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Posts Tagged ‘A Flaw in the Law’

…On Craig Ferguson’s Mistake.

Posted by Steve on November 3, 2008

A few Mondays ago, Jeff (look under “I Know These People” over on the right) made me aware of this monologue by Craig Ferguson, which I like and largely agree with.

Except for one thing, which I disagree with strongly enough to mention it here. Right around the 8:20 mark, when he says, “We have two patriotic candidates.”

Two? No. We have more than two. Where I live (Virginia), we have at least 6 (I don’t know if there’s any officially-recognized* write-in candidates), with 6 candidates for Vice President as well. They are, listed in their order on the sample ballot:

  1. Democratic Party electors for Barack Obama and Joe Biden
  2. Republican Party electors for John McCain and Sarah Palin
  3. Independent Green Party electors for Chuck Baldwin and Darrell L. Castle
  4. Libertarian Party electors for Bob Barr and Wayne A. Root
  5. Green Party electors for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente
  6. Independent Party electors for Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez

Those 4 you don’t hear anything about, they deserve some mention too. I know they won’t win tomorrow. I know their candidacies were futile, and I know why. I learned about Duverger’s Law in 10th grade. I know it’s a set of structural defects in the (predominant) U.S. election rules that causes it. Which is strange, since in another area, the U.S. has given the world what is, quite possibly, the single largest application of the greatest vote system yet put into place by humanity: Borda count. Also known as, “The College Football Polls.”

Let’s be clear: I don’t exactly like that the polls exist (congratulations to reigning National Champions Appalachian State), and I really really don’t like the actual votes or the reasons the voters give for them (with the exception of Greg Archuleta, who had a moment of clarity back in January of 2007). But as far as an electoral system goes – the way the ballot’s structured, and most importantly, the way the votes are counted, there’s nothing better in practice.

We all know how it works: ranked votes, with each ranking worth a few less points than the one before it. Voter gets alloted a number of these “point bundles” to pass out, and can use as few or as many of them as they want. Then, add up the points, and whoever’s got the most wins. I don’t know of a better system that’s been put into practice in any elections – and I include Single Transferrable Vote (which I’ve voted in favor of, when it was on a referendum – it’s a very close second) in that.

But, alas, we’re stuck with the first-past-the-post system, which completely lacks any redeeming quality. It allows (really, more like ensures) wasted votes and a spoiler effect, and it’s an utter flop when it comes to the single most important criterion for judging a voting system: the Condorcet loser criterion.

Am I suggesting that Bob Barr or Cynthia McKinney would have a real shot at the Presidency of the United States if the electoral system weren’t screwed up (Set aside arguments over whether or not the Electoral College is a good system. Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, are giving out their electoral votes in anything that can fairly be called a legitimate manner)? Absolutely not. I lived a long time in Georgia while both of them were in the House, and even if one believes that Barr’s conversion to libertarianism is legit (it may well be), I don’t think either of them should be trusted with high office. But I do think it would be one hell of a lot better for America if tomorrow we all got a ballot that read something like this:

Candidates for President: Assign at least a first-place vote and up to a fifth-place vote for:
Barack Obama, Progressive Democratic Party
John McCain, National Republican Party
Mike Huckabee, American Republican Party
Hillary Clinton, Democratic Liberty Party
John Edwards, Christian Democratic Party
Ron Paul, Conservative Liberty Party of America
Ralph Nader, Independent
Directional Michigan, Mid-American Conference

.

Alas, it is not to be.

On the plus side, I researched all the local school board candidates and was unable to find a single reference to creationism, so the worst-case scenario with those votes ain’t too bad.

Happy voting.

*I’m assuming the Minnesota practice of requiring people to file paperwork officially declaring their write-in candidacy (and designating the names of their electors, if being written-in for President) in order for write-in votes with their name to be counted is also the Virginia practice.

P.S.: You know, party rules may prohibit it, but there’s no Constitutional requirement and I doubt there’s a Federal Statutory requirement that a Presidential candidate have a running mate, or that a Vice-Presidential candidate be tied to a Presidential candidate, or that you vote for a joint ticket. Not that I actually expect anyone to cast a vote for, say, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin – but I’m pretty sure they could. For that matter, you could announce your candidacy for Vice President even before the first primary was held. I think.

Posted in Football, From the News, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

On an All-Bad Decision by Congress

Posted by Steve on September 28, 2008

The “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008” appears likely to pass, and that is a very, very, bad thing. The people of America are being put close to $700 billion further in debt in order to bail out elements of the financial sector that should instead have been hung out to die. Mark my words: there is nothing good about any bailout, including this one. “If you fuck up, you die,” is supposed to be the one iron-clad rule of life: that there is never a second chance, that there is never a margin for error, and if you can’t live your life flawlessly you suffer because any and every mistake you make can mean your ruin. Apparently, that’s not the case if you’re part of Wall Street. Thing is too, there’s no benefit from this. Catastrophic collapse of the financial sector (which isn’t happening – regional banks and financial institutions, which made sound lending decisions, are going gangbusters) is a good thing. The markets are friction loss in the engine of the economy: they drain a resource (money) without doing any productive work. Look at commodities markets: you’ve got oil well people and oil refinery people involved, who have a tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of the oil and thus a legitimate reason for being involved, and then you’ve got commodities investors who have no tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of oil, and thus no legitimate reason for being involved in the market. But they are, anyway, investing in oil futures. They’re nothing but middle-men, driving up the price without producing value. Cut them out of the process and they’re ruined, yes, but things improve for everyone else.

