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Let’s Play Where’s Waldo!


Photo taken by Joel Bissell of The Grand Rapids Press, 2014.

Photo taken by Joel Bissell of The Grand Rapids Press, 2014.

Let’s play Where’s Waldo! Can you spot our very own Paleocrat (Jeremiah Bannister) in the crowd at the Winnie Brinks for State Representative viewing party last night? It was held at The Meanwhile Bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jeremiah volunteered to be embedded for the special Election Day episode of the Southpaws radio program!

The picture was taken by Joel Bissell, a visual journalist with The Grand Rapids Press.

A Better Way than the ‘Lesser of Two Evils’

When  people go the polls in November’s general election many of them will be faced with a dilemma at the top of the ballot. People have serious concerns about both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.  They may decide who to vote for on the basis of which man would be the lesser of two evils.  Their options will be to vote for the man they believe will do the least harm to this country; vote for a third party candidate reflects their views but has no chance of winning; or simply not voting at all.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you which option you should exercise when you step up to cast your ballot and find yourself facing that dilemma.  I simply want you to know that there is a better way.

Here in America our most popular system of voting is the “Winner Takes All” system where the ballots are counted (hopefully) once and the person with the most votes is declared the winner.  I believe “Winner Takes All” is great for poker and bad for elections.  In other countries,  and indeed in some cities in this country, voting systems are used which give the voter more choices and third party candidates a genuine chance of being elected.

Instant Runoff Voting

The first such system is instant runoff voting.  In instant runoff voting each voter has one vote, but with that vote they can rank the candidates in order of choice:  1, 2, 3, and so on.  When the ballots are counted initially the first choices are counted.  If one of the candidates has a majority of first choices they’re elected.  But in instant runoff voting if no candidate has a majority of the votes another round of vote counting is done in which the ballots that had the last-place eliminated candidate as their top choice have that voter’s second choice counted.  If that round of vote counting does not produce a winner the process of eliminating the last-place candidate and recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a majority of the votes.

If we had instant runoff in place for the upcoming general election here’s how it would work in the presidential race.

A progressive might have Rocky Anderson at the top of the ballot with Dr. Jill Stein second and President Obama third.  If the initial count had no candidate with a majority of the votes and Rocky Anderson in last place, a second round of counting would be held in which that voter’s ballot would be counted for their second choice, Dr. Jill Stein.  If no candidate had a majority of the votes in that round, and Dr. Jill Stein was in last place, a third round of counting would be done with that ballot counted for Barack Obama.

Instant runoff voting (IRV) does not give extra votes to defeated candidates.  IRV is a one-person, one-vote system because in any given round of vote counting every person’s ballot can only be counted for one candidate.  Instant runoff voting can be compared to the two-round runoff system.  You vote for your favorite candidate in the first round.  If your top candidate survives that first round you keep supporting that candidate.  If they don’t you choose from among the remaining candidates.  Instant runoff voting’s constitutionality as a one-person, one-vote system has been upheld by both state and federal courts.

There are some advantages that come with instant runoff voting which must be noted.  First, instant runoff voting avoids third party candidates spoiling the election when splitting the majority vote.  For instance, in the 2000 presidential election some people believe that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election because he took away votes from people, especially in Florida, who may have gone for Gore.  Such spoiling of election results do not happen in IRV elections.

IRV can increase voter turnout because it gives every voter an incentive to participate. Their vote would still count even if their top choice candidate is defeated and eliminated.  Instant runoff voting can also elevate the debate because all of the candidates have an incentive to focus on issues, to attract voters to their positions, and to form coalitions.  Negative campaigning and personal attacks are much less effective in IRV elections.

Instant runoff voting gives voters more power because they can exercise a range of choices.  This system of voting does not inherently advantage or disadvantage any political group, ideology, or interest groups.  All of the parties are on equal ground.

If you believe that instant runoff voting sounds hard for the voters, consider this; all the voter has to do is rank one or more candidates.  It’s like going out for an ice cream cone.  The store has sold out of your first choice, fudge ripple.  So, you go with your second choice, blue moon.  If they don’t have that you go with your third choice, butter pecan.  That’s all there is to it.

And, if you think this voting system sounds very foreign, consider this:  Instant runoff is used to elect candidates to city offices in cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Portland Maine.  Many major universities are using it for their student govenment elections, and the Academy of Motion Pictures uses it for awarding their awards such as Best Picture.

