31 August 2007

Waters of Mass Destruction

By Thomas Gangale and Marilyn Dudley-Rowley
5 September 2005

A Central Intelligence Agency memo warns that the Al-Qaeda Institute of Technology may have devised a way to engineer the weather in order to hurl hurricanes toward the American mainland. This constitutes a new class of weapons of mass destruction. The report is buried in the federal bureaucracy.

Hurricane Katrina grows to Category 4 status as it heads towards New Orleans.

The President reads his favorite bedtime story, "My Pet Goat."

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) monitor the situation.

Hurricane Katrina makes landfall.

The President is notified. He continues to read "My Pet Goat."

Fearing that Washington may be the next target, Vice President Cheney is moved to an undisclosed high-elevation location.

DHS and FEMA monitor the situation.

Levees designed to protect New Orleans from a Category 3 storm collapse.

The President is notified. He returns to reading "My Pet Goat."

Air Force fighters are scrambled to intercept any other tropical storms that might violate US airspace.

DHS and FEMA monitor the situation.

Tens of thousands of refugees converge on the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center. Civil order degenerates into a "Mad Max" scenario as refugees fight over food, drinking water, and other survival items.

President Bush declares, "My fellow Americans, we sent the Army and the National Guard into Iraq to drain the swamp of terrorists, but it turned out to be desert. Now, a new threat to national security has emerged. Accordingly, we are pulling some troops out of Iraq and redeploying them in New Orleans to drain the swamp of terrorists."

The streets of New Orleans are deserted except for grizzled Vietnam veterans patrolling their sectors through waist-high water.

Criticism mounts regarding the inadequate response of federal agencies. Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff is unavailable for comment. Undersecretary Nickersdown pinch-hits for Secretary Chertoff, stating, "Until today, we didn't know there was anyone still in New Orleans. According to the operational plan, we assumed that everyone would have driven out of New Orleans through the rising waters in their SUVs. We never considered there might be poor people trapped in New Orleans."

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin says, "God damn it!"

Refugees in the Louisiana Superdome board buses bound for the Houston Astrodome.

Commenting on the federal relief effort, President Bush says, "It's hard work."

CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer queries DHS Undersecretary Nickersdown, "Why didn't you get high-resolution daytime imagery from orbit to count the heads of people left in New Orleans? NIMA [the National Imaging and Mapping Agency] could have provided that."

Undersecretary Nickersdown replies, "Who is NIMA? You mean FEMA?"

Refugees from the Louisiana Superdome are turned away from the Houston Astrodome.

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin says, "God damn it!"

When asked what FEMA is doing in his area, Johnny Dupree, mayor of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, replies, "Who is FEMA?"

Having been previously turned away from the Houston Astrodome, refugees are barred from entering the San Antonio Alamodome.

President Bush tours the devastated area, hugging freshly-scrubbed white people. "As a compassionate conservative, I wish to conserve my compassion for the victims of Hurricane Fema."

Britney Spears expresses her emotional reaction to the disaster on Larry King Live. Ben Affleck then tells Larry King everything he knows.

Commenting on the federal relief effort, President Bush says, "It's hard work."

Having been previously turned away from two other domes, refugees are barred from entering the Flagstaff Skydome.

Al Franken organizes a relief effort. "Send me all your receipts."

To relieve rising gas prices, the President Bush proposes legislation to authorize offshore oil drilling in the recently designated New Awlins National Wetlands Refuge (NANWR).

Having been previously turned away from three other domes, refugees arrive at the Seattle Kingdome to find that it has been demolished five years earlier. The Tacoma Dome also refuses them shelter.

President Aaron Broussard of Jefferson Parish declares independence and applies for foreign aid from the United States government.

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin says, "God damn it!"

The Conch Republic extends full diplomatic relations to Jefferson Parish. Ambassadors are exchanged.

Reacting to the destruction of Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos, Cuban president Fidel Castro announces a sudden shift toward capitalism by unveiling a plan to reopen the gaming palaces of Havana.

