Another Look At The Electoral College

Earlier this summer, I overheard a Florida neighbor try to explain why the electoral college was so important.  His main argument was the defense-of-small-states argument I mentioned in My Last Thoughts On Our Last Election. Since the election, I have heard (and readA1,A2) a number of Republicans, using similar arguments, try to justify an institution that even Mr. Trump bad-mouthed before he won the electionA.  For the most part, I thought their arguments were contrived and even deceptive.

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For example, Reference A1 argues that slavery had nothing to do with the establishment of the electoral college because:

  1. slaves only counted as 3/5 as much as a free white voter (even though slaves didn’t vote), and
  2. the electoral college gave Abraham Lincoln victory in the 1860 election even though he only had 39% of the popular vote.

If slavery were not an issue, there would be no need to count slaves at all (even at a discount). And while the second argument makes it sound like somebody else would have become President (presumably the one who had the majority of the popular vote) if it were not for the electoral college, there were four candidates that year and Lincoln had 35% more votes than his nearest competitorA. Reference A2, after some discussion, claims that “Unneeded tinkering with a process that is over two centuries old could destabilize one on the steadiest political systems in the world.” Earlier in their article, they had reported that the popular vote differed from the electoral vote only four times (and once more since their article was published). The question that comes to my mind is “which of those five losing candidates would have sent us spiraling toward Hell?”

What Our Forefathers Were Thinking

There were two concerns discussed during the establishment of the electoral college.   Foremost, many of our founders didn’t trust the public to be immune from manipulation.  It was Alexander Hamilton who argued that it was “desirable” that “the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.” (see A2 again).  Second, the small states were worried about being considered relevant. The debate about state power vs. individual rights raged during the framing of the constitution. To have all states equally represented in one house of Congress while the number of delegates of the other house is based on state population was a compromise solution to that issue. That compromise further implemented itself in the electoral collegeA. Some have discounted the significance of the big state vs. small state battle. One example of this is Time, but in their article, Time goes on to argue that the specific reason smaller states needed protection from larger states (in the same way minorities need protection from the majority) was to preserve slavery.  Next, we will take a closer look at each of these arguments.

Can The Elites Protect Us From Democracy?

You don’t have to be an elitist to be concerned about our education system (see my blog post The Real Reason Teachers Are So Important), and old people have openly been questioning the fitness of their progeny to relieve them at the helm for generations.  This last election did nothing to assuage my concerns about the dumbing down of America, so I can appreciate our forefathers’ concerns.  The problem is that history has shown that their proposed solution won’t work.  It turns out those elites are part of the same world and subject to the same influences as the rest of us (who knew?).  But it is more than that – there has been sabotage.  An article (Don’t look to the Electoral College to upend Trump victory) by AP News discusses why we can’t depend on the electoral college to bail us out (they are bound by state law, duty, history, and party loyalty to rubber-stamp their state’s results). As the article mentions, some states have passed laws requiring the college to follow the popular vote. Doesn’t that alone negate this whole argument? Another thing states have done, which would tend to increase the likelihood of the electoral college differing from the popular vote, but not in any positive way, is go to the all-or-nothing planA (better known as the unit rule) because they wanted the extra attention or power their fifteen minutes of fame for the bigger prize would get them. I discuss other impediments to electoral fairness and possible solutions in another blog post, Two Political Parties Are Not Enough.

What Do Small States Know That We Don’t?

When it is said that the electoral college favors small states, do you have any idea what that really means?  Below is a table showing the influence of a voter in our least populated state (Wyoming) compared to other states by showing how many voters it would take in that state to have the same impact on the electoral college as one voter in Wyoming.  It’s not pretty.

