Promoting electoral reform and sound government.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Recent Chat About Electoral Reform

dude: what would you do to change the world?
Al Brown: i would reform the US's electoral system
Al Brown: switch to proportional representation and instant runoff voting
Al Brown: implement sensible voting machines
Al Brown: that would fix a lot of problems in the world right there
dude: really?
dude: you think that'd get people to vote?
dude: or just give senior citizens more power?
dude: haha
Al Brown: i'd let people select a party to represent them and then keep it for as long as they like or change it as often as the like - rebalance the legislative branch in real time
Al Brown: that way people would not have to vote periodically
dude: would you still keep it a dual party?
Al Brown: but would still get their interests represented
Al Brown: proportional representation would do away two dominate parties
Al Brown: each party would get seats in the legislature
Al Brown: i would also just let the legislature pick the president
dude: so, like the British
Al Brown: that alone would save hundreds of millions of dollars and a lot of agony
Al Brown: sort of like the parliamentary system, but Britain doesn't use proportional representation
Al Brown: so they have two dominate parties
Al Brown: dominant
dude: true, but still have other parties right?
dude: the most we have is maybe a third...
Al Brown: the smaller parties can't get seats because each voting area is winner-take-all
Al Brown: which stops smaller parties
Al Brown: its very anti-democratic
dude: so how do you think your plan would play out?
Al Brown: we are winner-take-all too, so smaller parties never get their share of power in the legislature
Al Brown: well, its not my original idea
dude: yeah
dude: still
Al Brown: but it would result in decisions that better represent our collective interests rather than the interests of the corporationsd
Al Brown: winner-take-all system makes misrepresentation of a candidates views pay off
Al Brown: and then pays off the candidate to vote the way the contributors want
Al Brown: countries that have PR have less expensive campaigns
Al Brown: and a party's candidates are more likely to stick with the party's constituents
Al Brown: since they don't have to vote for a compromise like we do
dude: ic
Al Brown: its like anything else. u hire a guy to represent u in court. he is your guy. he does what u say
Al Brown: isn't that how it should be?
dude: I guess
Al Brown: the legislators still have to trade support for different things to get things done, but that actually results in everyone getting more of what they want when the process is honest
Al Brown: I really care about getting X and you don't care about it either way, well, you will help me on this if I help u in a similar situation, so we both get more of what we care about

Friday, December 15, 2006

Google Patents

Now you use Google to search patents. Just be aware that when are using Google to search, Google is searching you. If you are a person of significance to Google (i.e. an actual productive inventor or investor in inventions), what you are up to is pretty clear to Google.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

GOP pays $135K for New Hampshire call jamming

The Associated Press is reporting that the Republicans have agreed to $135 for jamming Democratic phones lines during the last election.

Google has more on Republican efforts to win elections this way. Karl Rove's influence has been pretty strong on the entire party it seems.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sanity Wins One

The NY TImes reports that rabid anti-peace forces in Pagosa Springs have given up their fight against a collection of fir tree branches hung in front of a house there.

Its unclear if the fir tree branches had tried to interfere with any military operations.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Two-year-old Emirati boy held as airport threat

Bureacracy runs amok again with mindless watch lists.

You have to wonder: if this is how incompetantly governments deal with their citizens, how effectively can they deal with an actual terror threat?

Incidents like this happen every day in US airports. People, who happen to share the same name as someone on the list legitimately, are detained for hours even if they are of a different age, height and race than their namesake.

And this has been the state of affairs for FIVE YEARS! That is what your three trillion dollars is buying for you.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's Time for a Change

It's time for a change in Washington. Hopefully, this election will restore some balance to the branches of government. Congress has been Bush's pet for too long.

Oh sure, the Republicans are howling about Bush's failures in Iraq now. But won't they go right back to supporting those same policies right after the election? We need an opposition in Congress now more than ever.

It's time for Bush to learn to play well with others.

It's time to pass an amendment to the Constitution that makes a president's immediate family ineligible to become president.