Nevada gaming interests immediately order a hit on Castro.

The Conch Republic and Jefferson Parish declare war on Nevada.

Having been previously turned away from four other domes, refugees arrive at the Thunderdome, where Tina Turner declares to the cheering crowd, "Laissez les bon temps rouler!"

29 August 2007

If Presidential Campaigns Were Pennant Races--The Republican Scheme on California's Electoral Votes

By Thomas Gangale
California Progress Report
Oakland, California
29 August 2007

Well, sports fans, we have a problem. It's those Damn Yankees. They look like they could go all the way in 2008. Again. Don'cha just get tired of them winning the World Series all the time?

But, we could throw them a real knuckle ball. Here's an idea. Let's change the rules for every game that's played in Yankee Stadium. The changes won't affect any other stadium in the Major Leagues.

Now, anywhere else, when a team wins a game, it get a "one" added to its win column, and when it loses, it gets a "one" added to its loss column. It doesn't matter whether it's squeaker or a laugher; a win is a win. This is known as "winner take all."

But, in Yankee Stadium, this is how it's going to work: every inning will have a winner. So, if the Yankees get two runs in the third inning, and the visitors score only one, the Yankees win that inning. If both teams score the same number of runs in an inning, that inning goes to the overall winner of the game. This is called "allocation by inning."

How would this scoring system be reflected in the league standings? In each game, the total number of innings won by each team would be divided by the total number of innings played, usually nine, but it could be less due to weather or more if a game goes into extra innings. So, the Yankees might win the game overall, but win only five of nine innings. League value: five-ninths. That's a lot less than one. The Yankees win two-thirds of their games at home, and the value of all of those wins would be dramatically reduced.

At the same time, all of their losses on the road would still be counted according to the traditional "winner take all" system; the home team gets one, they get zilch. The Yankees would need to have a winning record in just about every other stadium around the country to have any hope of winning their division.

End result? The Damn Yankees would probably never be in another World Series! Ever! If you can't beat them honestly, beat them any way you can. It's the new American Way.

Now, let me tell you about another nasty idea ... you're just gonna love it: allocating California's electoral votes for president to the winner in each congressional district....

28 August 2007

Famous Lame Excuses

By Thomas Gangale
4 September 2005

Today, when asked what FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) was doing in his area, Johnny Dupree, mayor of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, replied, "Who is FEMA?"

At about the same time, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff fended off criticism of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina by saying, "It wasn't just a hurricane, it was a hurricane followed by a flood." As though the latter was an unusual consequence of the former. Imagine how one could spin any number of disagreeable events throughout history to deflect blame:

Iraq, 2003: "It wasn't just a war, it was a war followed by an insurgency."

New York, 2001: "It wasn't just a plane crash, it was a plane crash followed by a building implosion."

Watergate, 1972: "It wasn't just a break-in, it was a break-in followed by a cover-up."

Dallas, 1963: "It wasn't just an assassination, it was an assassination followed by conspiracy theories."

Hiroshima, 1945: "It wasn't just a nuclear detonation, it was a nuclear detonation followed by heat, blast, and fallout."

Pearl Harbor, 1941: "It wasn't just an air raid, it was an air raid followed by sinking battleships."

New York, 1929: "It wasn't just a stock market crash, it was a stock market crash followed by a sharp economic downturn."

San Francisco, 1906: "It wasn't just a tremor, it was a tremor followed by a conflagration."

Ireland, 1845: "It wasn't just a potato blight, it was a potato blight followed by a famine."

North America, 19th century: "It wasn't just Europeans, it was Europeans followed by the genocide of native peoples."

Europe, 14th century: "It wasn't just rats, it was rats followed by a plague."

Roman Empire, 5th century: "It wasn't just barbarians, it was barbarians followed by the collapse of civilization."

