Walking the Plank for a New Pirate Platform


For the second time the California Pirate Party has crashed and burned. This is in spite of (maybe because of) many high level techies at the helm. There never seemed to be a commitment to reach out to the average person’s main concerns. Concise and compelling outreach materials would have been a good place to start. Other obsessive structural minutia just soaks up the energy of would be grass roots activists with nothing to show for it.  Which brings me to the surviving National Pirate Party’s planned platform.

After a decade in existence, the national pirate is beginning to revisit forming a political platform. Not that I’m complaining about the delay. Full blown platforms are internal documents that don’t interest your typical voter. Eventually something should be cobbled together since writers occasionally drift over to check out  political happenings on the fringe. Unfortunately, writers don’t write the platforms. These electoral shopping lists tend to be the bastard offspring of tedious committees. But they don’t have to be.

I would like to offer a criteria for writing a pirate platform that would be compelling enough to distribute for outreach. This populist broadside should navigate through waters that are foggy even to the founders. But even when the destination is clear there could be options. Why not consider alternate possibilities in the platform, as long as each has a strong following among pirates? Be advised that some non techies possess knowledge and experience that could be effectively incorporated into this goal.

Criteria one:

The pirate party needs a tag line in the platform and other documents. The “pirate party” name is a good hook (Arrr) but there needs to be a tag afterwards to keep people from blowing by.

Our title with tag should read thus: “United States Pirate Party – Freedom of Information.” Instantly a reader knows we’re not about themed birthday parties.

Criteria two:

The mission statement, below the tag line (the major goals in one sentence): “The voyage of the Pirate Party is to achieve government transparency, open records, copyright reform, and a free internet.”

Criteria three:

Use existing sources for compatible platform planks first. The original direction for the platform committee is Rick Falkvinge’s, the Pirates’ international founder’s, “wheel” of related concepts. Its not a wheel. Its a convoluted schematic mess. Here’s what I think can be saved from the wheel. “Transparency, ticks (exchange of tools and ideas), resilience (decentralization and sustainability), swarm economics.” Everything else here, ignore and don’t show to anyone. Please.

The other official source to mine is the “values” in “blog.pirate-party.us”. This is more useful than the wheel but it too is a source to be extracted and condensed from. Personally, I found eight values that could be developed in articles that would be linked within the platform itself. This linking may be a new idea in itself that would attract attention and comment.

Criteria four:

Other sources for platform ideas: Books and articles by Rick Falkvinge and Cory Doctorow. This is problematic since few people on a committee will have the same knowledge base when it comes to books. Strangely, a bigger obstacle will be developing the expertise for the clickable “Resilience” on the wheel and the “egalitarian” and “active practice” values from the pirate blog. These refer to skills and practices developed in intentional communities – a long and difficult process. The lessons learned here are frustrating, emotional, gritty, and grimy. “Communities” magazine at “ic.org” is a good first stop to catch up.

Criteria five:

I saved the toughest rule for last. No matter how much study, discussing, and writing we do, limit the number of platform planks to five and only five. This is the limit of most people’s attention span. Also the more positions you take, the easier it is to incur contradictions and confusion in a single document. There will be a tendency to turn planks into sub lists of positions and sentiments. To resist this, planks should be limited to 200 words each, preferable less, an average “Letter-to-the Editor” length. Make every line pop. Include in the plank, names of current specific movements and legislation which can be changed or pulled when events have moved on.

Here is the challenge: A platform of less than 1,000 words, not counting the mission statement, that will change the world, assuming it will change us first. Let’s see what I can do in a first draft. Recently, I bought the domain, “northbaypirates.org”, which doesn’t seem to step on the toes of official party stuff or the Bay Area Facebook page. The “North” part gives me a little push into Wine Country and I never get into Silicon Valley anyway. This new site is hooked into my online domains. Here goes.

