Accounting for the Count: COVID and the Vote

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 11, November 2020

By S.C.M. Paine, U.S. Naval War College

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, announces a national emergency to further battle the Coronavirus outbreak, at a news conference Friday, March 13, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Republicans argue that the presidential vote numbers are so close that they should be reconfirmed. Yet the much reviled Hilary Clinton conceded with even closer margins and with less secure voting machines. These are the wrong numbers to track.

In contrast, the numbers are not close concerning American deaths on Donald Trump’s watch. He is scheduled to lose more Americans in a single calendar year than all American deaths in World War II. Very shortly we may be losing each day, the number of Americans we lost on 9/11. China is a threat, but it is not killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. Trump’s incompetence is.

As a China specialist, it was obvious that there was an ongoing epidemiological disaster in Wuhan by late December or early January, when we should have shut down all travel to and from China, called on our allies to do likewise, invoked emergency measures to produce protective gear, and educated Americans about the rationale for the restrictions to come. One would think that the U.S. consulate in Wuhan provided information at least a month earlier unless it was asleep at the switch. Imagine the difference if we had shut our borders in November and put the full-court press on virus containment. Hundreds of thousands of Americans might have survived 2020. Yet Bob Woodward has Trump on record minimizing the problem in April. Continue reading

Legislatures Elected by Evaluative Proportional Representation (EPR): An Algorithm

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 1, January 2020

Source: Pixabay

By Stephen Bosworth, Anders Corr and Stevan Leonard1

Abstract

Unlike existing voting methods, this article describes a new method that gives all voters every appropriate reason to be pleased. Evaluative Proportional Representation (EPR) invites each citizen to grade the suitability for office of any number of candidates as either Excellent (ideal), Very Good, Good, Acceptable, Poor, or “Reject” (completely unsuitable).  EPR allows each citizen to guarantee that one of the elected members of the legislature has received either their highest grade, remaining highest grade, or proxy vote – no vote is needlessly wasted. Continue reading

Forget Presidential Politics: Sri Lanka’s Green Movement Is Its Best Hope Against China

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 11, November 2019

By Bertie Harrison-Broninski

Pumps dredge sand to reclaim land at the site of a Chinese-funded 1.4 billion USD reclamation project in Colombo on December 5, 2017.
Half of the reclamation project to build Colombo Financial City, previously known as Colombo Port City, has been completed, with Sri Lanka hoping to turn it into an international financial centre with special laws protecting foreign investment. / AFP / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / Getty Images

Sri Lanka, like many countries in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is not powerful enough to resist China on political or economic grounds – but hope lies in its burgeoning environmental movements.

This Saturday (November 16th), Sri Lankans go to the polls to elect a new president. The frontrunners are Sajith Premadasa, current Minister for Housing, Development, and Cultural affairs, and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the ruthless military leader who played a large part in defeating the ‘Tamil Tigers’ during Sri Lanka’s civil war. Both have family ties to ex-presidents: Premadasa’s father, Ranasinghe, was president 1989-1993, and Rajapaksa’s brother, Mahinda, was from 2005-2015.

International media has largely focused on the geopolitical implications of the Rajapaksas regaining power. Mahinda Rajapaksa is seen as a key player in initiating China’s current economic ‘debt trap’ over Sri Lanka, which has now led to 99-year leases on territory around Hambantota Port and Colombo, where China is constructing an entire ‘Port City’. A President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa would rightly be seen as a return to China-friendly Sri Lankan foreign policy after President Maithripala Sirisena’s more US-aligned years in office. Continue reading

How Much Does Your Internet Service Provider Spend On Lobbying?

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 10, October 2019

By Paul Bischoff

Comcast Headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2011. Wikimedia/Smallbones.

When people think of lobbying, they often picture backroom deals made by big pharma executives. In reality, though, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are one of the largest lobbying groups in the US. With this in mind, we analyzed publicly-available data to see just how much money your ISP spends on influencing legislators and regulators every year.

Why do ISPs lobby?

ISPs might provide a valuable service but they are, first and foremost, businesses. As such, they tend to lobby against anything which could impact profits. This might mean opposing bills that stop the sale of customer data, for instance, or scrapping rules that make it easier for competitors to get up and running.

Of course, this cuts both ways; if there’s the potential to make more money via lobbying, ISPs will almost always try. If your ISP has been trying to push through a massive merger or looking to scrap industry regulation so it can charge you for an inferior service, you can bet huge amounts of money has changed hands to expedite the process. Continue reading

Legislatures Elected by Evaluative Proportional Representation (EPR): An Algorithm

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 8, August 2019

By Stephen Bosworth, Anders Corr and Stevan Leonard1

Abstract

Source: Pixabay

Unlike any existing voting method for a representative democracy, this article describes a new method that gives every voter every appropriate reason to be pleased with the results. It is called Evaluative Proportional Representation (EPR). EPR guarantees that each citizen’s vote will continue to count proportionately in the deliberations of a legislative body, such as a city council. After assessing the ideal qualities needed by the office, citizens grade each candidate as either Excellent (ideal), Very Good, Good, Acceptable, Poor, or “Reject” (completely unsuitable). Each voter can give the same grade to more than one candidate. Each candidate not graded is automatically counted as a “Reject” by that voter. These grades can be counted by anyone who can add and subtract whole numbers or by the algorithm provided. Each EPR citizen’s vote adds proportionately to the voting power in the legislature of a winner. Initially, EPR’s count provisionally determines the number of highest grades (votes) each candidate has exclusively received from all the voters. However, no winner is allowed to retain enough votes to dictate to the legislature. Therefore, our simulated election limits the percent of votes any winner can retain to 20%. This ensures that at least three members of the legislature will have to agree for any majority decision to be made. We call a candidate who has received such a percentage super popular. Any non-super-popular candidate is eligible to receive at least one of the extra votes initially held by a super-popular candidate. Each extra vote is transferred to the remaining eligible candidate on this voter’s ballot who has been awarded the highest remaining grade of at least Acceptable. If such a candidate is absent, this ballot becomes a proxy vote that must be publicly transferred to an eligible winner judged most fit for office by this super-popular candidate. Similarly, all the votes provisionally held by an unelected candidate must be transferred to an eligible winner. The final number of votes received by each winner is the weighted vote each will use during the deliberations of the legislature. No vote is needlessly wasted. Each citizen is given every appropriate reason to be pleased.

Of course, voting using existing methods is very important, at least as a performance of a civic duty. Additionally, it is praiseworthy when a citizen votes in an attempt to make a constructive contribution to the democratic life of one’s community. Also, we assume that each voter desires that their own concerns, values, and ideas be accurately represented in the legislative body. Unfortunately and needlessly, all of the existing voting methods do not fully guarantee this level of representation. Consequently, many citizens have very good reasons to be displeased because their votes have been needlessly wasted in one or both of the two senses defined next.

Continue reading