Table Showing Number of Voters in Each State For Each Electoral College Vote

Much has been said about the need to protect the interests of rural farmers from the big industrial states. Reference A2 stated “Farmers in Iowa may have very different concerns than bankers in New York.” I will ignore that invitation to argue which among us chose the more noble profession, and instead refer you to the first column in the above table about the electoral college. In that table, the states are listed in decreasing order of how many voters are represented by one electoral vote, but as you can see in Column 2, the more populous states gravitate to the top of the list. Column 1 shows each state’s ranking based on the number of dollars brought in by agriculture (I got lazy and quit after the top 25.  Each of the other 25 represents less than two percent of total U.S. agriculture).  The two highest agricultural states are also the states with the highest populations and are already the states with the largest number of electoral votes.  They don’t need protecting.  And whether we are protecting slaves or sheep, does one voter anywhere deserve almost four times as many votes as another?  What happened to the “one person, one vote” idea?  Should my vote be discounted just because I can wave to my neighbor from my front porch?

Let me put a little counter-spin on this argument.  If you were alone on a desert island, pretty much any form of government would work for you.  Is living in Wyoming any different? For background, about half of the land in Wyoming is public property. According to Wikipedia, their economy is dominated by mineral extraction, followed by travel and tourism. They say agriculture is also important, but the state ranks 38th in that areaA, contributing less than 1/2 percent of the U.S. total. 78% of that agriculture is beef, with the rest hay, sugar beets, wheat and barley, and wool. About 85% of the people in Wyoming are non-Latin white, 10% are Hispanic white, under 3% are Native American, and a little over 1% are black. They are not big on diversity. For religion, the statistics I read were not entirely consistent, but around 90% of those with a religious affiliation consider themselves Christian, with Protestants the most common, followed by either Mormons or Catholics. One percent are Jewish. Muslims weren’t mentioned. Politically, 67% are Republican, 18% Democrats, and 14% have no political affiliation. They haven’t voted for a Democrat for President since 1964. I get the idea that if you live in Wyoming (with a half million of your best clones), your nearest neighbor is five miles away, and when you do see each other, you don’t waste a lot of time in debates.  I can understand why you may not think you even need a government.  And if I had any question about how to make the most effective government, or what is the proper role of government, or even what’s the best way to get along with my diverse neighbors, I definitely would not come to you.  I would ask someone from New York or California.  Everyone knows that living in groups is more demanding than living alone (I read somewhere that the reason humans evolved larger brains is not to better solve calculus or advanced physics problems, but to better keep track of group relationships).

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Mathematically, the number of relationships grows much faster than the number of people in a group. Let’s say your universe consists of the high school gym, and relationships can be represented by handshakes (why not keep things simple) as the gym fills on a Friday evening. You are the first one in. There are no handshakes. Just stand there and try not to look silly. As the next person enters, you shake hands. As the third person enters, you shake and the second person shakes with the newcomer. That makes three handshakes so far. Here is a small table to keep track:

People in room 1 2 3 4 5 . . . 10 . . . 100 . . .
Total handshakes 0 1 3 6 10 . . . 45 . . . 4,950 . . .

There is a simple equation to describe this, which I will leave as an exercise for the reader, but the number of possible relationships increases roughly in proportion to the square of the number of people in the room.  Relationships can get complicated.

  But you just couldn’t handle the heat.  Why do you really deserve four votes?

Well, it’s obvious I’m missing something.  If you know what it is, leave a comment.  If you are from Wyoming or were otherwise protected from debate or different ideas, I’ll be gentle – and so will everyone else.  You have my word.  And thanks for listening.

The Walmart Donation-Matching Gimmick/Scam

The other day, I saw an advertisement/announcement on TV stating that for every dollar you contributed to certain causes, Walmart would give two dollars (you can get the details on their web page, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation Announce up to $20 Million Toward Hurricane Harvey Relief and Recovery).  I was impressed for about thirty seconds.


Many companies have done matching-donation campaigns, whereby if you give a dollar, they will give a dollar.  It can be effective in promoting more charity by the public in some communities.  It too can be a gimmick.  Usually, they mention a cap or maximum donation that they are willing to make.  That’s where the deceit comes in.