Hell, the touted “limits on executive compensation” don’t actually strip away golden parachutes or institute a salary cap on executives. They’re a sham, a facade of meaningful legislation. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

There is nothing good about this legislation. It is all costs and no benefits, and it is likely going to pass.

Posted in Economic Activities, From the News, Here be Politics! | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

…On Those Proposed HHS Regulations.

Posted by Steve on August 31, 2008

It’s been now nine days since I reported the Department of Heatlh & Human Service’s release of a draft regulations for public comment. I wanted to talk about those some. This will probably get hell of long, so…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in The Law | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

…On Doing it Twice in a Row.

Posted by Steve on August 21, 2008

Read these and weep, Ames. I’ve now scooped you twice. The topic from before has now been released for 30 days of public comment, as announced in a third post on the Secretary’s blog.

A quick scan reveals the following:

  1. The words “contraception” and “contraceptive” do not appear.
  2. The rule applies to “sterilization procedures” and abortions.
  3. It states “This regulation does not limit patient access to health care, but rather protects any individual health care provider or institution from being compelled to participate in, or from being punished for refusal to participate in, a service that, for example, violates their conscience” but does not provide analysis as to how not compelling providers to participate in the service does not limit patient access. I assume this is because of the flaws fundamental to U.S. law that actions are not judged solely by their effects and that any intermediation, however tenuous, between an action and its effects severs culpability.
  4. I’d say more but it’s a quarter to 7 and I have to be somewhere at a quarter after.

I encourage you, if you have an opinion on the matter, to submit a public comment. Instructions are contained at the beginning of the proposed rule. After all, active participation in government is a good thing.

Posted in From the News, Here be Politics!, Other people's blogging, The Law | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

…On the Perversity of “Running with the Land”.

Posted by Steve on July 29, 2008

It has become a common practice for housing developers to enter into “bulk-billing” agreements telecom contracts. Common enough, at least, for this article about them to come to my attention. In these, the developer enters into a contract with a telecom provider, whereby a specified combination of phone, TV, and internet is provided to every house in the development for a specified cost, locked in for a time frame up to and including multiple decades, and no other telecom provider will be permitted to gain right-of-way or easements within the development. These contracts are then incorporated into the covenants on all the houses sold.

So, a company writes a contract with another company, granting them a monopoly over an area of land, then writes the contract into the sale contract in such a way that no matter how many times the property is bought and sold, buyers must assume the obligations of the contract and can’t quit the service – whether they want that service, or can afford that service, or not.

Now, there’s a group on the web working to get the FCC to ban the practice, and I support their efforts. Thing is, I think they’re targeting a specific symptom of a much larger core problem: the very existence of deed restrictions and covenants.

Ordinarily, contracts only bind the parties to the contract. It’s called the rule of privity, and it’s a pretty good thing for what I should think are obvious reasons: it’s the reason that if Joe enters a contract with Bob specifying that Shelly will perform some action for Bob, in exchange for which Bob will give Joe money, Shelly doesn’t have to do squat. It’s an excellent rule, the rule of privity.

So, under privity, a covenant or a deed restriction shouldn’t be binding on subsequent owners. After all, you buy a house, you aren’t who entered into the contract putting that restriction on the homeowner, so you shouldn’t be bound. Right?

Oh, nope! See, that covenant/deed restriction, it includes a nifty little dodge around privity: it’s written as a term in the initial property sale contract, along with a term that specifies it must be offered and agreed to in all future sales. In other words, it gets made a perpetual, perpetually non-escapable, and perpetually non-severable contract of adhesion. Not to mention, this adhesive contract with no privity – to either buyer or seller, once the property is resold – has been grafted into a contract based on extensive offer & counter offer, a property sale, to create a truly dreadful Moreauean hybrid. When you buy or sell property, the buyer and seller can negotiate every term of the contract – except the covenants and conditions and deed restrictions the Homeowner’s Association adopted in 1962, or the developer tacked into the deed when they subdivided it before building the house and selling it to the first resident three owners ago, or that the now-dead old man who lived there ten years ago negotiated with his also-now-dead neighbor.

Seems to me a good goal to work for would be getting deed restrictions and property covenants declared voided and henceforth banned as per se unconscionable.

Posted in Developer Abuse, From the News, The Law | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »