I’ve been watching a lot of the Al Franken-Norm Coleman battle in the Minnesota Senate race lately. At this point, I know more about Minnesota election law than my own. I’ve been a longtime fan of Al Franken, and I think it would be great to see him in the Senate. I think he will come off with the win too – the rejected absentee ballots and the contested ballots I think both favor Franken over Coleman, so I don’t believe the Coleman vote lead will hold up at all.

It’s remarkable how open an electoral process they have in Minnesota – every contested ballot can be viewed on the internet, the recount was videotaped and independently monitored, and they have remarkably few missing ballots. I think they have a real chance of getting the correct candidate in office.

If you want to check it out, The Uptake is the best place I’ve found for continuous coverage. They’ve got hours of live footage of the press conferences and the recount process, which is just fascinating stuff to me.

Interesting Theories from Ron Paul

If you don’t know much about him, Ron Paul is this interesting, kooky Republican House member from Texas. I strongly disagree with many of his positions, but I really respect him for his economic views. Here he is talking about how he believes that America is bankrupt and must deal with the consequences of that. Check it out above, it’s well worth the four minutes it runs.

A Better Way

Here are 5 goals we should be pushing towards as a nation and as a global community:

  1. End poverty rather than fight terror. The former is a solution to a problem, the latter is just treatment for the symptom. Creating prosperity in the poorest countries in the world is a realistic goal in our lifetimes.
  2. Reverse the widening gap between the richest and the poorest in the world. A more even distribution of resources is paramount to global well-being.
  3. Reverse the effects of man-made climate change. Climate change is likely the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced, and the outcome will almost certainly determine our ability to live on our planet.
  4. Promote science and education. Education builds stable societies, and exploration of the sciences helps us to solve many issues we face now and will face in the future.
  5. Ensure individual freedoms and rights. Nobody should have the right to dictate the legally allowable behaviors where there’s no harm to any party involved.

Book Review (and Rant): Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness - Eric Schlosser

I just got done reading the somewhat unfortunately titled “Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market” by Eric Schlosser, which showed up in my stocking this year. If you’re unfamiliar with the author, he is better known for writing the book “Fast Food Nation.” This particular title is a few years old now, but it’s a great read none the less, and still quite relevant.

In it, the author targets three sectors of the American economy that currently are or have fairly recently been havens of black market economies that account for billions of dollars of trade. One of the focuses that the book tries to show is the human cost of misguided regulatory policy over these industries. This manifests itself in quite a few ways throughout the book, including vivid accounts of harsh deprivations of liberty for innocuous crimes such as possession of marijuana or distribution of pornography, the tremendous strain and cost to the court and prison systems as a result of enforcement of laws against such behaviors, the disgusting mistreatment of a huge population of migrant laborers, and more. To be sure, it’s a fascinating read, but not one that is of a passive or benign nature.

The theme that comes out throughout the book is that one of the greatest threats to liberty are the imposition of a moral authority over a populace. I can’t say that I disagree with any of the conclusions that the book came to in that regard. I certainly don’t feel the need or the right to take away someone’s liberty because their personal behavior offends me, and I’d certainly be wary of those who do. In addition, it pushed the idea that the rules aren’t the same when you’re a large corporation that has lobbying power or a person of considerable influence, such as a politician.

Just reading through this book makes you upset at how the system functions today, and how many lives it’s just destroying for no good reason. Sometimes I can’t really remember where reason and intelligence went, and how it came to be that real intellectual debate is less present every day. Generally, a lack of reason in the political process foster these situations, where rhetoric and propaganda (if not outright lies) are allowed to shape national and local agenda. Times may be rough now, but there’s certainly hope for the future, of course. It’s always the worst before a tipping point where reason returns to society and real progress can be made. Either way, thumbs up to the book – definitely grab a copy if it’s your cup of tea.

Hey, who is this Ron Paul Guy?

So, I was reading up on Ron Paul the other day. I dunno if I can get behind him, but he certainly is an interesting Presidential candidate. As a Congressman and whatnot he’s voted strongly to his beliefs, and seems to be more or less a decent guy. I don’t like his policies on isolationism (breaking from the UN), on immigration, and a few others. However, he’s fiscally sound by favoring a balanced budget, he likes Constitutional Democracy, he’s for ending the war in Iraq and the war on drugs, and he’s for personal privacy. The plus column has a lot to like there. He’s campaigning as a Republican, but in the past he’s also run as a Libertarian, and he doesn’t run strictly on party lines.

The thing is, is that Ron Paul is an internet candidate! He’s not polling too badly right now and he’s got some cash, and almost all of it came from internet pledge drives. That’s precisely why he’s interesting. See, the sphere of influence of this internet thing has grown pretty quickly – we’re talking the ability to support Presidential candidates! Ron Paul perfectly perched himself as the internet’s candidate – he embraced internet technology, which allowed his supporters who were already using youtube and to be able to promote him and got new faces seriously looking at him (and donating, of course!). At the same time he’s being shut out of debates and not getting much major media consideration, but he’s actually polling well and people are starting to know who he is.

It’s always been my belief that people are willing to support some kind of out there characters for political office if given a good one that promotes the will of the people instead of other interests. Because, let’s face it, public policy and public opinion don’t seem to meet much anymore. That deficiency can actually work to give an honest guy a chance amongst a sea of corporate bland, and if they further capitalize with the social networking structure of the internet, it’s turning out to be a winning combination.

We’ll see how it turns out, I guess. If Ron Paul happens to jump into the top tier of the Republican Party candidates, he’s got a decent chance, more likely as a VP I’m guessing, but that’s still a pretty strong resume builder. That, and I heard some wacky Ron Paul – Dennis Kucinich ticket idea was floating around. That might be a little too wacky…

Update 12/17 – He just keeps going! 6 million in one day, and a blimp! Very interesting…