Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Good Dream

Everyone around me has been so quiet today about the election, as if it might be a dream and if we talk about it we will wake up to find it not true.

Until last night I didn't realize how much I have been hunkered down, enduring the disappointment that continued to rain down on this country for the past eight years. I had already resigned myself to a continuation of this, thinking that there was no way Obama could be elected. I was prepared to keep my nose to the ground and not think too much about politics because I didn't want more discouragement to affect my health and happiness. As the results came in last night I felt a weight lifting off my psyche.

What a relief! The election of Barack Obama is one of the coolest things to happen in this country in a long time. Hope beat fear! That's so cool! I know there is more to it than that. One of the big factors is just how dismal the Bush administration was. Even some Republicans were disgusted.

Over the last eight years
my expectations regarding the quality of U.S. leadership have been lowered to the point that I am thrilled just to have a president who can talk! I know Obama will be centrist and many of his policies and decisions will fall short of my idea of what should be done, but it WILL be an improvement over Bush and I am happy enough with that for the moment.

Maybe it is a dream. A waking dream. Martin Luther King's dream.

To all of you who voted for him, you so rock!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ten Flaws in America's Election System

For a country that claims to be the world's greatest democracy, the election process of the United States of America has problems. Here are ten flaws that, if fixed, would improve our democracy.

1. Tuesday is an inconvenient day to vote.
This is a work day for most people and is not the most convenient day to try get to the polls. Why not hold elections on Saturday or Sunday or make election day a holiday. We'd probably get a better turnout.

2. All primary elections should be on the same day.
States compete to be the first to hold a primary. Some candidates drop out based on the primary results of only one of these early states. If all primaries were held on the same date, there would be a more level playing field for the candidates.

3. In the primaries, why not have the voters directly elect a particular party's candidate for President?
Under our current system the voters are not electing candidates, they are electing delegates to the political parties' national conventions who then vote for the candidate. And what about "superdelegates?" This is way too complicated. Eliminate the middle man and vote directly for your party's candidate.

4. What state you live in should be irrelevant to a Presidential election.
The President and Vice President's job is to work for all the people of the country regardless of which states they live in. States get to pick two senators and a number of congressmen. These elected officials' job is to represent a state's interests in Washington. The states create their own voting laws and decide independently when their primaries will be held. For a national office, there should be national standardization for the primaries and the general election. The voting process in national elections should be standardized. State governments should stay out of it.

5. If the candidate with the most votes does not win the election, it's not democracy, is it?
Abolish the Electoral College. The President should be directly elected by voters. A few times in our history the person who got to be president did not get the most votes. This is wrong.

6. Voting is difficult for people who happen to be out-of-state at election time.
Because voter registration is done state by state, people who are out of state at the time of elections have trouble voting because the rules differ from state to state,and sometimes change. For example, an out-of-state student going to school in Arizona can't use his or her out-of-state ID to register to vote in AZ. They have to go to extra trouble to get aballot from their home state. This is fine for state issues and for electing a state's senators and congresspeople but, for a presidential election, it's unfair.

7. The media pick the president.
Early on, the media start focusing on who they consider to be front-runners. The other candidates don't stand a chance with all the attention focused on just a few people. The media also destroy candidates. Everyone makes mistakes but one misplaced word can knock a good person out of the running if the media decide to focus on their goof. Meanwhile, other candidates' mistakes might go unnoticed. I think this is a problem we might just have to live with.

8. Whoever has the most money wins.
This is not always the case but it is too often. The candidates who raise the most money get the most access to potential voters via the media and other means. One could say that the one who raises the most money is obviously the most popular and, therefore, should be elected. I wonder where the money comes from, though. Does it come from a broad spectrum of voters or mostly from corporations and the wealthy? If the latter is the case, raising the most money does not necessarily mean that a candidate best represents the people. This problem is difficult to solve. Every attempt to reform campaign finance laws creates new loopholes and opportunities to game the system.

