Yes, I’m voting minor party. No, it isn’t a vote for Trump/Clinton. No, it’s not a wasted vote.

The CandidatesThis has been a hell of an election cycle, hasn’t it? We’ve got an outsider(read: utterly inexperienced and temperamentally unsuited), racist, sexist ‘conservative’ who loves the idea of building giant government programs and eliminating civil liberties, and a corporate-owned machine ‘liberal’ with a war-hawk record who loves the idea of building giant government programs and eliminating civil liberties. Well, there’s nothing to do about it, right? If you don’t vote for the bad one, the worse one might win!

Well no, actually, that couldn’t be more wrong…

A trick of the math

The reason we have such poor choices in the first place is the fact that Americans have been using that same short-sighted, tactical thinking for the last forty years. It’s not really surprising. Due to the plurality/winner-takes-all voting system we use, the math shows that over time, our system will tend to move toward a stable, two party system, which is exactly what it has done. There have been several arrangements over the last two and a half centuries, but for the last 150 years, those two parties are the Republicans and the Democrats. The thing is, that “stable” system inherently under-represents the actual will of the people, because there are vastly more than two positions on every issue. It can be mitigated by active participation in the political process by those who disagree with the two parties, and there are voting systems, like range voting and ranked-choice voting, that would eliminate this effect, but there are entrenched interests who would not benefit from those improvements…

The entrenched interests

Of course, once two parties have edged out all the other options, they work together to retain that advantage, so they can split up the entire political and financial pie without worry of anyone upsetting their nice, cozy arrangement with each other or with the corporations who fund them. While publicly they represent each other as the enemy, in private, they are best buds. This is why, no matter which one is elected president in any given election, no matter who “controls” Congress, we virtually always end up with the same results, constantly growing government, constantly decreasing personal freedom, constant war, constantly growing influence for corporations and other moneyed interests, all at the expense of the citizenry.

Sure, you see a few superficial differences on the social policy front, playing to voting bases. The Republicans land a “Defense of Marriage Act” with much social-conservative fanfare, making life much harder for married gay couples, and then its worst parts almost immediately get thrown out by the courts. The Democrats get through “socialized” medicine, and (surprise!), it actually involves forcing citizens under the threat of financial penalty to buy health insurance from a collection of corporations who conveniently donate millions to the campaigns of both Democrats and Republicans. Ultimately, however, these are window dressing. They rarely fulfill what they were sold to do by one side or the other, and ignore the big issues, where despite opposing rhetoric, they always follow mostly the same policies. The two major parties have formed a duopoly that has a stranglehold on our democracy.

Tactics versus strategy

They really can’t lose, though. In the media, they fight like cats and dogs, portraying each others’ candidates as apocalyptic harbingers of doom. They breed fear in the public, selling the idea that each is the only possible salvation from the other. They manipulate us into thinking tactically (“What’s the best of these two bad options right now”) rather than strategically (“What’s the best choice for our nation in the long run”). We see article after article in the media telling us that we must vote to defeat the evil one, even if we are certain the less evil one does not represent our interests well. In the rare years there are other practical options available, they say things like, “Voting minor party is a vote for Trump/Clinton”, “Voting minor party is nothing but white, male privilege“, “Vote like it matters, because voting minor party is throwing away your vote“, or “Minor Parties should focus on lesser elections, where they have a chance”.

Of course, everything about those arguments is intellectually bankrupt:

  • Voting for one candidate is NOT voting for another candidate, by definition. There are two subtle lies in this argument. The first lie is the assumption that lost votes for the “less evil” constitute extra votes for the “more evil” candidate. Obviously, this one is wrong mathematically (since vote totals for one candidate are not a part of the vote totals for another) and practically, because of the next point. The second lie is the assumption that everyone voting for a minor party candidate would otherwise have voted for the “less evil” candidate, which is provably false. Most minor party votes come from people not registered as Democrat or Republican (a larger group of US voters than either Democrats or Republicans, FYI), and history shows they tend to break about evenly between the two major parties when no viable minor party candidates are available.
  • “White, male privilege” may insulate some from the effects of “the evil one”, but facts are facts, and no one is benefited by the duopoly in the long run but the duopoly and their funders. This is, of course, based on the same “voting for X is a vote for Y” fallacy, but even granted that fallacy, consider: There is no question that minorities would fare somewhat worse under a Trump administration than a Clinton administration, but by how much, and for how long would those differences last? Leaving the two parties in power means you’ll be facing this same risk again and again, forever. Things will never get better if you don’t ever act to make them so. Isn’t it worth a little risk now to move toward an eventual better system?
  • The vast majority of US voters live in states where statistically, no individual vote can affect the outcome, as one of the two major parties always wins. There are only about ten states where there is ever really a contest between Democratic or Republican winners, and those ten states only represent about 25% of our population. The other 75% of us will get what we’ve always got, regardless of how we vote. Ironically, despite the exhortations of these pundits, for most of us, the wasted vote is one cast for a major party candidate! The minor parties benefit from votes cast even if they don’t win, while the major parties don’t…
  • Minor parties do focus on “lesser”elections. In fact, there are more minor party candidates running in this election cycle than in the last ten decades. The problem is that those minor party candidates have to get on a ballot, and in most states, that doesn’t happen automatically unless they do well in the presidential election (more on that in the next point).

