November 21, 2010

Election system change we need: Ranked Choice. In use in Oakland

Oakland, California is one of the few (maybe only) large US cities to use Ranked Choice voting, and it just helped an underfunded - but perhaps better consensus candidate - win the mayoral election (story). My wife and I have been fans of this voting system (we usually refer to it as Instant Runoff Voting) for years.

The idea is that each voter indicates their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices for each office. If there is no clear majority winner, then the 3rd place (and below) candidates are dropped, and ballots that had listed the dropped candidates as the 1st choice are now examined to see who was listed as 2nd choice. This system led to Jean Quan being elected mayor of Oakland California, even though she was outspent (by a large margin) and had fewer "1st choice" votes than the expected winner, Don Perata.

I like this. A lot. We have seen more and more races with candidates trying (sometimes successfully) to buy their office (e.g., Michael Bloomberg, Rick Scott, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina). It's fine for folks to spend their money on any legal pursuit they choose, but it's not fine when election laws allow ads with flat-out lies, and unfettered spending by corporations to support the candidates that might be most amenable to the desires of big business - at the expense of what I believe is often the greater good.

Here's to the spread of Instant Runoff / Ranked Choice voting!

Posted by Joe Litton | November 21, 2010 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 17, 2009

Aliens and Healthcare

As any reasonable person knows, only aliens require constant health care; aliens, and liberals. I'm a huge advocate of health care as it will prolong my alien and liberal life, one or more or less gods rest my soul.

I digress, however, to point out that there is not really a downside. We shun taxes as we would the bubonic plague. And why is that? Living in a "free" and "equitable" country is often times neither free, nor equitable, and simply because I didn't believe in a absurd war, was I simply not to pay taxes? Could I separate the troops from their mission, supporting the former while denying the validity of the latter?

But clearly it's different when the shoe is on the hoof of another species. How is it that a health care bill that would benefit both liberals and conservatives is being thrashed by the conservatives who want no health care bill at all? We opt to take care of everyone, yet they continually opt to take care of only themselves. Clearly benefiting the nation as a whole is only a silly ideal....

It seems that these conservative arguments are continually exacerbating the rift between parties and you fail to realize that we're supposedly united. Imagine all that we could accomplish together if we'd simply pull our heads forth from our rectums, and agree that while you bicker, we all die.

The needs of the many truly outweigh the needs of the one.

I also feel the need to point the rather obscure objection made in the Senate to require the reading of a nearly 800 page document outlining a framework for a National Single Payer Healthcare system, or in short, Medicare for all authored by Bernie Sanders. Claiming to want to know what the bill was about while realistically only aiming to kill time before the winter recess seems like a move engineered with the intent of killing something that may be beneficial for the country. But why benefit the country at all?

And why these "elected officials" are so dead-set against healthcare for all is beyond me, vying for the attention of the masses from their pulpits, and indeed with just a hint of hypocrisy, since these government officials HAVE THEIR OWN HEALTH CARE! They don't sneeze without seeing a doctor while many die simply because they don't have that luxury.

With all the advances and claims that America is the greatest nation on the planet, I think it's high time that we started acting like it, as opposed to carrying on like a mass of recalcitrant children.

We left the age of "Gentleman's Duels" behind and instead choose to hide behind a mask of words and insinuations, as clearly this makes us far more civilized than our predecessors, but in the wake of this advancement, we fail to accomplish absolutely anything.

It's always too soon to take about healthcare reform. This is odd, considering reform was on the tips of everyone's tongue only as recently as 1940!

But I'm sure we will continue this pointless charade and dance, and talk our way into snake burrows until the end of time. Maybe that's the endgame; delay healthcare until there is absolutely nothing to care for anymore!

Posted by Aaron Butts | December 17, 2009 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

September 08, 2009

Insane healthcare 'survey' from right-wing whack job

Today in the mail I have received the "2009 National Survey of 1,000,000 Seniors Concerning President Obama's Plan to Force Socialized Medicine on America" (here's a scan of page 1). Wow.

This would be laughable if it were not for the fact that there are so many sheeple who believe anything spewed from the blathermouths on Faux News and right wingnut talk radio (O'Reilly, Beck, Limbaugh, et al). If people would read the proposed bills and think for themselves, instead of trusting the scare tactic snippets that they see and hear, we might be able to have a real discussion about healthcare solutions. But the conservative media and the co-opted Republican Party want nothing to do with real discussion.

