Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympics makes me think we need global government

All this Olympics pageantry reminds me that we need a global government.

Not the corporate global government we have today under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or the World Trade Organization, where unelected officers can strike down national and state laws.

A real one, with an elected legislature.

And access to a common market for those democracies that choose to participate (so we might move some of the undemocratic world, like China, to embrace some of the best of the West, like private property and democracy).

The United Nations was set up in the 40s. It's time for a new global government. And seeing all those nations uniting in Beijing just makes it seem natural to have a government that reflects all those people that can put corrupt local officials in jail, spread literacy and improve the standard of living, particularly among the poorest on earth. 

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

How I would save the local newspaper

Take this one for what it's worth, but with newspaper stock prices in freefall and absolutely no buyers stepping up for the many local papers that are for sale (since no one can figure out how to turn around the fundamental economics of dwindling subscription base, falling ad revenues and flat costs of staff and newsprint), here's my take.

If I bought a local paper, I'd do the following things:

1. Start charging for access to the website at about $100 a year (roughly the cost of a print subscription). 

2. Drop the daily printed version and switch to a weekly printed version more like a thick magazine than a Sunday newspaper.

3. Mail the weekly version instead of paying for my own distribution network.

4. Film the reporters talking about their stories and put that video on the site for paying subscribers.

5. Start cutting deals with the local network-owned TV stations to provide lots of content for their local news (the networks make a ton of money off of local news).

So, who wants to back me buying Gatehouse? Or who wants to hire me as a consultant?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Illinois constitutional convention needs to amend the redistricting provision

One part of the Illinois Constitution is clearly broken (even Dawn Clark Netsch agrees) and that's the provision that governs redistricting.

The General Assembly gets to draw the map. And if they can't, then a Commission is set up to do the job, 4 Dems and 4 Republicans. And if they can't do the job, then guess how the ninth member of the Commission is chosen, pursuant to the Illinois Constitution?
Not later than September 5, the Secretary of State publicly shall draw by
random selection the name of one of the two persons to serve as the ninth member
of the Commission.

That's right: out of a hat.

We have democracy by lottery. And that is unique to the nation -- and perhaps the democratic world. The Paul Simon Institute has a nice white paper for some background reading.

There are lots of ways to fix this problem. The Ladd Commission (a blue ribbon panel set up in the mid to late 1990s) suggested a computer-generated map would help as well as separating the two House districts from the one Senate district. Representative James Brosnahan filed a constitutional amendment HJRCA 44 that passed the House but did not get called in the Senate that would also separate the House map from the Senate map and ditch the Commission with it's democracy by lottery provision in favor of a Special Master appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (and one other Member). Representative Jack Franks suggests in an NPR story today that a computer-generated map would make most sense instead of having "incumbets protect their own turf."

The best way to tackle this glaring deficiency in the Illinois Constitution is to convene a constitutional convention by voting yes this November where we can solve this before the 2011 redistricting process with an amendment to appear on the 2010 ballot.

Of course, some people who think we should not tolerate such a ridiculous provision of the Constitution are scared of a constitutional convention. Governor Edgar apparently falls in that camp. He's in the same WBEZ story as Representative Franks, and he said because there's no "guarantee" that the issue will be dealt with the way you want them dealt with, there's no reason to roll the dice.

Problem is, the way the issue has been dealt with is by sticking with democracy by lottery (with the exception of the House of Representatives that did pass the Brosnahan amendment). So either you decide to trust the people to fix the problem through an elected body focused only on improving the constitution, or you hope the General Assembly will put an amendment on the ballot when they haven't done so in the 38 years we've had the current Constitution.

So voting no is really rolling the dice -- on who gets to draw the map in 2011!