There are more important things than winning in the short term!

  1. Ballot Access – Minor parties have to spend millions every election cycle petitioning for their candidates to even be on the ballot, so they have no funds for actual campaigning. In most states, if they get even 5% of the presidential vote, they can stay on the ballot automatically next time. This frees up massive amounts of resources for actually winning the next time around. In addition, they qualify for matching federal funds, and become eligible to use “SuperPACs”.
  2. Visibility – In races where minor parties make a good showing in the presidential race, their candidates for lesser offices at the federal, state, and local levels benefit from a huge advertising multiplication. This has already been seen, in the current cycle, for both the Libertarian and Green parties.
  3. Sending a message – Whoever gets elected won’t be there long, but sending a message that whoever is currently proposed by the Republicans/Democrats is utterly unacceptable has long term effects. If nothing else, it raises the visibility of the minor parties in the public consciousness, and gives you the peace of mind of not having voted for the “lesser evil”, who you still despise.
  4. Spoiling is a good thing, in the long run – Most times, minor party candidates do not split votes. They usually take more or less evenly from both parties’ support. But even in the case they potentially *do* ‘spoil’ for one of the parties (e.g. Nader 200, although even here, there is little evidence to support the popular prejudice), in the next cycle, major party candidates pick up the issues/policies of the last spoiler to win back those lost votes, which means your issues might at least nominally actually be addressed by an elected representative eventually.
    In 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt abandoned the Republican Party and formed the Progressive Party, championing political reforms, women’s suffrage, and workers’ rights. He took twenty-seven percent of the popular vote, a higher percentage than any minor-party candidate in history, and in response, both the Democrats and the Republicans included most of the Progressives’ issues/positions in their platforms by the next Presidential election. During Ross Perot’s candidacy in the 1992 election, both Clinton and Bush adopted his views on deficit reduction before the election was even over.

The Goal

We need to end the two party system and get money out of politics, which is what makes that system so deeply entrenched. This is the only real issue in American politics right now. The only way this can happen is if our elected representatives can be convinved to change the rules. I’m sure you can see how unlikely this is, when nearly 100% of our “representatives” are part of the duopoly we need to defeat. Our only hope is to stop buying into their carefully orchestrated fear-mongering and start as individuals voting for candidates that actually represent our desires in government.

If each voter votes their conscience, things won’t change immediately, it’s true, but slowly, one piece at a time, we can take back control of our government. The fact that there are not one, but two minor party candidates on the ballot in enough states to win the presidency, and that at least one state has proposed legislation to eliminate plurality voting is proof that change can come, if we constantly push for change every time we go to the polls. It only requires more of us to participate to be successful. We only need to elect enough representatives willing to change our voting structure to one that will not breed two-party dominance to make it a well visible issue. Once the legislation is in public view, the only way the two parties can oppose it is by admitting that they are trying to manipulate the system to their advantage.

If you truly believe that the Democrat/Republican best represents your viewpoint of all the possible representatives out there, you should of course vote for them. If you are voting tactically, without looking past this one election, you are nothing more than a tool of the people who want to control you.
THAT is wasting your vote!

In closing, consider this quote from Douglas Adams’ blisteringly funny satire, So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish:

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
Ford shrugged again.
“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

Posted in For Facebook, General, Personal, Philosophical, Political, Rational, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Winning and Losing


Randomly whipping up a venison and swiss chard ragout with a mustard/turmeric wine base and serving it over a chicken and pumpkin seed faux risotto bodged out of minute rice and vinegar.


Trying to convince your two year old to eat it!

