to make cloned child’
Translation: Warren Jeff’s new fiancee registered at Advanced Cell Technology

Headline: Dems allege GOP committee illegally coordinated with non-profit
Translation: Proximity of words ‘GOP’ and ‘non-profit’ nearly opens cataclysmic rift between universes

Headline: McCain “Family Recipes” Lifted from the Food Network
Translation: Cindy McCain denies knowing “John’s Favorite Chipped Beef & Prune Stew” recipe came from ‘Dietician’s Corner’ at GoldenYearsSeniorResidences.com

Headline: Click it or ticket: Now Iraqi drivers get message
Translation: “The main reason we invaded Iraq was Saddam’s lax traffic laws,” Bush says

Headline: Pope asks Americans to be genuinely Catholic
Translation: Hillary Clinton – ‘Pope wrong to tell Americans to cling to religion

Headline: Pope Benedict to hold talks with President Bush
Translation
: Bush will only meet if Pope agrees to preconditions

Lethal injection not fit for animals

hang the crueltyIsn’t heartening that there is concern that some forms of administering the death sentence might be inhumane? An anesthesiologist, Dr Death or Heath or some such claimed that Ohio’s method falls below the standard for euthanising household pets.

To be fair, the good doctor did state his opposition to the death sentence, it’s just curious to find one method might be more humane than another. Curious too that it should be compared to euthanasia. There is a vast difference between choosing a peaceful end and being led down the final corridor.

My how we have progressed as a society, that we can finally determine issues of cruelty with the actual method of death. Surely being on death row for decades facing fairly certain odds of execution is no picnic; surely facing one lost appeal after the next subjects a prisoner to a certain level of cruelty.

Frankly I think there is something decidedly sick about death penalty advocates. Do it or don’t do it, but these people behave like cats teasing a mouse to death. It is more about extracting every ounce of some often imagined revenge. If they were really serious there wouldn’t be so many languishing on death rows.

Bush Finally Jumps The Climate-change Shark

President Bush called for a halt Wednesday in the growth of greenhouse gases by 2025, acknowledging the need to head off serious climate change.

2025? Yep, we’ll be back in power by then and can tie things up till 2050 at least!

…Bush …said he was ready to commit to a binding international agreement on long-term reductions as long as other countries such as China do the same.

China will agree to reductions the day Chairman Mao rises from the dead.

“There is a wrong way and a right way to approach reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Bush said…

And the right way is to make sure that the everyone else goes first, giving us the chance to suck every last drop of oil from the ground.

“Bad legislation would impose tremendous costs on our economy and American families without accomplishing the important climate change goals we share,” the president said.

Course the economy can’t git much worse, so maybe I should check with Dick and see if we share a climate change goal or two.

He said he envisions a “comprehensive blend of market incentives and regulations” that would encourage clean and efficient energy technologies.

That would be a blend of 1% regulation and 99% incentives…to produce clean coal.

While characterized by the White House as a fresh strategy to attack climate change, the president gave no new proposals for achieving these pollution reductions. He cited, instead, measures already enacted such as a 40 percent increase in auto fuel economy…

I repeat this crap in the State of the Union every year, but at least I won’t have to do that again!

Air America cancels most service – “Can’t handle the baggage,” says official

Air America today followed the examples of a growing number of airlines, announcing it is canceling nearly all of its daily service.

“Perhaps the airline business model was not the best to design a progressive radio network around,” said George W.B. Frandle, V.P. for Compromise at Air America.

“Bobby Kennedy Jr. is our only real pilot, and he’s only in the — on the air once a week,” he said. However, Frandle said the current problems are the result of baggage difficulties.

The formerly high-flying radio network’s move comes on the heels of last week’s departure of Noon-3pm host Randi Rhodes, for what network management called abusive language toward Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, but what Rhodes calls her refusal to renegotiate her contract.

Rhodes is just the latest in a series of cancellations, including the departures of every host except Kennedy and the guy who does the 5 am Farm Report.

Popular shows such as Morning Sedition and Unfiltered were often replaced with short-haul runs with few passengers, such as Jerry Springer, Politically Direct and The Air Americans. Some critics said it seemed as if Air America intended to fail.

“Since we first took off in 2004 the baggage has been unbearable,” Frandle said.

“Today, four years later, we’ve lost too many of our frequent flyers. There is so much we haven’t been able to deliver on. Like not canceling popular shows, rewarding talent, and having actual liberal values,” he said.

Frandle said Air America will stay on the air. “As the 142nd Vice President for Compromise, I can state categorically that Air America is committed to quality, has learned from its mistakes, and will keep flying — broadcasting,” Frandle said.

Frandle also said bankruptcy was not in the immediate future. “We’ve already been in Chapter 11 about ten zillion times, we can’t do that again so soon,” said Frandle.

“I think we’ll just declare artistic bankruptcy and move on.”

Obama hit over “bitter” remark – Americans “minty and proud,” agree Clinton, McCain

Republican John McCain and Democrat Hillary Clinton have found another piece of common ground in their campaigns for their respective party’s nominations for president. The two have united in outrage against remarks by Senator Barack Obama that the current state of the economy has left many Americans “bitter.”

“Takes one to know one,” McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, charged in a press conference Monday morning.

“The only thing bitter is the taste Obama’s words left on the tongues of American men, women, children and lobbyists,” said the Arizona senator. “Obama should cleanse America’s palate by apologizing,” McCain said.

McCain said he wasn’t personally accusing Obama of bitterness, only that “his statements have a definite lemony-limey, tarty-warty aftertaste,” he said. “How about something minty and refreshing instead, sort of a national pick-me-up?”

Clinton, trailing Obama in Democratic delegates, also mentioned mint yesterday. “All nations have their own flavor,” she told employees at the McCormick Spice Co. plant near Baltimore.

“My vast foreign policy experience gives me insight into garlicky France, five-spice China, cardamom-infused India, and an Italy staggering under the weight of centuries of oregano. But America’s mintiness stands crisp and fresh above the rest of the world,” she said.

“Minty means optimism. Minty means the clarity to wake up at 3 a.m. on day one, and take whatever the world dishes out.”

Late Monday, Clinton and McCain made a joint appearance urging Americans to take a pledge against bitterness.

Both wore sprigs of mint on their lapels, and said they plan to jointly sponsor a Senate resolution declaring mint America’s national flavor.

They concluded by leading the estimated crowd of 1,500 in chanting: “Say it loud — I’m minty and I’m proud.”

Double-minty

Double-minty