Donation Limits

These limits sound reasonable for making sure the donor company doesn’t get in over their heads and become committed to a donation they cannot afford, but these companies have already done their homework.  For example, if the Green Cross (names in these examples have been changed just to keep you from thinking these principles have limited applicability) Christmas campaign raised ten million dollars last year and has grown as much as 20% year to year, with many years much less, an observer would have reason to be cynical if the donation-matching company has a donation limit of much less than about 15 million dollars.  Typically, the donor company will impose a limit of one or two million dollars.  I’m sure their maximum donation will be much less than the cost their advertising company would charge for similar exposure.  But when the donation-matching company imposes such a low limit, their actual final donation will always be equal to that limit, reaching the limit will NOT be advertised, and the deception of the public will begin.  The ethical thing would have to just announce they were making a simple donation of one million dollars, but if you can’t fool suckers into coughing up more money (mistakenly thinking their donation is worth twice as much to the charity), where is the sport in that.  At least this time it is for a good cause.

Walmart Doubles Down

Walmart’s new wrinkle takes this scam to the next level.  But all it means is that the owners of Walmart will reach their company donation limit sooner, and will be able to laugh at the stupidity of even more Americans.  That’s called arrogance.

Suppose that in this year’s campaign, the Green Cross is expecting ten million Americans to each donate a dollar (I’m just making the math simple).  Under their old plan, Acme Widgets would make their generous four-million-dollar-donation by announcing they will match your donation dollar-for-dollar (for up to four million of their dollars).  The first four million Americans bring in eight million dollars for the Green Cross (including Acme’s portion), but if the remaining six million Americans donate expecting to see their money go further, they are being misled.  They will bring in just six million dollars, and the Green Cross total for that year will be $14 million – a clear victory for the Green Cross (and Acme).

Under their new plan, Acme will now make their budgeted four-million-dollar-donation by announcing they will match your donation with, say, four dollars for each of yours (for up to one million of your dollars).  Now Acme reaches their limit much faster, as the first million Americans, with matching funds, help the Green Cross bring in five million dollars, while the last nine million donors (up 50% from last year) will make a contribution that they mistakenly believe is being amplified.  They will contribute only their own nine million dollars, bringing the Green Cross the same $14 million as last year, including the same amount from Acme and the same amount from the individual donors, 90% of whom were deceived.


I am not suggesting here that donating to charity is bad; quite the contrary.  I believe helping others is a good idea, an idea that is even supported in the Bible.  But there are a few things one should consider:

  1. Are you donating for the right reasons? Donations with strings attached aren’t really donations. You should not donate expecting to get anything in return (not even a reserved seat in the Hereafter). Your rewards should be internal.
  2. Similarly, don’t assume, think, or claim the recipient of your donation will place a higher value on it than you do; that’s just fraud. I’ve recently heard complaints from members of relief organizations accepting donations for victims of Hurricane Harvey about people donating expired or opened food, worn-out clothes, etc. You are not fooling anybody.
  3. On the other hand, are you giving within your means? Creating a hardship for one person to ease another – the saying for that is “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” (a Biblical reference, but not from the Bible), is not recommended. Even the airlines advise you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before tending to your children.
  4. Finally, not all charities are created equal. And not all charities are the best stewards of your money. I suggest doing your homework;
    After checking out a charity’s website, you can research potential donees at places like Charity Navigator.

What Next?

As time permits, I will be discussing some ways advertisers use math to deceive their customers.  Stay tuned.

We Can Simplify Our Student Grading System

In the works, I have two different questions for you:

  1. ‘Do Medium-sized Egos Really Exist?’, and
  2. ‘Should Law Enforcement Officers Be Allowed To Use The “I was afraid for my life” Defense?’

Both of these require some preparation/research, but I hope to have them ready before too long.  For now, I’ve chosen a lighter topic about a scheme that, because it’s not being implemented as designed, could well be simplified.

Some Background

When I started school, we got one grade, from A to F (I never learned why E was left out), to represent our mastery of the subject.  Then, at some point, they introduced a separate grade for effort (from 1 to 3) and another for conduct (also A through F without the E); these were promoted as independent variables that could give more insight into the performance of one’s child.  I soon had reason to question the independence of these variables.