Posted in Family, For Facebook, Geeky, General, Uncategorized, Whimsical | Leave a comment

One Law For Them, One Law For Us

If you’re a Facebook friend of mine, you saw a post like this yesterday, but I just needed to expand on the insane level of government misconduct as regards the Clinton email scandal. Understand that I’ve always thought the whole thing was a Republican snipe hunt, given that their people have done so much worse in the past, directly outing CIA agents and such, but facts are facts, and equality under the law is supposed to be the gold standard of our legal system.

Strangler TogetherYesterday, the Director of the FBI, James Comey, announced that after a full investigation, the FBI would not recommend prosecution of the former Secretary of state for mishandled classified information she shared and stored via her private email server. If you want to see what’s wrong with our government, just consider this sequence of statements all from the same announcement. Forget the motivations and the players. Just read them out of context, and seriously consider what #4 says to you…

  1. “There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in X’s position, or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation,”
  2. “It is possible that hostile actors gained access to X’s personal email account.”
  3. “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case”
  4. “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”

Never mind for a moment that the purpose of this email server was likely to circumvent transparency laws. Never mind for a moment that the presence of classified information on her private server literally means either that a Secretary of State a) knew this material was classified, so purposely broke the law, or b) is completely incompetent, and should never have been trusted with classified information in the first place. Never mind that we probably can’t prove her intent to break the law either way. Just consider the actual law.

US Code, Section 793.f: “Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

Notice how intent is not a part of this section of the law? Notice that incompetence is specifically called out as no excuse?

Clearly the FBI is aware of this law, considering the case of Bryan Nishimura just last year, who while on deployment, copied several classified documents to personal devices, and kept the devices when he went home. “An FBI search of Nishimura’s home turned up classified materials, but did not reveal evidence he intended to distribute them. He was sentenced to two years of probation and a $7,500 fine, and was ordered to surrender his security clearance. He is barred from seeking a future security clearance.”

So let’s look at Director Comey’s statement again: “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case”

I’m sure it’s small comfort to Bryan that the FBI and his prosecutor were being “unreasonable” when they destroyed his career and robbed him, but have now learned to be more reasonable!

Or maybe, considering how many times this has happened with politicians from both major parties, it’s just that our ruling class gets to live by a different interpretation of the law than the rest of us!


[ADDENDUM] When I originally posted, an old friend from school who’s served in our military made a wonderful comment that makes an important secondary point about this, and I think it needs to be shared here:

“I know Privates who can recognize classified materials if they come in without a header. Clinton’s defense was she didn’t know the material was supposed to be classified. The Democrat candidate for President is dumber than a Private… and Privates need to be reminded not to shit on the carpet or eat paint.”


Posted in For Facebook, General, Personal, Philosophical, Political, Rational | Leave a comment

Keep Clear Of “WhatsApp”!

NoWhatsAppToday, in a work-related panic to troubleshoot a technical problem with a colleague stuck overseas with only data-service, I broke my own rule to never install a phone app without researching it exhaustively. He needed help, and only had WhatsApp with which to send/receive text messages, so I just installed the app to get the job done, and put out the fire.

Two hours later, I checked in on Facebook, and something caught my eye. It was a suggested friend. That’s pretty common, but what got my attention was that a) we had no friends in common, and b) he was someone I only know professionally. I confirmed from the profile that it was in fact that customer, and not someone who just happened to have the same name. It spooked me a little, like maybe he was stalking me, or something.

After lunch, I checked in again, and saw two more suggested friends with whom I have no social connections, but who I know professionally. Now I was starting to worry about hackers, so I paid attention. The only risky thing I’ve done recently was install an un-vetted app, so I started with WhatsApp. I found this article, and confirmed that, in fact, after Facebook bought WhatsApp, they changed terms, giving themselves the right to upload your entire contact list to their servers!

So it seems that Facebook got hold of my extremely large and professionally sensitive contact database, scanned it for email addresses, and started suggesting connections to those contacts who used the same email for Facebook as they had given me. Due to a momentary lapse in judgement, I have handed over over a database of over 1000 people, with massive amounts of detailed personal information on many of them, and rather sensitive professional data on not a few. The bastards have my father’s social security number and bank account numbers! (If he weren’t two years gone, I’d be having a panic attack right now…)

I apologize to all my friends and colleagues whose home addresses, personal phone numbers, and emails are now in the hands of Facebook’s marketers or worse. I was a fool, and I hope none of you will pay the price for that foolishness!