And, no, it is not time for Nancy Pelosi's agenda. The Democrats would be wise to focus on exposing Bush, Rove, Rumsfeld and Cheney and save the country from their foreign policy.

It's time for Congress to find out how our money is being spent in Iraq. Who is siphoning off those billions and to which numbered Swiss accounts?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Former SKorean leader faults Bush on North Korea Nuke Test

Apparently some in South Korea think Bush's policies contributed to their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

How can that be? Just because Bush placed them in the jingoistic Axis of Evil, invaded one "member" of the Axis and surrounded another, doesn't mean North Korea should feel any need to get weapons that cause Bush to think about twice.

And Bush's actions aren't motivating Iran's nuclear efforts either. Uh huh.

Friday, October 06, 2006

John McQuaid Makes some Excellent Points

This fellow makes the point that politicians don't seem to care about whether they do a good job or not. I guess that's true, especially if you are in Congress and its highly unlikely you'll be turned out in the next election.

I think its about time we stopped letting these people abuse the rest of us. Term limits, proportional representation and instant runoff voting are the cure.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A great thing to add to the US constitution

Richard Cohen makes a good case for adding an amendment to the US constitution that wold prohibit children of presidents from running for the office themselves. "Now is the time for yet another amendment. This one would ensure that no child of a president could become president."

Cohen explains that Bush's reasons for invading Iraq are somewhat colored by his father's experience with the country. Given the magnitude of the decisions made by the chief executive of any government, its probably a good idea to keep family stuff out of the decision making process.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Charlie Rose Show

On a recent episode of the Charlie Rose Show, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) made the point that the failure of the United States to secure even the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad indicates the need for changing the strategy for dealing with Iraq.

Why has it been so difficult to do something that seems as straightforward as securing this piece of territory? Is it something that the most powerful military in human history, properly led, ought to be able to do?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

George Bernard Shaw Provides Insight into the Iraq "Cut and Run" Debate in Congress

"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty." - George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Open Source Intelligence

Forbes has an article about Open Source Intelligence, which basically means giving citizens ways to alert government to possible threats and sharing some threat information directly with citizens.

I think eventually tools will evolve that will enable even hunches to be part of the equation. If the way a guy is acting worries a lot of people but they can't put their finger on anything, that might be enough to at least send a cop over for a look.

James Woods actually alerted the flight crew on a flight in August 2001 about suspicious passengers who later hijacked planes on 9/11 and a report was filed with the FBI by the airline. If only we had a system that valued these reports! It seems like a pattern of activity would have been obvious to the FBI if they could only google their own data!

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Rising Price of Gasoline

It's caused by inflation, folks. The government (the Federal Reserve actually) has been inflating the currency since 2001. That means the currency is worth less, stuff costs more, with commodities going up first, especially imported commodities. That means oil.

And the inflation, brought to you by the low interest rates that pumped up real estate, is heating up the economy and increasing our own demand for oil.

China's currency is tied to the US dollar, so, surprise, surprise, so is Chinese demand for oil.

Its bad public policy again.

Monday, April 10, 2006

From Marginal Revolution: French economics

Marginal Revolution has a piece on French economics citing a survey of 22 countries. Every country in the survey had a majority of the respondents agree that the free-market economy was the best system, EXCEPT FRANCE.

Which comes as no surprise if watch the news on a regular basis. Which group is striking and/or protesting in France this week so they don't have to deal with the slings and arrows of the marketplace? One week its the farmers, the next its young people, etc.

If people don't compete, neither can their country. And competition within the EU will make that clear going forward. French entrepreneurs already go abroad to start new businesses rather than deal with all of the anti-reality regulations. Like overtime being outlawed, for example, even for executives.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

One Way to Counter Censorship in China

Since it is easy to identify web users living in China, its possible to tailor web pages for that subset of users. Why not work out a way to insert modify web pages that are sent to China so that a header is inserted containing opinions from people in China?

Such a header could use AJAX, which allows contact with a server, so opinions could be refreshed and folks from China can submit opinions. SSL encryption would be nice too.