What’s The Best Grade You Can Get

Conventional wisdom tells us that the highest grade one can get would now be an A1A.  I’m not here to discuss the merits of bad behavior, so we will focus only on the first two symbols.  To me, it was obvious that an A3 would be more desirable.  Here’s why –

Suppose it’s a leap year and you are betting on track events at the Summer Olympics.  In the first heat, the first place runner comes in with a time of, say, 4:00.00, and at the end is visibly spent (lying on the ground, breathing heavily, and sweating profusely).  Her grade would clearly be an A1.  In the final heat, the winner has the exact same time but isn’t even breathing hard.  I would give her an A3 (keep in mind that it is not uncommon for runners at big events to pace themselves – save some effort if they can afford to, for later heats).  Of course, both runners advance to the finals.  Again, conventional wisdom gives the higher grade to the first runner but tell the truth – which one are you betting your hard-earned money on in the finals?

So you can see what grade I was trying for.  But the truth is teachers don’t give A3 grades, even if you never turn in your homework.  This isn’t a case of political correctness (whereby we fashion our remarks based on the possible objections of imaginary people with hyper thin skins or real fools priding themselves on how easily offended they can be), but another common problem in the political arena whereby people refuse to let facts get in the way of their idea of the way things should work in their perfect (but grossly oversimplified) world.  In their view, the very fact that you got an A proves that you were trying really hard because hard honest work is what made America great.  The problem is once you make that link between those previously independent variables (effort and results), then you are really only working in a one-dimensional world and don’t need two grades to adequately describe it.

Looking From The Other Side

But you may be saying to yourself “Silent, you are the anomaly!  Only the very rare person who can find a task at which they can succeed without unbelievable effort would have the luxury of taking your position on this topic”.  If you really think failure is the norm, then answer this.  Do you really think someone who, for whatever reason, didn’t meet the minimum requirements for success in this class, would prefer an F1 over an F3?  From what I’ve observed, the opposite has usually been the case.  If you give him an F1 you are saying “bless his little heart, he gave it his best shot but is just too stupid to make the grade”.  Giving him an F3 gives him an alibi (or more accurately, reinforces the excuses he’s been giving even without your blessing) that he’s really very, very intelligent, but just didn’t put forth the effort.

There are two ways to cure this problem: we could start treating effort and results as the independent variable they are (which is probably too agonizing a task for most teachers) or just stop giving the effort grade.  I propose the latter.  What do you think?

How Not To Respond To The Prodigal Son

What do you say to a Democrat who says

“This isn’t fair! I worked hard to be honest and caring to my fellow man, and was active trying to get laws passed that would benefit humanity, thinking it would eventually get me elected as President of the United States. Then Trump comes along, insults everyone he can think of, gropes women, thinks only of himself, offers nothing but lie after lie in a blatant effort to tell people whatever he thinks they wanted to hear, and doesn’t even try to hide his ignorant, hateful, and self-centered ways. Yet there he is, now working out of the oval office. Why did I waste my whole life being so good?”

This is not a new problem, with precedents going back thousands of years.  There are even a couple of cases in the Bible that may shed light on this situation.

The Prodigal Son

This story D is about a father and his two grown sons. One day the younger son asks for his inheritance. The father relents, and the son takes off and squanders his new assets on drink and parties.  He falls on hard times, eventually realizes that even his father’s servants are better off than he is, comes to his senses, and returns to his father’s house begging for forgiveness.  The father is thrilled to see him back and throws a party.  Most sermons focus on this part of the story, but one of my preachers went on to discuss the ‘good’ older son, who remained with the father and looked after the farm while the younger son was away.  Like the Democrat mentioned above, the older son wasn’t so happy that the father threw a party for the errant son and not him, even though he was the one who did all the work.

A Deathbed Conversion

Then there is the issue of ‘deathbed conversions’, where a long-time sinner repents just before s/he dies. In the earliest case, mentioned in Luke 23:39–43, a lifetime thief being crucified on a cross next to Jesus’ asked to be remembered when Jesus gets to his kingdom. Jesus agrees. But if you were to Google “deathbed conversion” you would find plenty of articles questioning the existence of a genuine last-minute change of heart. I, for one, can appreciate a little skepticism, but as Reverend Billy Graham points out in, God is a lot harder to fool than many christians give him credit for, and less predictable. The doubting “christians” whose complaint follows the same reasoning as our first Democrat mentioned above may be telling us more about what’s in their heart than the heart of the convert, as I discussed in “It’s The Light”.