Please learn from my example. Keep far away from this app (and Facebook’s app, which I just learned has this same condition of use!), and ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH!

I am furious right now…

Posted in For Facebook, Geeky, General, Industry, Personal, Rational, Uncategorized | 4 Responses

Home, Sweet Hopeless – Welcome to Troy

Vandals #3Let me tell you about the love/hate relationship I have with Troy, my adopted hometown.

I spend a lot of time here, and I really love it. I love the people here. I love the art and nerdiness that abounds. I love the actual Victorian architecture that is just everywhere (including in my own, endlessly decaying but beautiful home). I’ve put thousands of hours into making Troy a better place over the years, working to stop the demolition of its one-of-a-kind 1914 vaudeville theater, getting dog-park legislation passed and a dog park built, going to hundreds of neighborhood and city meetings, building a makerspace, you get the idea. The people of Troy have rewarded me with actually caring about this stuff, and supporting it.

I also hate Troy, because it seems that the city regularly goes out of its way to make me want to leave. Here’s a little story as an example:

Our little family has a tradition. Every year, we drive far away for the New Year’s holiday, to spend time with close friends we rarely get to see. This year, the plan was the same. We ran into a minor (I thought) problem, in that there was to be an inch of snow the night before we left. Since I have a 4×4 truck, I pretty much ignored this issue, as even five inches is trivial to simply drive over, if we are in a rush.

Then, the morning came. Everyone on the street had an inch of snow on their property. Everyone but us, that is. We had six inches of jumbled, icy carnage covering our sidewalks and the first ten feet of our driveway, courtesy of the city’s snowplow brigade. You see, we live on a right-turn lane, meaning no cars can park in front of us, so the plows swing in to the curb, and dump an entire block’s snow on our property. Not only would this have been a challenge to drive over, it was flat-out dangerous to anyone who might have walked on our sidewalk. So I shoveled, for an hour.

I just barely had things clear enough to get moving, when the plow came by again. Since folks down the street were now awake, and had driven away, the plow collected all the previously protected snow all down the block and once again dumped all of it on our property, while traveling at about 45 miles per hour (an estimate based upon my observation and the fact that the sprayed snow made it onto our porch, 20 plus feet from the curb). This pile was nearly a foot deep, and completely covered the just cleared driveway and sidewalks, as well as most of our front walk. I was annoyed, but I got back to work, and spent yet another hour re-clearing our property.

Just as I finished, Mr Plow came by again, pushing another massive pile of snow from god-knows-where, and headed straight for us. I stood just inside our front gate, waving my shovel and yelling at him to give me a break! As he passed, and did the little jink that the plows do as they pass us and prepare to corner, which dumps all the snow in their plow right there, I realized that the driver was literally pointing and laughing at me! I was in shock, and didn’t think to get the plow’s number, but I will remember the weaselly, light-brown bearded, bespectacled face behind that windshield forever. I truly hope I never see it again, because I fear I will break my principal to never initiate violence against another person! After several minutes of fuming and fantasizing about the tortures I would devise, I got back to it, and spent another hour clearing our property.

Needless to say, with re-showering, resting, now having to make change/nap/make lunch for our toddler, etc. we were so late leaving that we had to break our trip into two days and spend an unexpected night in a motel so our little one could survive the trip!

But it gets better. When we returned tonight, we found that despite the fact that the entire block has since melted clear, our sidewalk still has massive chunks of snow sitting on it from yet another pass they must have made after we left. Even more astonishing was the snowpile that was still on the “downstream” half of our driveway, with plow lines still visible, where a plow had apparently come the wrong way down the street just to push the pile of snow that had accumulated past us at the corner up into our driveway!

But it still gets better. We also discovered that several panes of glass in our front entryway had been smashed out by the bottles of beer we found shattered across our front porch! That’s right, not only did our vacation start with hours of back-breaking labor, it ended with it too. At least an hour of cleanup, then talking to police, then papering over the broken panes, then filing an online police report because the officer they sent “couldn’t really do anything”, all while desperately trying to keep our cranky, tired-from-eight-hours-of-driving toddler awake until his bedtime!

Thanks, Troy! I hate you, but not in a metaphorical way, at the moment. Right now, I hate you with the burning rage of a thousand suns, and want you to be obliterated by an asteroid impact a week after we sell our home and get the hell out of here…

Vandals #1
Vandals #2
Vandals #3

Happy Holidays, Troy. UP YOURS!

Vandals #4

Posted in Family, For Facebook, General, Personal | 2 Responses
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