Yucatan, 65 million years ago: "It wasn't just an asteroid, it was an asteroid followed by a mass extinction."

Without a doubt, we can look forward to future official pronouncements in a similar vein:

"It wasn't just tax cuts for the rich, it was tax cuts for the rich followed by underinvestment in national infrastructure."

"It wasn't just global warming, it was global warming followed by rising sea levels, increasingly violent weather, and the spread of tropical diseases into temperate zones."

Oh... that's not the future, that's New Orleans, 2005.

So, let's give Michael Chertoff a break. He's not to blame, nor is the Department of Homeland Security that he heads, nor is the FEMA that reports to him, nor is the Bush Administration in which he serves. In the final analysis, no one is to blame for anything.

Shit happens.

With Category 5 intensity, it flows out of the mouths of administrators and floats down the streets of a stricken city.

27 August 2007

Canceled Primaries Diminish Democracy

By Thomas Gangale
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco, California
6 January 2004

While Americans are working to bring democracy to Iraq, we will have a bit less of it here at home during the coming presidential election: A number of states -- including Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Utah and Washington -- have canceled their presidential primaries.

This marks a sharp reversal of a 40-year trend in presidential politics. In 1960, there were only 18 presidential primary states; in 2000, primaries were held in 45 jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This trend away from party caucuses and conventions in favor of more primary elections has opened the political system to more Americans. In earlier times, it was customary for a few of the party faithful to gather in an auditorium to determine the composition of state delegations. The process has evolved to reach out to the electorate as a whole, and to include millions of voters.

But this year finds American democracy in retreat. States claim they cannot afford the millions of dollars it costs to hold presidential primaries. How ironic that at the same time, the federal government is spending billions of dollars to build democracy in Iraq. The idea that Americans cannot afford democracy is profoundly disturbing. What are our values if we consent to be less free just so we can save a few bucks?

In an attempt to justify the decisions to cancel the presidential primaries in these six states, it is pointed out that fewer voters participate in them. This is true; however, the proper response to this problem is more democracy, not less. The reason that fewer people bother to vote in the primaries is that fewer people believe that their vote makes a difference. Unfortunately, they are right. By early December, political pundits were already declaring Howard Dean the de facto nominee of the Democratic Party.

On what basis did they make such a pronouncement? Did they count the votes? Of course not. The Iowa caucuses were still weeks in the future, and the New Hampshire primary after that. No, they made this prediction by counting the money. Dean has a commanding lead in fund raising; ergo he is the presumptive nominee. According to a 2000 report from the Republican National Committee, in every presidential campaign since 1980 and in both parties, the nominee was the candidate who had raised the most money by Dec. 31 of the year before the general election. The primaries and caucuses merely rubber-stamp the decision already determined by money. Money matters; people's votes do not. This is not democracy.

Yet, while money continues to determine the outcome of the primaries, states are now claiming that there is not enough money to hold the primaries in the first place. Clearly, millions of dollars are available to the electoral process; it is simply a matter of priorities, and of re-engineering the system so that it works better for everyone.

The biggest problem with the system is the front-loaded schedule. By March 15, more than 70 percent of the delegates to the national party conventions will be selected. In order to successfully compete in all of these individual state contests simultaneously, candidates must raise vast sums of money up front, well before these elections and caucuses are held.

The campaign schedule was far more gradual in the 1960s and throughout most of the 1980s. This allowed poorly funded campaigns to get their messages out in small venues via door-to-door politicking. Those who scored early victories in a few states were then able to attract the contributions that allowed them to compete in later primaries. This process fostered more competitive campaigns. It was politics on the installment plan, and it gave more candidates meaningful access to the political system.

In contrast, running for president today is like paying cash to buy a house. Most Americans would be homeless in such a system, so it should come as no surprise that most presidential candidates are left out in the cold, with no chance of winning.