There are numerous problems with the mailing I received:

  1. It's addressed to "Seniors". Hey man, I'm barely past 50! I'll be working another 20 years before I retire - maybe more. I think it's time to shift the term "senior" to correspond to the retirement age defined by Social Security. But that's my own personal issue :)
  2. Um, WHAT "Plan to Force Socialized Medicine on America"? Have these folks read any of the proposed legislation? I have. I see nothing about socialized medicine. I don't even see anything proposing a single-payer system like Canada's (which is different than a socialized healthcare system like in the UK ...but I suspect that if these folks understand the difference, they do not want to let on)
  3. "Force"?!? Nope. The best I'm hoping for is that a public option is available to people who have no other option. My dad went bankrupt from medical expenses (eventually paying the bills off - even though he did not legally have to) because he had no other choice; no one should have to go through that. But there's certainly nothing in the proposals about ANY socialized system, let alone forcing one on people.
  4. The questions in this "survey" are not worded in anything CLOSE to an unbiased manner. Example is Question 6: "Do you think adopting a massive Socialized Medicine system, like what President Obama is proposing, is more likely to help or hurt the U.S economy?" ...Sheesh, that's like asking, "Pope Benedict, when did you stop beating your wife?" ...a question so incredibly insane and inane, there is no possible way to respond, other than to ask the questioner if they are current on their meds.
  5. "Question" 13: "In addition to sending your $12.95 Annual CSA Membership Dues for 2009 ..." and it goes on to ask for more money. Um
  6. They also ask for a voluntary $10 "Survey Processing Contribution" ...and an "Additional Gift". Hey, if I had more money to give, I would donate more to the local food bank and to other organizations that truly help people.
  7. And the worst part about this mailer: it is from Jim Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition. This should really be named the Insane Hate-Spew & Lies Coalition. One prime focus of the site and organization is to spread anti-gay falsehoods. It's hard to look at the site for too long.
Also curious to me was that the return envelope says that the organization is an alternative "to the Far-Left AARP". WTF?!? And yet again all I can say is

Posted by Joe Litton | September 8, 2009 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

August 06, 2009

Healthcare: Are Republicans becoming irrelevant?

This evening we attended what was supposed to be a healthcare townhall meeting in Tampa. It was supposed to be an opportunity to learn about H.R. 3200, "America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009". Florida State House Representative Betty Reed attempted to host a forum in which people could listen to US House Rep Kathy Castor describe the bill for 10 minutes, have a discussion from a panel, and then open it up to discussion. Here's a copy of the agenda that was handed out.

What happened was that the room was, I am sure, filled beyond fire marshal limits (at least 200 in the meeting room - glad I arrived an hour early). A crowd estimated at over 1,000 was outside. As Rep Castor tried to speak, the mob would yell and chant, refusing to allow anything close to civil discourse. After I witnessed a couple of shoving matches, heard banging on the doors, banging on the windows (I was standing in an aisle by a window), something THROWN from outside at the window where I was standing became apparent that this was not a safe place to be.

Initially I saw one uniformed police officer present. Another officer arrived, but there was no way two officers could contain this disgusting mob. The sad thing is that I know SOME people there (like us) wanted to hopefully learn something. I was having a quite cordial discussion with one person who was conservative (I'm a liberal), and she had written down some questions that she had hoped to ask. She truly had hoped to attend a townhall meeting where neighbors can discuss an issue and hopefully treat each other with respect.

As the mob became increasingly loud - inside the room and outside - and after witnessing a couple of shoving matches that I thought were going to escalate into all-out brawl, we decided that there was no point in sticking around, and we left.

As we made our way past the crowd outside (hundreds of people from each side of the issue), I was happy to see more police arriving. When we met up with friends later we were told that police in riot gear arrived, and the meeting was dispersed.

Kathy Castor IS planning to continue trying to reach out to her constituents, quite possibly next week, but this time plans to do so via phone; people could call in and hear her speak and then pose questions via phone in an orderly manner. That will allow everyone to hear, it will be safe, and hopefully those who wish to use their "inside voice" will be able to ask questions.

The Republican Party has no solution to offer for healthcare reform, so all they can do is try to prevent discussion. So far, I've not heard anyone from the Republican Party denouncing the unruly, rude, and dangerous behavior of these mobs. Why will they not stand up and denounce this attempt to stifle the democratic process and open discussion?