If enough web sites adopted such a scheme, it would be very difficult for the Chinese authorities to block them all without a big negative impact on access to valuable information. And some of them would always get through.

Of course, the problem is that each site has to go to the expense of doing this and that is probably why it won't happen.

Googling this topic, I see there's already a lot of thinking being done about various approaches.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Arnold wants to put you deep in debt -

According to, each citizen's share of the US national debt is $27,703.

Now Arnold wants California taxpayers to approve the borrowing of $222 billion, which is $6,554 for every one of California's 33,871,648 residents. That's one third of California's share of the national debt on one ballot initiative. Somehow I do not think it will pass.

I'm so glad the Republicans have given up on that whole smaller government idea. I guess if you can't get your idea of reform through, you open the flood gates of government spending and hope that gets you re-elected.

The Case for Small Government

A new blog about smaller government. We sure need it!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Blocking Cell Phone Signals

Newsday article about paint that can block cell phone signals. Note how the Wireless Association spokesman is opposed to the idea.

He does make some valid points. Doctors will not get emergency calls. But people do have the right to control their own property.

I think the thing to do is enhance cell phones so that they recognize where they are and what rules the property owner wants respected.

GPS is being added to phones anyway. The company could look up the rules before ringing the phone and, if the rules prohibit all non-emergency calls, ask the caller if it is an emergency. That would cut down on the number of calls. The property owner could register the rules with the county which keeps track of who owns what land.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Canadian Health Care System Feeling Ill

Interesting article in the New York Times discussing the evils of the Canadian health care system. They actually prohibit you from getting private health care. So you have to drive to the US to get around the long waiting lists they have.

Makes me of the price controls on gasoline the US had in the 1970s and all the long lines. The real cost of filling your tank was pretty high as you had to wait to get your gas. If you make $40k after taxes (that's $20/hr) and have to wait just 15 minutes, you pay an extra $5 to fill your tank. It gets worse if you are more affluent and there are long lines.

People seem to forget that time and inconvenience cost you something. Sometimes its even something important like your health or life.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Click That Broke a Government's Grip

Interesting look at how information can travel via the Internet even in a society where the media is controlled by censors.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Old Chinese Communists Protest Restrictions on Free-Speech

Former high-ranking communist party officials wrote a letter protesting restrictions on free speech.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Democrats Can Take Over

If they whack the Republicans over the separation of church and state.

If they whack the Republicans over Nixon dropping the gold standard and causing all that inflation worldwide. Honest money helps the poor and middle class more than those who have accountants and lawyers!

If they come up with a reasonable reparations plan for the slavery issue that is amenable to at least 50% of both African Americans and the rest of the population (it wasn't nothing!). Let's have a referendum. We can make it a combination of tax cuts and a tax credit so it would help both the poor and the middle class. It could be spread out over a number of years.

If they can finally see that lower taxes help the poor more than redistribution. The Democrats should propose a program that gets rid of the income tax for foster children, victims of child abuse, anything traumatic like that. At least for five years anyway.

The Democrats should propose that we lower the income tax rate by 1% a year until revenues from the tax go down for more than two years and then raise it until revenues go down so that we can find the optimum rate for growth and revenue. We should do this separately for the capital gains tax. Once we find the optimum rates, we should stick to them! And we should have a flat tax, with the first so many dollars exempt.

There is no reason for the right to own these economic issues. The debate over socialism is over and the debate should now be whether the government is going to tample your individual rights or not. Most people who vote Republican would switch in a minute if offered an alternative that embraced economic AND individual freedom.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Education Common Sense

Refreshing perspective on education that totally meshes with my own experience.

You do need to learn how to think and how to acquire exisitng and new knowledge on your own. Do you need to sit in a room and learn in a government-prescribed fashion? Does it drum the spontaneity out of us?

Maybe we should randomly select a couple of school districts and try some completely different approaches to education (like vouchers), and then see what happens. We can measure the results by seeing how many enter college and how well they do.