1. Copyright and Open Records Reform: 

Copyrights should be a reward for hard work. They should not be a barrier to the creativity of others or the expansion of knowledge in society. Copyrights have been extended for greater lengths of time for no reason other than monopoly privilege. We advocate reducing the shelf life of valid copyrights and formulating clear rules to better define what is fair use of copyrights for education, research, and public comment purposes. Using copyright status for legal bullying in the fair use domain should be grounds for the suspension or revocation of a copyright. Likewise, government records,, outside narrowly defined categories, belong to the people. An informed citizenry requires full disclosure in order to evaluate their employees. Only judges not affiliated with the records holder, should be allowed to make exceptions. The effective veto of “national security” must be proven.

  2. Corporation Reform:

Corporations are created by public entities therefore they should serve a public purpose. A series of Court decisions between 1886 and Citizens United have transformed this business tool into legal people with rights even flesh and blood people do not have. We support Move to Amend’s 28th Amendment’s declaration that corporations are not people and money is not speech. This will start a process to increase corporate responsibility in the environment, in their exporting of factory jobs overseas, and in buying our democratic elections through front groups. We oppose other corporate structural monopolies from the Federal Reserve’s control of the money system to the corporate attack on net neutrality.

3. Electoral Reform:

All citizens should have an equal vote. This vote should not be filtered by the Electoral College which was created by our Constitution to do just that. Even at the congressional level, our winner-take-all-system of representation districts, favoring two parties not even mentioned in the Constitution, guarantees their dominance and the marginalization of all other views. Those two self anointed parties take turns gerrymandering districts to increase the importance of money by diluting the vote. After citizens overcome these electoral traps they still have to run a gauntlet of voter suppression qualifications. While there is weak popular representation in the House of Representatives this is erased in the Senate whose membership is not based on population or coherent physical boundaries. We believe only a series of Constitutional Amendments or writing a new Constitution will remedy this injustice by creating proportional representation, multi member districts, online voting, and an upper House based on rational bio regions that would result in new solutions from silenced voices.

4. Constitutional Reform:

There are structural and process problems in the Country and many States that cannot be solved by legislation. Only a different form of government can solve these problems.Power has been centralized and national agendas are almost entirely determined by those closely connected to that power. Citizens not in that elite group who demand other agendas be pursued are considered whiners and trouble makers. That’s me. That’s you. Rather than build strong communities with healthy prosperous people our government has promoted Wall Street casinos and military adventures. Instead of creating a level playing field where all players can succeed, our institutions have rewarded monopolies and squandered our natural resources for short term gain. We believe we should be governed by a different model. This model would be bottom up not left right. This likely means that new franchised citizens will choose a greater role for government in critical areas, such as health care and natural resources, where monopoly privilege has failed to deliver. A bottom up, direct participation Constitution would also mean the end of expanding surveillance, executive orders, secret agreements, whistleblower prosecution, and reversing the contempt for civil liberties in favor of the police state.

5. Land Reform:

Land is not capital or a commodity. No real estate developer or speculator created land and no one is making any more. Developers can take credit for most building and some infrastructure value only. These groups, as well as local and State governments, existing property owners, and our culture in general primarily values land for its individual “property value”, ignoring the contribution of the surrounding community. The result is the abstract metes and bounds definition of own-able land units and dimensionless boundaries. Only zoning, special districts, most building codes, and some exclusive covenants prevent the ground under our feet from being a context free absurdity. But even these ham handed patches come at a high cost. That cost is weak community bonds, exaggerated individualism, and a reduced commitment to localism and sustainability.

Treating residential or business lots as make believe micro fiefdoms are a barrier to future sustainable initiatives. We believe land should be transferred as larger coherent entities that contract with co owners for exclusive uses. Examples are co ops and condos with well defined covenants. All separate properties should either have a natural boundary (creek or ridge) or public alleys and road right of ways.

Well that’s version 1.0. Notice there are no links. Total word count with the mission statement is about 850 words – one piece of paper. There will be in the next version after I get some feedback. I think calling these “the Five Planks” ties in well with the pirate theme in print but when speakers are trying to seize the high ground before groups I would stick with “Five Reforms.”

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