Until the Republican Party offers solutions - not just obstructions - they will continue to sink deeper and deeper into irrelevance.

Posted by Joe Litton | August 6, 2009 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 23, 2009

Sad Day for Democracy in Hillsborough County

While many of us are still reeling from the epic mishandling of the past election by Buddy Johnson here in the Tampa Bay area, we have suffered another critical blow. Our recently elected Supervisor of Elections, Mrs. Phyllis Busansky, has passed away while at a conference in St. Augustine, FL. See story HERE.

First, I'd like to offer our collective condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues, and wish that all goes smoothly for you while you prepare for the future. She will be missed by many as a friend and certainly as a fierce politician who had a plan to turn around the poorly handled Office of the Supervisor of Elections.

So what comes now you ask? Admittedly, not an hour ago, I wasn't even quite sure of the answer to that question, but thanks to Joe, I am now.

Pam Iorio (D) was the Supervisor of Elections until she won the mayoral race, leaving the SoE position vacant. In this case, it falls to the Governor of Florida (then Jeb Bush (R)) to appoint a replacement. That replacement was Buddy Johnson (R).

Over Buddy Johnson's tenure as SoE, numerous reports were filed outlining the mishandling of the office, including the loss of a considerable sum of money, and federal assistance was requested to cover the deficit. In addition, there were a number of business ventures and real estate dealings that seemed to be less than honest and properly done. See story HERE.

So now, this appointment falls to our current Governor, Charlie Crist (R). I applauded Crist's handling of the Election in the State of Florida, by extending Early Vote hours due to overwhelming response, even though some Conservative camps urged him not to do so. It was an example of putting partisan politics aside and being a good Governor.

However, Crist, despite his good deeds, is still heavily influenced by the GOP, and may be more inclined to appoint another Republican to this position, despite the majority of Hillsborough county favoring Democrats in this past election.

The question remains, with the GOP's tarnished brand of politics, would he dare do such a thing? And what would the benefit be to the GOP in Florida and beyond? Would he risk backlash from the Florida and Hillsborough Democrats? I guess only time will tell.

Posted by Aaron Butts | June 23, 2009 in Current Affairs, Florida, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 16, 2008

Revisiting Economic Strategy

First off, my apologies for my absence here as of late. The post-election flurry of things I neglected beforehand finally caught up to me, coupled with a great deal of automotive maintenance, and a profound desire to make Ubuntu(!) work the way I wanted. On with the post...

The Federal Reserve is on the brink of yet another drastic interest rate cut, possibly down to .25%, which brings to mind my previous post (see "Credit Crisis Did Not Begin With Housing Decline"). This obviously begs the question, what are they really thinking? Or better yet, are they really thinking?

This graph illustrates the history of the Fed's interest rate fluctuations over the past 5 years.

_45301576_us_rates_oct08_1_226What seems most alarming about this trend is that the interest rate was dropped in early 2003 and saw its previously lowest point during 2004, followed by steep increases in 2005 and early 2006. It's odd that these increases seem to eerily coincide with a housing down-turn. To spare another lengthy explanation, see my previously linked post.

I realize that the Fed has limited tools at its disposal to repair an ailing market, but as history SHOULD have taught us, dropping the interest rate does nothing but cause exponential inflation after the fact, and when things start becoming more and more expensive at alarming rates, the economy is sure to suffer. Aside from a virtually frozen credit market, things seem relatively cheap now (petro-gas for starters), and things seemed relatively cheap earlier this decade, but when commodity prices started going up, people stopped paying their mortgages (a huge problem is mortgage-backed debt and securities), they stopped paying their credit bills, and things generally went downhill in very short order.

Consistency always seems a better tool to solve economic problems, along with a slow but steady approach, because these jack-rabbit starts and stops cause unnecessary panic in the markets, markets that already overreact to absolutely anything that goes on in the private and public finance sectors. Slow methodical changes would surely be much preferable to this dramatic flux, which does very little to calm our economic fears, and seems to do nothing to stabilize an eroding market.

Posted by Aaron Butts | December 16, 2008 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 02, 2008

Jimmy Buffett come to Tampa for Obama

JimmyBuffett0  I've never seen Democrats as organized and dedicated as I have during this election season. No candidate of any party has ever raised so much money from such a large number of donors (during September, the average donation was US$86). The sustained, disciplined, enthusiastic work from an army of volunteers on the Obama campaign and on the many down-ticket races has been no less than phenomenal.

