Josh (desh) wrote,
Josh
desh

10 Political Issues I Care More About Than Terrorism

Part of why I and many other people I know tend to feel disenchanted with the political process is because the politicians and the media tend to address issues that aren't my priorities. So because it was important for me to articulate this, because I can articulate this while not everyone who feels the same way can, and because I wanted to be more like jdcohen, I decided to write this post. Here are ten issues I care about more than terrorism.

1. Intellectual Property Law The concept of copyright has shifted entirely around since it was invented. It's now virtually indefinite, instead of for a short duration, and it's designed to protect corporations rather than Struggling Artists. Even if you think the Struggling Artist stereotype is a myth, look into the changes that copyright law has undergone over time, and look at who they benefit. The DMCA is a terrible law, totally ruining the vital concept of fair use. Tangentially related, UCITA might be an even worse law, allowing the makers of software to be held to a lower standard of product quality than in any other industry, and screwing the rights of the consumer in the process.

Also, the idea of patents in this country has recently become absurd. The patent organization now will grant process and software patents for almost anything, leaving challenges to the legal realm, rather than quashing questionable patents in the first place. It may not be something that most people care about, and that's part of why I need to care about it. It's broken and it needs to be fixed.

2. Civil Liberties In a disturbing parallel to what the DMCA did to fair use, the Patriot Act summarily shafted that pesky facet of criminal prosecution, due process. I don't care if the FBI wants to investigate me. They can investigate me all they want. But they can't search my belongings or tap my phone unless a judge says so. Or at least, that's how it used to be. And everyone who is arrested in this country, especially our citizens, deserve a day in court. Our country is strong enough to survive the loss of prosecutorial power that the various agencies would be subject to without this law, but it's not strong enough to survive the gradual erosion of essential freedoms that this law portends. Remember always that the bill of rights enumerates the rights we intrinsically have, not the ones that our government was kind enough to give us.

3. Education Reform And I mean real reform. Not the No Child Left Behind act. Schools should be so overfunded that there's no such thing as a failing one. Vouchers should be a non-issue. Teachers should be fighting for positions and the paycheck that comes with them, but they won't be allowed in the classroom by themselves unless they're an assistant for a year first. Why aren't there billions more dollars being poured into public schools? I really don't understand. It's the only problem on this list that can be fixed just by throwing money at it, and yet we don't.

4. Homophobia I mean, really. I'm not talking about gay marriage, because I don't think there should be state-supported marriage at all. (But I'm way ahead of my time on this one, and I don't expect to see a candidate who agrees with me any time soon.) But why is a civil partnership so odious? All I ask is that the government guarantee certain rights to people who have agreed to commit to spending their lives together caring for each other. Since this is not a theocracy, there should be no objection.

Time for a brief interlude to note that all of the above issues are, for lack of a better term, content-based issues. All of the remaining six will be process issues. I'm a firm believer that if you have the right framework, the correct details will eventually fall into place. I love this country so much because we have a pretty good framework already. But it needs a lot of fixing, and I might be just the man to suggest how.

5. Election Reform This has become a hot topic among certain circles of friends of mine, and I suspect it's more widespread than that. It needs to be much more widespread. We simply cannot remain a democracy if we keep having closed-source computers running closed-source proprietary voting programs written by the lowest bidder. For technical reasons that I don't want to explain here, open source software is necessary to even begin to consider an electronic voting system fair and secure. Of course, I'd be happier if electronic voting were done away with entirely. The old clunky Philadelphia machines, mechanical and lever-based, were my favorite. They're clearer and easier to count than any paper ballot and more secure than any electronic one. Also, why oh why is voting overseen by elected, partisan officials? If there's one position or committee in the country that should be non-partisan, shouldn't it be election officials? As much as I'm in favor of states' rights, this should be a national law.

6. Voting Reform This is subtlely different than the previous category. I'm talking about the voting methods themselves: Rather than how people get to the polls and what sorts of things they write or push, what are they voting for and how do we count and interpret the results? And my answer is that Instant Runoff Voting needs to at least be considered, to allow for a viable third party candidacy. Also, with regard to presidential elections in particular: I'm not in the camp that wants to disband the electoral college. I agree that there are potential problems with a direct popular vote for the president. But really, why is the electoral vote in 48 of 50 states unanimous? I don't understand. Why not a proportionality system like Colorado proposed, or a congressional-district-based system like Maine uses, or some combination (the winner of the state gets 2 votes, and the rest are allocated proportionally, thus always ensuring a victory by at least 3)? It would help stave off the disenfranchised feeling that voters in small states, voters in non-swing states, and voters who vote for the losing candidate feel. One potential problem I can think of with this would be alleviated by #8 below.

7. Gerrymandering Every two years, there are about thirteen times as many seats up for election in the House as there are in the Senate. But there are usually fewer competitive seats in the House. The reason is that the party in power in any given state will tend to draw up the congressional districts in a way that benefits its party most, attempting to lump as many opposition voters into as few districts as possible. Computers are now being used to aid this process. When this is done again nationwide in about 7 years, the vast majority of us will never see a close race for their representative again. Talk about disenfranchising.

8. The Small House The U.S. Constitution doesn't fix the number of Representatives allowed per state, or overall, to the House. That number can be altered by law. But the cap has been stuck at 435 since around 1911. The Constitution was worried about the number of citizens per Representative dipping below 30,000. But today, there are almost 700,000 citizens per Representative! That's almost 10 times what England has, and almost 7 times what Canada has. Sure, in today's communication age, a rep can handle a constituency larger than 30,000. But there really should be at least two thousand representatives, because a constituency approaching one million people is just too much.

9. Separation of Powers Where has the separation of powers gone? Our president thinks he can declare war, and the Congress lets him. Our judges think they can make law, as I've complained about before, and no one stops them. Our federal government has usurped a lot of the rights that belong to the states, and no one has stopped them. Sure, some evolution in this area is natural, but this is too much, I think, even though a lot of it benefits my causes. And it is disturbing to me that so much of the shift is away from Congress, the most democratic part of our democracy.

10. Campaign Finance Reform And I mean REAL Finance Reform. Spending money on a campaign is NOT speech, it's money, and it ought to be regulated much more than it is now. Aggressively close whatever loopholes pop up. Level the playing field a bit more. If we're lucky, it might even take some of the sound bites out of politics.

And there we go. I have to go now, I'm going to go fix the world.
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