Instant runoff voting is great for electing one person to one office, but not so good for multi-seat elections such as congressional elections.  For those elections another system is much more beneficial.

Proportional Representation

The basic principle underlying proportional representation is that everyone should have the right to fair representation; all voters deserve representation and all political groups in society deserve to be represented in our legislatures in proportion to their strength in the electorate,  There are a number of proportional representation models in use.  In order to achieve the basic principles of fairrepresentation , all PR models in use have certain basic characteristics.

First, they use multi-member districts.  Instead of electing one person to one district as we do in the U.S., several people are elected.  These multi-member districts may be relatively small, with three or four members, or they may be larger with ten or more members.  The second characteristic of all PR systems is that they divide the seats in these multi-member districts according to the proportion of votes received by the various parties running candidates.  So, if the candidates of a party win 40% of the votes in a ten member district, they receive four of the ten seats–or 40% of the seats.  And if another party wins 20% of the vote, they get two seats, and so on.

That’s the basics of proportional representation voting.  As I mentioned, there are different models for achieving fair representation.

In Party List Voting each party puts up a list of candidates equal to the number of seats in that district.  Independent candidates may also run, and are listed separately on the ballot; as if they were their own party.  On election day the voters indicate their preference for a particular party, and the parties are then allocated seats in proportion to their share of the vote. The order of the candidates on the party’s slate is set by the party.  The voters have no say in which of the party’s candidates receive the seats allocated to them.  Thus, if the Democrats are allocated two seats, the top two candidates on the Democrats’ list would get those seats.  That’s the Closed Party List system.

Most European democracies now use the Open List form of party list voting.  In this form a primary election is held in which the voters vote for the individual candidates of their choice.  The orde of the party’s slate is set in that primary, with the candidates with the most votes winning placement at the top of the list.  Candidates at the top of the list have a greater chance of being elected.  In the general election the voters select the candidate of their choice, with their vote counting for both the party and the candidate.  When the seSats are allocated to a given party the candidates within that party with the most votes win those seats.

Here in the United States we would not be able to employ a classical proportional representation model in our Congressional elections.  Article 1  Section 2 of the Constitution sets the number of members in the House of Representatives at one representative for every thirty thousand people in each district.  So, we would not be able to have the multi-member representatives for each district characteristic in our PR system.  But that doesn’t mean that proportional representation couldn’t be used for our Congressional elections; we’d just have to come up with our own model.

For instance, we could drop that first characteristic of multiple representatives for a district and use proportional representation for allocating seats for single representative districts.  Here’s what that might look like.

As a result of the 2010 census, Michigan has 15 seats in theHouse of Representatives.  Suppose general election results had the Democrats with 45% of the vote, the Republicans with 40%, the Green Party with 8% and the Libertarian Party with 7%.  The Democrats would be allocated 45% of the seats or 7 seats.  The Republicans would have 40% of the seats or 6 seats.  The Green Party and the Libertarian Party, with 8% and 7% respectively would each be allocated one seat in our Congressional delegation.  One seat each for the Greens and Libertarians may not sound like much, but if other states also used this model the number of minority party members holding seats in Congress would certainly reach significant levels.  The minority parties would see their ability to advance their agenda increase significantly by forming coalitions with majority party members.

If proportional representation seems to be more complex than you can wrap your brain around consider this:  when you turn on your television you don’t need to know the technological ins and outs of television broadcasting.  All you need to know is how to turn on the TV.  Similarly, with proportional representation it’s not necessary for you to understand how seats will be allocated for Congress based on which party you voted for.  You won’t be counting the votes and allocating the seats in Congress.  And you can be sure that the parties will make sure they get every seat they’re entitled to.


Under our current model of holding elections, the two major parties hold a near monopoly on governing power.  Third parties have very little chance of winning state and federal electoral offices and putting forth the views of their supporters.  Third party voters are left with the choice of tilting at windmills by voting for candidates who share their views but have little to no chance of being elected; or voting for someone who they have significant issues or differences of opinion with—the lesser of two evils.

Instant runoff voting would strengthen the voice of the voters.  Voters would have the power to express more choice; and their vote could play a role in determining a winner much longer than our current plurality based “Winner Takes All” system.  Proportional Representation would give third parties a genuine chance of winning seats in the legislature or congress; and advance an agenda that reflects the views of their supporters.