How I See It

Those people who complain about having missed opportunities to be jerks simply don’t understand the concept and are not good Democrats, or christians, or just regular people, as the case may be. If you don’t see the benefits of improving the lot of your fellow wo/man as well as yourself; if you don’t really believe that honesty and fairness make for happier people in both the short and long run than debauchery or ass-holiness do, then you are just another fraud – no better than those who you are complaining about.  It’s that simple.

I apologize for the lack of diversity of my examples – both are from the  New Testament of the Bible.  I didn’t remember anything pertinent from Greek mythology (I did find plenty of life lessons in those stories while in school even though their gods had even more flaws than our current President), and there are plenty of other realms and resources about which I know nothing.  If you have better references for this issue, I would be glad to hear them.  I would even accept counterexamples.

For another example of cluelessness, see my blog post Another Clueless “Christian”? As to the matter of forgiveness, the questions I posed in What I Still Don’t Know About Forgiveness have yet to be resolved.

“What’s Love Got To Do With It”

One song I didn’t mention in my recent post on my favorite songs was this song by Tina Turnerlyrics, video. The omission was deliberate; this is one of those songs that rise and fall on the chart as my mood and situation change, and since, as I’ve hinted, it’s not a topic I’m any good at, a rise in the chart usually signals less-than-fair weather. Well, this song has again risen to the Number 1 spot and is expected to get a lot of play over the next several weeks. Ordinarily this would be none of your business, except that it could have even a long-term impact on this blog (or could possibly blow over in a relatively short period of time).  We’ll see.  Get back to work!

Not Quite Clear On The Concept – Part 1

Earlier this month, the Catholic archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, decreed that after four years of Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball together, the St. John’s 5th grade team (nine boys and two girls) would not be allowed to play the last two games of the season with girls on the teamA.

First, A Little Math

The maximum of any subset cannot be greater than the set maximum.  This means that if the largest member of your weight-watching group is, say 400 pounds, then as people leave the group, that maximum will not get instantaneously larger; it could remain 400 pounds for a while, but will probably eventually get smaller.

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The average group weight, on the other hand, could go up or down depending on how people are selected for removal from the group, but averages aren’t generally used to measure greatness.

Similarly, in sports you cannot raise the level of competition by restricting participation, meaning that you can’t say your team is the best in the universe if any member of the universe was barred from competing.  Consequently, the only logical reason for restricting membership would be to protect those members from unfair competition, meaning a team would only ban girls if they thought their boys weren’t ready for real competition. As we all know, a group’s stated reasons for an action may differ from their real reasons.

I suspect the archdiocese’s advertised reason for the decree is to protect girls from competition they can no longer handle.  But for that argument to have any credibility at all, at least two new conditions would have to be in effect:

  1. There would actually have to be a girl’s team if you want anybody to believe that their interests are really your first priority.
  2. You would protect a “weaker” group by banning the unfair competition from that group, not banning the allegedly weaker competition from the “stronger” or open group. The later option will rightly cause others to question your motives. “Who are you really protecting?”

The required game forfeitures would be further evidence of their true motive. A team is required to forfeit a game only if they won using an unfair advantage. You would not make a boxer forfeit all the matches he won with one hand tied behind his back. Obviously, the other boy’s teams not only considered the girls a threat, but most likely the sole reason for the team’s success.

A Happy Ending

On hearing the decree, the St. John’s 5th grade team immediately and unanimously decided to stick with their teammates and forfeit the season.

The girls, understandably, felt bad and offered to sacrifice themselvesA.  St. John’s athletic director honorably rejected that offer (although in the body of that article, it suggests that the league director had already cancelled St. John’s season, making the athletic director’s gesture moot.)

A new Cardinal reversed the ban and allows St. John’s to playA.

A Not-So-Happy Ending: Politics Trumps Logic

I just read about a different, but logically related case in TexasA, where a girl was taking testosterone to become a boy and wanted to compete with boys, but was required to compete as a girl and won their state wrestling championship. I’ll leave the application of principle and subsequent comments to the reader.