Well, in an effort to thank so many for their work, and to give everyone a little recharge time before the final couple of days of campaigning, Jimmy Buffett came to Tampa today and put on a free concert :)

I'd never been to a Jimmy Buffett show before, and even with the cold (for Tampa) temperature (upper 60's F) -- it did feel like a little bit of summer time. The camera-phone pics here don't show it, but Buffet did bring the beach ambiance to life, running through an hour or so of tunes from his vast library of songs ...sung while barefoot in a bright yellow t-shirt and blue baggie surfer shorts. Too cool.

A few more pics from the amphitheatre:
JimmyBuffett1   JimmyBuffett2   JimmyBuffett3

If, come Wednesday morning, we learn that Obama has lost the election, it most definitely will not be for lack of effort from the volunteers! Here's hoping that Wednesday morning brings us a feeling of hope and optimism and accomplishment stark contrast to 2000 and 2004.

Thank you Jimmy Buffett, and Vive Obama!!!

Posted by Joe Litton | November 2, 2008 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 26, 2008

Redistribution of Wealth? Welfare? Taxes? Give Me a Break...

Redistribution of Wealth

I've been pummeled recently by people's attacks on the "redistribution of wealth" comment that was made by Senator Obama to (the now famous) Joe the Plumber, and I'd like to take this time to defend my position and support for the Senator.

Let me start be outlining a few analogies and arguments that people have been giving me.

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read "Vote Obama, I need the money." I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a "Obama 08" tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference--just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need--the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I've decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application...

First off, the analogy is somewhat flawed. The character who undertook this experiment doesn't seem to comprehend that by purchasing food, tipping, or giving money away (to the homeless man) is redistributing wealth. The waiter had no real wealth of which to speak, nor did the homeless man. The only wealth in consideration is that of the patron, who was already in the act of redistribution. You can't deny someone wealth based on the fact that one simply surmises that they are "wealthier" than someone else. I dare say that the homeless may make more per hour than the waiter anyway.

Wealth is rather an obscure consideration in all regards. Woodrow T. Wilson was quoted as saying "America was established not to create wealth but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal - to discover and maintain liberty among men.” I believe the outright desire to accrue and maintain wealth for one's self is one of the primary downfalls of this country. Greed is the most powerful form of corruption.

An overwhelming number of young voters are Obama supporters and defend his theory of wealth redistribution. However, how would these same college age voters feel if this type of redistribution concept were applied to their GPA?

For example, would a 4.0 student be willing to share their GPA with someone who is flunking out with a 1.5 GPA? Or would a 4.0 GPA honors student in Molecular Biology be willing to share his/her GPA with someone with a 2.0 GPA in an easier field of study?

Students who work hard in college are rewarded with a high GPA. Most students would be flatly opposed to sharing their hard earned GPA with someone who has failed to produce quality work.

In addition, a higher GPA often transfers into higher paying jobs. Under Obama, people with higher paying jobs and increased income should willingly share their compensation with those who have shown less commitment and not worked as hard to achieve success.

Let us be clear that GPA and finances are not remotely related. One does not pay taxes on a GPA. You can't use GPA to accrue goods or services. Therefore, I call it intellectual wealth. However, for purposes of illustration, I'll consider them to be the same. GPA does not necessarily transfer into higher paying jobs. Those with lack of GPA aren't necessarily lazy. What extenuating circumstances caused the problem originally? The fact of the matter is that you have no idea how those less fortunate ended up that way.


Another point is the welfare issue. An acquaintance of mine recently stated "I don't think I should have to pay because people are lazy. I don't believe in welfare." Child Protection Services is considered part of the welfare system, as is aid to those with low incomes or inability to meet basic living costs, especially those who are raising children, elderly, unemployed, injured, sick or disabled.

For example, my father is a college educated engineer, who worked hard and was studious, received a degree, and was gainfully employed for a number of years. However, in the late nineties, he was laid-off through no fault of his own. They company for whom he worked decided that they could pay a less educated person less money to do the same job. So what we have here is a case of being unemployable by reason of over-education, and was forced for a short time to be on unemployment.

He happily paid his taxes, unemployment being one of them, and was happy to reap the benefit of it when, due to circumstances beyond his control, he became unemployed. Does this make my father lazy or unmotivated? I think not. I think it illustrates the basis of the system to which so many seem to have adverse reactions. My father worked hard, and when times became tough for him, he used the system as it is intended.