When you step up to cast your ballot on election day and prepare to hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils, remember, it doesn’t have to be that way.   By adopting instant runoff voting and proportional representation we can strengthen the voice and power of the voter and give third parties a legitimate chance of winning elections and expressing the views and will of their supporters.

How Far We’ve Fallen

How far we’ve fallen from the kind of people who laid the foundation to this great country we live in.  I’m sure that if the Founding Fathers are aware of what passes for governance and politics in this country they would be absolutely shocked and disappointed.

Many people have this image of the Founding Fathers as a group of courageous men unanimous in their beliefs of what needed to be done to lay the foundation for this country.  Courageous?  Certainly.  Unanimous in their beliefs?  Absolutely not.  They had different ideologies and beliefs.  But, they also had the willingness to set aside their ideologies and compromise where needed for the good of their young nation.

After all, this country was founded on the basis of compromise.  The Constitution is not our first guiding document for this country.  Before we had the Constitution we had the Articles of Confederation; a document that gave power to the states with a weak central government.  Those circumstances led to a weak confederation and European powers England, France, and Spain licking their chops over the states they planned to divide among themselves when the United States collapsed.  Here on this side of the Atlantic our Founding Fathers saw the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation and began discussing a new document–the Constitution.  But, there arose a disagreement about whether to pass the Constitution immediately as it read and those who saw the need to strengthen the Constitution by including other provisions–what we know as the Bill of Rights.  Those favoring immediate passage told those who were holding out for the additional provisions that if they agreed to pass the Constitution as is, the provisions they wanted would be added as the first amendments to the Constitution.  That’s exactly what happened.  Both sides gave a little, and we ended up with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights because of compromise–that ten letter dirty word in today’s political world.

If you study the papers of the Founders and the history of the that time you learn that Hamilton and Adams were urbane businessmen who favored a strong central government.  At the other end of the spectrum was Jefferson, who was pro-states rights and a farmer by profession.  In the middle was our first President, George Washington, a politically moderate elder statesman.

There was an excellent editorial in the July/August issue of the AARP Bulletin titled “Try Greatness, Not Meanness” which forcefully made that point about how the Founding Fathers built this country:

“In life these four great men did not like one another.  Journals of that time are full of stories of their conniving and bitter rivalries.

Yet look at what they accomplished when they set aside their vanity, ideology and shortsightedness; a federation of distinct regional and economic interests bound by core principles and liberties upon which a carefully balanced national government could function and thrive.

We’re deep into a campaign season that amounts to a 21st -century explosion of vanity, ideology and shortsightedness.  Angry divisions with no interest in compromise have picked sides and launched a seemingly endless barrage of costly and inflammatory advertising.”

Look back a few years to the days following the 2008 election in which Barack Obama was elected president.  As was pointed out in an article in the September 3 issue of Time magazine titled “The Party Of No“, from the get-go the Republicans had no interest in working with Obama and the Democrats in Congress to solve the many serious  problems we faced ind the midst of the Great Recession; they were interested only in defeating him and making him a one-term president.  Who can forget Republican Senatre Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a remarkable moment of candor, stating that his number one priority in the coming congressional session was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.  Less well known, but equally telling, was a statement made by Congressman Pete Sessions in a presentation to a Republican leadership conference when he posed the question “If the purpose of the majority is to govern, what’s our purpose?”  Sessions answered his question by telling the audience, “The purpose of the minority is to become the majority…. That is the entire conference’s mission.”

Sessions couldn’t have been more wrong.  Yes, the Republicans were in the minority following the 2008 election, but they still had a role in governing this country.  Their role was to do as the Founders had done;  set aside what would benefit them politically and work with the Democrats to solve the serious problems this country faces.  They adopted the strategy of opposing anything and everything President Obama tried to do, even if it meant opposing something they had proposed or supported in the past.  The individual mandate in Obamacare was first proposed by the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, and a major part of Mitt Romney’s health-care reform plan for Massachusetts; but when it came time to vote on Obamacare not a single Republican voted for it.  Republicans pound the drums for tax breaks for small businesses, but when Obama’s jobs bill, which included many tax breaks for small businesses, came up for consideration last year it was blocked by the Republicans.