Our Position On The 19th Amendment – A Clarification

It is possible some of our earlier comments, based on frustration, have caused some to question our resolve to fight injustice.  Regardless of the effectiveness of our allies, we will defend the nineteenth amendment, and the fifteenth, and all laws promoting equality and social justice “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.

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This quote is from the military oath of officeA.

In an earlier post (Save Your Birthday – Vote For Clinton),  I was hard on the voting record of women since the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution in 1920.  Later in the Presidential campaign, a member of our team, on his personal Facebook page, mentioned that if Donald Trump were elected and decided to repeal that amendment, he would be hard pressed to argue against it.  We were just venting our frustration and apologize to anyone who thought our principles or commitment to justice and equality were wavering the slightest bit.  Everyone gets frustrated.  Mature adults don’t let their frustrations dictate actions or short-circuit already-well-reasoned practices.  For that reason prudent writers may not even mention their frustrations unless they already have a viable plan to address the causes of that frustration.  Oops!

We will continue to fight for the equality of women and all other marginalized groups. To do otherwise based on their less-than-stellar history would be using their own higher expectations against them by establishing a double standard of conduct, as men have done for centuries and America was blatantly doing during this last election.  Put another way, men have acted like idiots, and have failed to follow through for as long as anyone can remember.  To hope for better from women is understandable.  To demand it is unconscionable.  Consequently, We will continue to stand up for people who cannot stand up for themselves.

Two Political Parties Are Not Enough

Although the United States has pretty much always had just two major political parties, I think now would be a good time for a change.

The Problems

It Promotes Polarization, Near-Sighted Focus, And Life-or-Death Loyalty

In regular sailboat racing, each party focuses on being effective and efficient at maximizing their own capabilities to accomplish a common goal.  In match racing, each vessel focuses only on their competitor, and will take action that would not ordinarily be in their own best interest as long as it puts the competition at an even greater disadvantage.  In the two-party political system, beating up your competitor is soon everything; all other principles fall by the wayside.  Each side tries to redefine the other in the most unflattering light and in the war of words an “us vs. them” mentality develops which justifies ever more flamboyant language, harsher conduct, and a slimmer and slimmer grip on reality.

It’s Shallow And One-Dimensional

If as a citizen, you are a one-trick pony, say all you care about is abortion, you just pick the party that has the “right” answer on that particular issue and you show your gratitude and undying loyalty by voting however you are told on all other issues.  The platforms of each party have actually changed quite a bit over history, with the Democratic Party evolving lately into the “Yes” party and the Republicans becoming the “No Way”s.  That’s about as one-dimensional and polarized as you can get.

One Side Is Always Guaranteed A Majority

Regardless of the atrocities of war, the ends justify the means.  Being guaranteed an instant majority in every decision, the winner gets to bully all minorities to distraction, has no incentive to improve their capabilities or social skills, and basically enjoys all the characteristics that make monopolies so unpopular.  Negotiation and compromise have no place in their vocabulary.  Any independent thought is squashed to make room for blind obedience to the team.  When the pendulum does change direction . . . I picture a child in a swing with one of its divorcing parents on each side.  When a parent finally gets their hands on the swing they, in direct competition with their spouse, push as hard as they can in the opposite direction. The child goes faster and gets higher and more extreme every pass.  Although neither parent notices, the kid is scared to death; I don’t see this ending well.

 The Solution

Many times, when the two lead vessels in a regular race start focusing only on each other, it is possible for the rest of the fleet to pass them both by.  I propose at least one more political party.  In the past, third parties in this country have been forced to stake out the more radical ground left by the major parties, but since both parties have locked their focus and taken opposite corners, there is plenty of room in the middle for the rest of us.  I have pondered how the new parties should differentiate themselves and although there is wiggle room here, I think maybe staking out a position as socially liberal & fiscally conservative might be the best option for the first party.  It does, as any third party would have to do, introduce another dimension (there is still room for a fourth party to stake out socially conservative & fiscally liberal if they like).  But it’s not too late for you to offer a better suggestion for cutting up the pie using different parameters.  To overcome inertia, we need a position that people would readily accept and embrace, but to be successful we don’t need an instant majority.  All we need is to take away enough votes from each existing party so that nobody is guaranteed a majority.  That could be done by recruiting one third of the more moderate members from each of the existing parties.  Then we could leverage our position with either party to restore some sanity to the political process.  No party can just pick up their ball and go home if they don’t get their way; the one that is not willing to negotiate or compromise will be the odd man out.  But if those in one party suspect that this is just a ruse by the other to divide their numbers, the plan will not work.    The division must be genuine.