Relaxing the primary schedule will loosen the grip of money on the electoral system and return political power to the voters. Canceling primaries only takes power from the voters. Reforming the presidential nomination process will require the voters who are disenfranchised by the system to speak up by writing to the national committees of their respective parties. It also falls to the presidential candidates who are forced to campaign for dollars rather than for votes; this year's candidates must urge the national party chairmen to reform the rules of the nomination process. It is in the interests of Democrats, Republicans and independents to make this happen. If we do not solve the problem in this presidential election year, we will be stuck with the same mess -- and possibly worse -- in 2008.

This article appeared on page A - 21 of the San Francisco Chronicle

26 August 2007

Realign Presidential Primaries to Dilute Power of Region, Money

By Thomas Gangale
Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
13 April 1999

We are less than a year away from a train wreck in presidential electoral politics.

California, New York and the New England states will hold their presidential primaries on March 7, 2000. A week later, the Rocky Mountain states will follow. Then, on March 21, the Southern states will hold their "Super Tuesday" primaries.

In the space of only two weeks, half of all the delegates to both the Democratic and Republican conventions will be chosen.

This is a front-loading frenzy, as each region scrambles to get an earlier say, and therefore more political clout, in the presidential primary process.

What does this mean for America? That the people will be forced into a rush to judgment, rather than being allowed to cast a carefully considered ballot. It means that the candidate who can afford to carpet-bomb the airwaves across several dozen states simultaneously will grab the most delegates and lock up the nomination. It means that Big Money will gain even greater control over our political system.

The traditional schedule of presidential primaries was simply that - a tradition, one that evolved over decades, without rhyme or reason. New Hampshire always went first because, well . . . it was New Hampshire. The first significant break with tradition came in 1986-88, when a bloc of Southern states decided to hold their primaries on the same Tuesday in March. It came as no surprise that a governor from Arkansas won this Super Tuesday handily and walked away with the Democratic nomination. He was, after all, the South's favorite son.

But any region can play that game, and in 2000, a lot of them will. Last September, California decided to move its primary from June to the first week of March, leapfrogging Super Tuesday. A few months later, a bloc of Western states agreed to move their primaries to the week between California's new date and Super Tuesday.

Don't for a moment believe that it will stop there. New Hampshire already has had to move its primary to February to stay ahead of the pack. Clearly, March Madness will eventually give way to February Frenzy, and I invite you to come up with your own alliteration for January. In this brave new world of the 21st century, the word campaign will be obsolete in the political lexicon, to be replaced by blitzkrieg.

Now that the traditional schedule has collapsed, a formal national system needs to be established to return the process to a reasonable schedule so the nation can make an informed decision. The defect of the traditional presidential primary schedule was that the states voted in the same order year after year. A strong point, on the other hand, was that small states held the first few primaries, giving Big Money less of an early impact, since campaigning was almost literally door-to-door.

Early victories by less-moneyed candidates in small venues enable them to attract contributions that get them to later primaries. Such a process favors the candidate with the best message, rather than the loudest voice. A better presidential primary system, therefore, would meld the best feature of the traditional schedule - small early, bigger later - with the idea of moving the date of each state's primary from year to year.

Let's imagine a system featuring 10 two-week intervals, during which randomly selected states hold their primaries. (This 20-week schedule is the approximate length of the current presidential primary season.)

In the first interval, a randomly determined combination of states with a combined total of eight congressional districts would hold their primaries, caucuses or conventions. For example, Kentucky and Nevada might vote in the first round, or Colorado and Hawaii. In the second period - two weeks later - the eligibility number would increase to 16. Every two weeks, the combined size of the contests would grow by eight congressional districts, until a combination of states totaling 80 congressional seats - nearly one-fifth of the total - would be up for grabs in the 10th and last interval toward the end of June. As the political stakes increased every two weeks, a steady weeding-out would occur, as less successful campaigns dropped out. Such a system would foster the widest possible political debate, which would resolve to one or two viable candidacies by the end.

The random determination of the schedule every four years would be administered by the Federal Election Commission. The system also would be reformulated every 10 years as districts were reapportioned based on the Census.