The Republicans will accuse Obama of showing a lack of leadership, and claim that his plans have failed, but the fact is the Republicans have shown themselves to be a disloyal opposition that has refused to work with Obama and the Democrats in governing this country and solving the problems we face.  Congress cannot work when one party refuses to do the job they were sent to Washington to do and govern this country.  And please understand that when I call the Republicans a “disloyal opposition” I am not saying they are disloyal to the President.  What I’m saying is that they are being disloyal to this country by placing their political interests above the job they were sent to do—govern this country.

And to be fair, the hands of the Democrats are also dirty.  They have also been guilty of putting politics above responsible governing and doing what’s right.

Consider for example, what Nancy Pelosi said when she became Speaker of the House.  She said that investigations of the Bush administration for possible wrongdoing was “off the table”.  Now, there was fertile ground for investigations.  There was the redefinition of torture to permit waterboarding, and the warrantless surveillance  of American citizens in this country.  But, investigating possible wrongdoing in those things would not be done.  Why was investigating the Bush administration taken “off the table”?  Most likely because Pelosi knew that there would be a day the Republicans would be able to investigate a Democratic president.  She refused to do the right thing, investigate and let the chips fall where they may, because that could have political repercussions in the future.

An even more egregious example came recently when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to inject himself into the presidential campaign by refusing to act on a bill passed overwhelmingly by the House which dealt with auditing the Federal Reserve; choosing instead to claim that he had been in contact with someone who claimed to have proof that Mitt Romney did not pay taxes for several years—a contention for which he offered no supporting evidence.

To understand why I consider this to be an egregious example of playing politics rather than governing it’s important to understand why that legislation was overwhelmingly supported in the House.  Let’s take a look at the Federal Reserve.

The Fed was created in 1913 in response to bank panics which had occurred.  Functions of the Federal Reserve include serving as the central bank of the U.S.; supervising and regulating banks as well as protecting the credit rights of consumers; managing the nation’s money supply; and maintaining the stability of the financial system.

There have been several criticisms of the Federal Reserve.  It has been alleged that the Fed caused the Great Depression and is partly responsible for the Great Recession of 2007; as well as that it is ineffective in its role of supervisor and regulator of the banking industry; that it has been responsible for booms and busts in the economy; and lacks transparency.

It is clear that the Federal Reserve impacts every one of us in many ways, yet according to the law that established the agency, it is not under the supervision of Congress or the White House.

There was legislation passed in 1978 which established that the Fed can be audited by the Government Accountability Office, but there are several restrictions as to what the GAO can audit in the Fed.  How sweet is that?  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to tell the IRS if they choose to audit your tax return that they can look into your business expenses but not your entertainment expenses or charitable contributions?  In essence, that’s exactly what the Fed has been able to do.

Given the important functions of the Federal Reserve, the criticisms which have  been made of the agency, and the fact that it is unsupervised by Congress and the White House, legislation which would allow a real audit of the Fed would seem to be a good thing.  But Harry Reid put more importance on playing politics than advancing this legislation which would have provided some transparency into that very secretive agency.

No one’s hands are clean in this.  Both parties are guilty of putting  politics over responsible governance.  Have we and the national leaders we send to represent us in our nation’s capitol  totally lost our way?  Are we incapable of learning from our past and seeing that the way things are today is not the way it has to be or should be?’

I will close this by quoting once again from that editorial in the AARP Bulletin:

“John Adams could just as easily been talking about today when he wrote in 1776 of his fears that the Continental Congress’ decisions would be dictated by ‘ noise, not sense; by meanness, not greatness; by ignorance, not learning; by contracted hearts, not large souls.’  His conclusion is appropriate today as it was  then:  ‘There must be decency and respect and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank or we are undone.  In a popular government this is our only way.’  Decency, respect and veneration produced compromise and a foundation that has endured for 236 years.  We are surrounded by noise, meanness and ignorance.  The measure for our leaders must be their ability to rediscover that proven formula of sense, greatness and learning.’

We should not; and indeed cannot settle for anything less.

Day 117 (T 7/3/2012) Ubiquitous and Central

Tuesday July 3,2012

Occupy & change. Corporate Tax Welfare. Constitutional Right to Marriage.

LISTEN LIVE 3pm – 6pm EST on AM1680/95.3FM
Listen Online | Mobile App | PODCAST
CALL: 616-656-1680 from 3pm – 6pm. If the line is busy, please hang up and try again.