Some countries have many, many more than three parties, so your next question might be “Is it possible to have too many parties?”  I don’t know and it is not something I think we need to worry about for another several decades.

I guess the only real question is “What are you going to call this new party?”  I looked for possible acronyms for fiscally conservative and socially liberal (or words to that effect), but so far have come up empty.  The “Mature” Party is probably out, but “Responsible” has a nice ring to it, yes?  I’ll gladly leave this to the Madison Avenue types among us, but don’t dilly dally.

Other Changes

Reading the explanations of why we have only two parties, most writers make it sound like there is no other choice, but base their answers on explanations that are such simplifications of the facts that their validity should be questioned.

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If you Google “why are there only two political parties” you will find plenty of articles. They all mention Duverger’s law as the main reason that in the United States it is not possible to have it any other way.  Only Wikipedia even mentions there are counterexamples, and some of their other assumptions (for example the Washington PostA (among others) claims that a candidate need only to get a plurality of the vote to be elected, even though there are many instances where that is not true. 
Nonetheless, it is clear that the rules of the electoral process themself add a bias to the results.  For example, single-member districts, even without gerrymanderingD or plurality voting, tend to create a winner-take-all system that exaggerates the power of the larger party and completely neutralizes the impact of any lesser party.  One alternative for a county with say seven districts, for example, would be to have all candidates compete in one election, and the top seven finishers would get a job.

And then there is the electoral college.  As I mentioned in an earlier article, I think the electoral college is obsolete. This opinion is, or was at one time or another, shared by both Donald TrumpA and Ruth Bader GinsburgA. Interestingly enough, the electoral college was established because our forefathers were concerned about the unwashed masses. Hamilton was concerned about somebody unqualified, but with a talent for “low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity”, attaining high office. Madison argued against “an interested and overbearing majority” . . . “or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, . . . adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community”. They reasoned that in the electoral college, the members of which were able to have information unavailable to the general public, the decision-makers could deliberate reasonably without “tumult and disorder”, ensuring the one who would ultimately be administering the laws of the United States would have both ability and good character (edited heavily from Wikipedia). As we now know, those electors that were supposed to protect us will invariably be cut from the same cloth as those they were protecting us against.  Our forefathers didn’t see that coming (originally, they didn’t envision political partiesA), but in hindsight that insight seems obvious.

Both of these changes (and others that may help our elected officials better represent the will of all the people) will not be easy. It could be hard to keep up our third party into perpetuity without them.  Difficult or not, something has to be done.  If you have any other ideas,  now would be a good time to present them.  Thanks for listening.

The Problem With Pendulums

Don’t get me wrong! There is a place for pendulums, but only because their imperfections are so predictable.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
Wikipedia has an articleD that gives more information about pendulums than most readers would like, including the math, history, and problems perfecting them. For a shorter version focussing mostly on the math, see The Department of Physics & Astronomy website at Georgia State University.
  Pendulums try very hard to be in the right place at the right time, but they are dismal failures. The only time they rest or stop moving for even a moment is when they are as far from perfect as they can possibly get. They spend less time at their desired destination than they spend anywhere else on their route, and during that nanosecond of success, they are moving their fastest toward another extreme position. Why is that?

Pendulums cannot think.  Pendulums cannot predict, they cannot anticipate.   They cannot see the consequences of their own actions.  They can’t even tell that they’ve been to their desired destination until they see it in the rear view mirror.  You might say that they have a very slim grip on reality.  They only react.  And as a result, they are doomed to a life of constant searching, continually bouncing frantically from one radical position to another.   Welcome to the real world.  People who practice similar policies WILL suffer similar fates.  And welcome to politics.

Any questions?