The schedule favors no one state or one region. And, as mentioned, the system enables the widest possible political debate early on. A successful candidate need not start out well-heeled but will cross the finish line fully vetted. He or she need not hail from any particular region of the country but must appeal to the whole nation. America deserves such a president, and America deserves a rational, systematic primary process for the 21st century.

25 August 2007

Republican Presidents Forever

By Thomas Gangale

Imagine that the Republican Party, the party that stopped the re-count in Florida in 2000, the party that "lost" thousand of ballots in Ohio in 2004, is going to be the party of "Presidential Election Reform" in California in 2008. Imagine that.

It's such an innocuous-sounding initiative, both in its title and in its rationale. Since time immemorial, California has cast all of its electoral votes for the winner of the statewide popular vote for president, as all but two other states do today. If a candidate wins a plurality of the popular vote, he or she gets all of the electoral votes, no matter how razor-thin the margin of victory. The runner-up ends up with zero; all of the millions of votes cast for that candidate are zeroed-out. They might as well have not bothered to vote.

Suppose that a state didn't cast its electoral votes as a solid bloc; rather, suppose it used some mechanism to more faithfully reflect the popular vote. For instance, suppose that the Florida re-count in 2000 had been only a squabble over a couple of electoral votes one way or another, instead of over the entire bloc of 25. And, suppose George W. Bush's so-called victory in Florida by 500 votes was legitimate. In this scenario, 13 electoral votes might have gone to Bush, and 12 to Al Gore. The national electoral vote total would have been Gore 278 versus Bush 259.

This is a terrific reform idea, and California ought to lead the way for the rest of the nation, right?


The "Presidential Election Reform" initiative is slightly more complicated than apportioning the electoral votes on the basis of the statewide popular vote, as in the hypothetical Florida example above. Instead, this initiative would apportion California's electoral votes on the basis of which candidate won the popular vote in each congressional district, and award two electoral votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote.

How would this have played out in 2000? Bush won in 19 of California's 52 congressional districts, so he would have won 19 of California's electoral votes, while Gore would have only received 35 electoral votes instead of all 54. The national result? Bush 290, Gore 247. Bush would have had an even larger electoral vote victory that he actually had, even though Gore won the national popular vote. How is this initiative a "reform?”

It's not. It is a cynical, partisan ploy to peel electoral votes away from the Democratic presidential nominee. The backers of this initiative have no national strategy for enacting similar laws in other states; it’s all about dividing California’s electoral strength for the benefit of the Republican candidate. Are the predominately Republican states of the South and the interior West going to follow suit and split their electoral votes with Democrats? Certainly not!

This initiative could affect the outcome of the November 2008 presidential election... and far beyond. In the last 30 years, no Democrat has become president without winning all of California's electoral votes. If you don't want to see a Democratic president again in your lifetime, vote for this initiative.

24 August 2007

On Capitol Hill, Some Dumb Ideas Just Refuse to Die

By Thomas Gangale
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco, California
12 August 2007

Ever wonder why nothing ever gets done in Washington? One of the reasons is that some of our elected officials, once they get an idea into their heads, fixate on it until the end of time, no matter how dumb it is. The latest dumb, old idea is being trumpeted by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Joseph Lieberman, independent-Conn. The fact that they're touting it as a "tri-partisan solution" ought to show that it's more hype than substance. There's a Democrat, a Republican and a Leiberman. What, is Leiberman a party of one? Well, I guess that makes it easier for him to get seated in a busy restaurant.

So much for the hype. Now let's take a look at the dumb, old idea: A plan for rotating regional presidential primaries. The idea dates to the early 1970s, when Oregon Republican Bob Packwood introduced a bill for such a plan in the Senate. The bill had only two co-sponsors and it died in committee. Thirty-two similar bills have been floated in Congress over the past 30 years, and they have met the same fate. "Jumpin' Joe" Leiberman himself has tried this twice before, in 1996 and 1999, and all he ever had was one co-sponsor. Quite simply, this is a plan that can't survive outside the committee room.