Hour 1: Van Jones and Occupy. Does Occupy have a chance of really changing things in America? And what’s involved – being a part of the system.

Hour 2: Corporations complain about taxes when they don’t even pay taxes!

Hour 3: The Constitutional right to marry. The first of probably about 3 episodes on this issue with inspiration from Dissent Magazine.

Day 56: Losers and Winners

Tune in or listen online from 3p.m.- 6 p.m. or hear it again from midnight -3 a.m. The program will be available as a free podcast later today. Call us at 616.656.1680. Tweet us @Paleocrat
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Monday March 5, 2012
Today on PaleoRadio:
Americans Losing Faith in Government/Reclaiming the Middle Class
Politics of the New Middle America
Elections – the impact of the primary process on voters
Rush Limbaugh – sponsor losses and the push to boycott sponsors of affiliate stations carrying Limbaugh.
What is the one word that describes the GOP?
What every candidate must do to win.
Praise for Amash on his opposition to NDAA
Bin Laden at Sea?
Starving Iran through Sanctions
Israel – Obama and Iran
Contraception & Religious Liberty

Plus, call in to participate in our Press4Pax listener contest. Details at our Facebook Page.

Ron Paul Visits West Michigan

HUDSONVILLE, MI – About 1500 people packed the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville to hear Ron Paul speak in a surprise campaign visit Sunday evening, with 400 more standing outside in the cold listening to Paul’s words over a speaker.

The crowd included people who identified themselves as libertarian, liberal, and conservative, however most identified themselves as Greg Dykema of Hudsonville. “I don’t consider myself being bound to other people’s agenda. I believe inthe Constitution and that people should be able to live their own lives as long as it doesn’t harm the person of possession of another.”

Dykema, who wore a brightly lettered t-shirt that read “End the Fed,” said, “The Federal Reserve is a fraudulent system that keeps us in perpetual debt.” Ending the federal reserve and ending wars were Dykema’s top two concerns in this years election.

Ron Paul spoke for nearly an hour. He called the Patriot Act unpatriotic, referred to NDAA as unconstitutional, touched on the war on drugs as a failed policy and he said that the golden rule should be our foreign policy standard.

“We need to mind our own business,” Paul said. “You don’t have to give up liberties to be safe.”

Speaking in one of the most religiously conservative cities in West Michigan, Paul said, “We’ll never agree on how we want to use our freedoms. In a room like this there might be 50 different religious values and some with no religious values at all. But freedom answers the question because we don’t impose ourselves on other people. You do what you want.”

Ron Paul supporter of Berrien County, John Mumaugh, was standing closer to the street, sporting a big sign encouraging people to support medical marijuana legislation. “We are trying to get a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot, mainly because of the erosion of the Michigan Marijuana law that’s going on in the legislature.”

Just ahead of the upcoming primary on Tuesday, Ron Paul started his swing through Michigan on Saturday at Central Michigan University, before stopping in Hudsonville today.

Sally Brooks of Plainfield Twp, said, “I am here because I believe in freedom.”

Day 40 Free4All Friday

Today on PaleoRadio, we invited listeners to call us with their topics and we had a few of our own:

Protest against limiting unemployment benefits; HuffPo on pretending they might not vote for Obama; man accused on spreading HIV might not actually have HIV; shifting conservative standards; moral relativism; puppies seeking in the ER waiting room; robbery victim turns robber into a sex slave; court dismisses discrimination case against woman opposed to diversity in employment; Iran, are they are real threat?


Day 15: Gay Marriage: The End of Civilization?

PaleoRadio host, Jeremiah Bannister responds to comments made by Santorum on gay marriage. Also, Christian reconstructionism, Naomi Klein’s article “Capitalism v the Climate“, Dominatio v Dominion and more on Day 15 of PaleoRadio.

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Day 14: Romney, Santorum, Occupy Bloomington, Occupy Lawsuits

Jeremiah Bannister wonders ‘Why aren’t conservative Evangelicals concerned about Romney’s Mormon worldview?’ Excessive force – 8th grader shot; Pro-home school/anti-public school candidate Rick Santorum who claimed to homeschool his kids ironically really sent them to a public cyber charter school, according to Mother Jones; OccupyIN – Occupier on the ground in Bloomington Indiana reports on eviction Several Occupy groups are suing at state and federal level court regarding evictions and brutality.

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