9. The United States has a "winner-take-all" system of voting.
This makes it possible to elect someone to office without a majority of the vote. The winner only has to have more votes than anyone else, not a majority. It creates a situation where voting for the candidate you really like best could have the same effect as voting for the candidate you don't want. People end up voting against the person they don't want instead of for the person they want. Instant run-off voting would solve this problem. Vote for who you want and pick a second and third choice, too. If your first choice candidate doesn't make it, your second choice gets counted. If that one doesn't make it either, your third choice gets counted. The final result would be a candidate that actually has a majority of the votes, and the candidates of all parties would get a more realistic idea of their standing among the voters.

10. The two-party system sucks.

We have Democrats and Republicans and that's about it. No other real choice exists. If there was proportional representation in Congress, we would have elected officials who better represent the different constituencies. Proportional representation means that the percentage of different political parties represented in Congress would reflect the public's percentage of interest in those parties. A political party with 9 percent of the vote would result in 9 percent of Congress being members of that party.

I am sure there are other issues that, if resolved, would result in a better democracy. Voting is important. The system is worth fixing. I believe the United States would be a better and stronger country if it can remedy these flaws, and if all eligible voters actually voted.

- Royce Carlson
Reprint (and re-write) of a Zenzibar article I posted in January, 2008.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Homo Sapiens Clemens - Conscious Evolution

Besides homo sapiens, are there any un-domesticated species of plant or animal on earth that have a growing population? I'll bet not. Humanity has won the game of proliferation. We have been able to successfully compete with all other species for territory. We have practically eliminated predation on humans. We have made many other species subservient to us, and we have spread our species all over the globe and, occasionally, into space. Our biological instincts combined with our intellect and opposable thumbs have made us practically invincible. The only remaining enemies to the survival of humanity are the very instincts that brought us to the top in the first place.

- Read complete article -

LowTech / High Science - The Future of Sustainable Technology

Western culture, as it has developed so far, has taken scientific discoveries and engineered the results into products and systems that are highly energy intensive and uneconomical to repair. We have all kinds of tools that are fun to use, until they break. Few people know how to fix them. The only option is to buy another one and use it until it breaks. I have a couple of stereo receivers, one at home and one at my shop. They were both built in the 1970’s and still work and sound great. The stereos that you can buy now are inexpensive but they only seem to last a few years. The same thing is true with my 35mm film camera. I bought it new in 1977. It still works great thirty years later. Unfortunately film is becoming obsolete. So I bought a digital camera. It lasted two years before it broke. Repair? It was cheaper to throw it away and buy another camera. What a waste. The technology that science and engineering is producing today is throwaway technology – obsolete after only a few years.

-Read complete article-

Guru Trouble

I was recently researching what happened to a guy whose books I read back in the 70’s. Sort of a “where is he now?” kind of thing. Back then he went by Bubba Free John. He was a spiritual teacher that had many quite brilliant insights, in my opinion. Still, there was something not right. I couldn’t put my finger on it. As I said, the teachings were brilliant and useful. I never met him or joined an ashram or anything like that, probably because of that slight uneasiness, and because I wasn’t much of an ashram joiner anyway.
He is still alive and living on an ashram that covers an entire island in Fiji. He now goes by the name, Adi Da, and his “religion” is called Adidam.
-Read complete article-

Steampunk Redesigns the Future

Zenzibar has added another category to its Alternative Culture Directory. Steampunk is an artistic and technological exploration of what the 21st century would look like from a late 19th century perspective. If Jules Verne had described a personal computer in his science fiction writings in the late 1800's, it would look like what the steampunks are creating now. Steampunk encompasses a range of creations from fabrication of fantasy contraptions based on steam-powered Victorian-era tecnology and style to modifying the appearance of 21st century appliances like computers and cars to reflect their vision of a future aesthetic that never happened. The steampunks go beyond merely reading and thinking about what the future would have been like if H.G. Wells designed it. They are building it themselves in their workshops and garages and displaying their works at such places as the Maker Faires and Burning Man.