Neither of the political parties likes this idea, although they are interested in other reform proposals. A Republican commission passed on it in 2000, and even though a 2005 Democratic commission invited a presentation on the rotating regional plan, the commission's report didn't even mention the plan. In fact, in the Democratic commission's deliberations, the rotating regional plan ranked second from the bottom, just above doing nothing.

It's pretty clear why: One-quarter of the nation would vote on the same day, the second bloc of voters would have to wait until a month later, the third bloc yet another month.

Now, who in his or her right mind thinks that any but the first bloc of votes will have any meaning? When the Howard Dean campaign collapsed in late February 2004, less than a quarter of the delegates had been chosen, and at that point John Kerry was the de facto Democratic nominee. The other way of looking at it is that more than three-quarters of the nation's Democrats had absolutely no say in the nomination of Kerry.

The rotating regional plan would permanently disenfranchise three-quarters of the electorate in both parties. Because the winner of the first regional primary would look like "The Winner" and the others would come off looking like also-rans, all the candidates would spend their time, energy and money in those first states in a do-or-die effort. The rest of the country would be completely ignored.

Since no resources would remain for any real campaigning after this electoral Armageddon, the states in the remaining three regional primaries would get on the bandwagon with The Winner of the first primary. Win one, get three free. Any politician can do that math. The lucky first 25 percent would rotate from one four-year cycle to the next. Your particular region would get to cast a meaningful vote once every four cycles, or once every 16 years. You would be privileged to choose your party's nominee three or four times during your life. That's enough voting privilege for one lifetime, right?

According to H.L. Mencken, "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong." This is one of them. There are much better alternatives out there, but politicians are ignoring them so they can continue riding their tired old hobbyhorses, rather that study new solutions based on solid political science. The American people deserve better than this empty-headed grandstanding.

This article appeared on page C-3 of the San Francisco Chronicle

23 August 2007

Americans Call for a Primary Makeover


Listen to this story...

All Things Considered, August 22, 2007 · More people are declaring that the system of nominating a U.S. presidential candidate is broken.

Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson talks with Melissa Block about the idea of rotating regional primaries for presidential elections. And Rob Richie of Fairvote talks with Block about an idea known as the American Plan.

See if the following exchange about the National Association of Secretaries of State's Rotating Regional Plan for presidential primaries makes sense to you. The plan would allow one-quarter of the country to vote a month ahead of the other three-quarters:
Melissa Block: You'd have a chance at the front every 16 years.

Trey Grayson: Every 16 years.

Melissa Block: But wouldn't that pretty much disenfranchise huge chunks of the country for those off-years when they're not at the front of the pack?

Trey Grayson: It could, but those huge chunks of the country are already disenfranchised right now. If you're not on February 5 or earlier this time... our votes are absolutely meaningless. And under this plan, it gives all the states the opportunity to at some point be enfranchised and be earlier, and so I think it's a much better system than what we have right now, and it's fair to all the states because they're treated somewhat equally by having that rotating regional system.
So, rotating regional primaries are fair to all states by equally screwing their voters in 12 out of every 16 years. Sure, "it's a much better system than what we have right now," but that's not saying a lot. The only way the Rotating Regional Plan looks good is by comparing it with what everyone acknowledges as being a disaster. It's like saying that the Hindenberg was better than the Titanic because it killed fewer people. Tickets, please....

22 August 2007

Graffiti on the Information Superhighway

Does this universe really need another blog?

I didn't think so. When I first heard about blogs years ago, I called them the graffiti on the underpasses of the information superhighway. Some people took offense. But recently a friend and fellow writer insisted that I had to have my own blog as a marketing tool for my upcoming book, so let me shamelessly plug it right off the bat. It's From the Primaries to the Polls: How to Repair America's Broken Presidential Nomination Process, to be published by Praeger in December 2007. It's already available for pre-order at Amazon.