“These Are A Few Of My Favorite . . .” Songs

We have a lighter topic today – music.  I’ve recently made changes in my list of favorite songs, so I’ll talk about some of them, and then try to find an explanation for a pattern I’ve noticed as people get older.

The List

  1. Holding my number one spot for decades now has been Barbra Streisand’s version of “People”lyrics, video, created in 1964 for the Broadway musical “Funny Girl”.  I’m not actually sure I qualify as the type of person in the song (I may have come from a long line of rugged individuals living in a Love desert) but when I see those people together, I feel what could be envy.
  2. Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now”lyrics, video, which she recorded on her 1969 album “Clouds”, just moved up the charts to the number two spot that was vacated maybe a year ago by Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”lyrics, video from their 1979 rock opera “The Wall”. As a teacher, I could just imagine my whole class singing “We don’t need no education” in unison as I enter the room and it just struck me as a bit funny.  Since that song became the Republican’s unofficial theme song, I find it more depressing than funny.

I’ve always liked “Both Sides, Now”, and similar to the story of “The Blind Men and the Elephant”, it shows how a change in perspective can enrich your life – or not.

  1. Next is “Climb Every Mountain”lyrics, video, which Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for their 1959 musical “The Sound of Music”. I’m partial to the version that was dubbed by Margery MacKay in the 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews.  Actually, I liked the whole movie, especially the songs Julie sang, like the title songvideo and even the song that inspired the title of this post, “My Favorite Things”video.
  2. Although the beat goes on, today’s last list entry is number four, “Hotel California”lyrics, video which, unlike the others, shot toward the top of my chart immediately after it was released as the title track from an Eagles’ album in late 1976 (even though by then I had already left the state). I really enjoy the symbolism, and like many, recognize it as an allegory about hedonism and greed. Other great songs on that album include “New Kid In Town”video and “Life In The Fast Lane”audio.

While the top spots on my list are fairly stable, as one goes down the list, that becomes less true as a song’s ranking starts to depend more on my mood.  Looking down the list, you will see newer songs from artists like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga working their way up, as well as other classics like “The Sound of Silence”video by (Paul) Simon & (Art) Garfunkel (which I had heard before watching the 1967 film “The Graduate”, but the two together made an impression on me and that song remained near the top of my list for quite a while).  My favorite country singers are probably Kenny Rogers (my favorites being “The Gambler”video and “Coward of the County”video) and then Garth Brooks.  I prefer my classical music to be lively, like Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”full, finale, which some of you may remember from “The Lone Ranger”, and “1812 Overture”full, finale.

To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
The full title is “The Year 1812, festival overture in E♭ major, Op. 49”. Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote it in 1880 to commemorate Russia’s defense against Napoleon’s invading army (any resemblance to the War of 1812 between the British and the new United States of America is purely coincidental). More recently, the song was used in commercials for Quaker Oats Puffed Wheat, among other things.
I have also long been a sucker for Christmas music (I could enjoy these songs in June). Probably my earliest favorite, first sung the Christmas Eve of 1818 in Austria (I wasn’t actually around, then), was “Silent Night”video (surprise, surprise), which was unseated for a short time by “The First Noel”video, but now they both compete with a host of other examples of the genre (with “Joy To The World”video usually having a slight lead).

The Question

As a youngster, I noticed that people of all ages seem to restrict their musical listening to those songs that were popular when they were in their teens. At the time, I postulated that once the music retention area of the brain ‘hardens’, about the time one reaches adulthood, it is impossible to retain or appreciate new songs. Now that I’ve seen this phenomenon “from both sides now”, I’ve reworked my theory.  For me, one change that has occurred over the years is that I just don’t (have the opportunity to?) listen to as much music as I used to.  When I’m wrapped in thought, I prefer the sounds of silence.  And when I am around others, they rely on their old favorite, but limited sources.  This ties in with my earlier discussions How Large Is Your Universe and How We Lose Our Grip On Reality and could be considered a sign of decay.  But it doesn’t have to happen.  If one were to diversify their sources, as suggested, they would know that there is very good music being produced every day, just as it was when they were young.  But then they would have to find something else to complain about.