I'm not saying that some people don't abuse the system. I'm saying that the system should be available for those that actually need it, when they need it. Maybe the system needs to be rethought and reimplemented to prevent abuse, but the system can work. That, too, is a redistribution of wealth, and I don't think that's at all unfair.


One of my primary positions on taxes is that living in America is NOT free. We are a free country, with rights to thought, speech, religion, et cetera. America is not a cost-free country. We enjoy major advantages over other societies and countries and we too often take it for granted. The general populace fails to realize that the deficit is our problem. It's partially what's caused the economy to plummet. We can't live for free and expect things to right themselves.

Furthermore, the entire concept of the tax change is to help promote the economic impact of the middle class. Joe posted a chart that outlines the realized savings, but there are some opponents. Let me dispell some rumors.The small business that makes more than $250,000 isn't really small business in terms of economic impact. You must realize that the taxable profit is calculated after payroll, operating expense, et cetera. As a small business owner, I know that sheer profit in excess of that figure is highly unlikely. An arresting fact is that I could make more money working for someone else than working for myself, but I enjoy the hours.

Beyond that point is people who wish to preserve their wealth, above and beyond a comfortable living wage. If something were to happen to them and they were forced onto the welfare system, they'd have a drastically different view of it. One has to fully consider the ramifications of the system before trying to change it or discount it completely.

A point that is frequently made is that the wealthiest 1% of the American population pay 40% of American taxes. That statement alone may seem unfair, but one has to consider that they control 70% of the disposable (liquid) assets in the United States. Such being the case, should they not pay 70% of the taxes as well?

There's another relation between the current tax system and its inefficiencies, versus the concept of a flat tax, but that's best saved for another post.

Posted by Aaron Butts | October 26, 2008 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

October 22, 2008

My vote is cast!

I voted early' sticker I voted today! Happily, the total time from getting in line to walking back to my car was about 50 minutes. We have 13 early voting locations here in Hillsborough County Florida. This morning I drove to the Bloomingdale Library, arriving about 10 minutes before voting would start at 10am. But the line was already out to the street and cars were parked everywhere. So I decided to get back to work and try later in the day.

The wait wasn't as bad as I had expected, and the line was a little shorter than this morning. One of the neat things was getting to chat with other folks in line. There was an older woman behind me with whom I did most of the chatting. She and I are basically offsetting each other's votes :) ...She 'fessed up that she gets all of her "news" from Fox. Wow. I told her that I discount everything that Fox puts out there. She was telling me that Obama is a Muslim, borderline terrorist, Arab background, etc. She'd learned that "everything" that Obama says is a lie (this statement was repeated multiple times).

So I tried to dispel some of the falsehoods. She was unaware that ACORN (and any organization gathering voter registration forms) is required by law to turn in all forms, regardless of how phony the form's contents might appear.

It's not all her fault. Many people get their information from a single source, and that is never a good idea. Just as with a food diet, a news diet is healthiest when it includes variety.

We did, however, agree that it is wonderful to see so many people coming out to vote and participating in this most basic of our rights. Now it's YOUR turn!

Posted by Joe Litton | October 22, 2008 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 18, 2008

Why I am voting for Barack Obama

My main criterion when deciding on a candidate is deciding which one will bring more compassion to the world. There are, of course, myriad issues that come into play. I trust Obama; I do not trust McCain. But taking what they've each said and done at face value, here is a chart I've published earlier showing clear differences in the stances of Obama and McCain (chart is based on information at

chart of Obama v McCain on the ISSUES

I honestly cannot fathom how anyone can be undecided at this time. The 2 candidates are very different in their positions, so one need only look at a chart like this to have a pretty good idea of which candidate more closely matches one's own views.

It's an added - and very wonderful - plus that Obama has energized so many new voters. I would never want to see a law that forced everyone to vote, but I would love to see much higher voter participation. Obama's candidacy has resulted in many minority voters and many young voters registering and participating -- voters who otherwise might have stayed away from the polls.

And I am extremely impressed with how Obama conducts himself during the debates, during rallies, and during these most recent economic struggles.

It's looking like a very close election, so we can't yet know who will become our next President. But I have not been this enthused about a candidate in a very, very long time!

Posted by Joe Litton | October 18, 2008 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)