I hope you'll find it interesting. The farcical leap-frogging that states are doing to stay in front of each other on the presidential primary calendar, driving the Iowa caucuses to the beginning of January--and possibly into December--I predicted it in April 1999 in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Describing the move of so many states' presidential primaries into early March, I went on to say, Don't for a moment believe that it will stop there. New Hampshire already has had to move its primary to February to stay ahead of the pack. Clearly, March Madness will eventually give way to February Frenzy, and I invite you to come up with your own alliteration for January. In this brave new world of the 21st century, the word campaign will be obsolete in the political lexicon, to be replaced by blitzkrieg." On the day after Super Tuesday 2000, both Bill Bradley and John McCain suspended their campaigns to challenge Al Gore and George W. Bush, respectively.

In a staid, scholarly, political science journal in January 2004, I wrote, "It does not seem all that outlandish to predict that some year (perhaps 2008 or 2012) we will recover from our New Year's Eve hangovers to find that we have already nominated our presidential candidates!" That doesn't sound so crazy now, does it?

So, the first part of my book describes how the presidential nomination process has evolved and devolved in the course of the past two centuries, with particular attention to the phenomenon of calendar "front-loading," and the evils it is visiting on us. Principally, there are two of them. First, a handful of states end up selecting the presidential nominees of the two major parties, and the rest of the country has no meaningful participation in the process. Second, it arguable that even this handful of states isn't in control of the process. Who is? Well, I'm a wild-eyed Democrat, and my favorite quote is from a commission of the Republican National Committee, on which sat two former chairs of the RNC: "It is an indisputable fact that in every nomination campaign since 1980, in both parties, the eventual party nominee was the candidate who had raised the most money by December 31 of the year before the general election."

When Republicans are worried that too much money is corrupting the campaign process, that's like Jerry Garcia telling you that you have a drug problem. You really ought to take it to heart.

And finally, people are starting to take notice. In an August 2007 poll, 62% said that political parties need a better way to nominate presidential candidates. OK, we have a very serious problem. What do we do about it? The second part of my book describes my search for a solution and how it developed in the course of a few years. The third part of my book compares my solution to other reform ideas that are floating around.

Part IV is probably the one you'll have the most fun with. It recounts how I and a few other people took my reform plan on the road, to county Democratic central committees up and down California, then to Washington DC and state capitals. The story doesn't have an end yet; we have neither won nor lost, the players are still on the field. That's one of the useful functions this blog can serve: to keep you informed on how the game is going in the fourth quarter. And the players are an eclectic bunch, ranging from a former US senator who was considered the darling of the conservative movement, to a sitting member of the US House of Representatives who co-chairs its Progressive Caucus. On the issue of reforming the presidential nomination process, these two are on the same side.

We also have some political scientists weighing in, as well as political activists. I'm probably a little of each. I have a bachelor's in aerospace engineering (as a matter of fact, I really am a rocket scientist) and a master's in international relations. But I've also developed a taste for mixing it up in the real world of politics, and now, being part scientist and part hell-raiser, no political science doctoral program--Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, et cetera--will have me... that, and at the age of 53, they think I'm too old to be a doctoral student. Their fears were unfounded; I would never have used the youth and inexperience of the faculty against them. Well, there I go again.... Educating old people is of little benefit to society, because we're going to die soon anyway.

But at least I'm enjoying the ride.

So, here I am, walking the streets of cyberspace in a nanoskirt and fishnet hose, along with all the other hucksters. Buy my book!

Meanwhile, on this blog, along with providing links to the latest online news items, I'll post as retrospectives items from my library of op-eds, not only on reforming the presidential nomination process, but on other electoral reforms such as electing presidents by national popular vote, and an occasional miscellaneous observation on the contemporary world in general. And, no rocket science! Well, not much, maybe.