Not Quite Clear On The Concept – “Innocent Until Proven Guilty”

Listening to discussions on Facebook about the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, I was surprised and disappointed to see the “innocent until proven guilty” principle so often misapplied (and in two different ways).  It became clear to me that a lot of people just don’t understand the concept.

A Larger Doctrine

When something is being awarded to somebody, whether it is good, bad, large, or small, most people would like to think the recipient deserved the award.  It is the presenter’s responsibility to make sure that’s the case.  The more extreme the action, whether reward or punishment, the more effort the presenters should take to see that the award has been earned.

The Bad

When the award is a punishment, this doctrine takes the form of “innocent until proven guilty”.  If the death penalty is under consideration, for example, we need to go to great lengths to be sure we aren’t making a mistake.  I’ll save the discussion of the two types of possible errors – letting a murderer go free vs. hanging an innocent person – for another day.

The Good

When the action under consideration is a reward, one would expect some law of symmetry to apply, and it does.  In this case, the slogan “innocent until proven guilty” has no place.  Whether it is the Mega Millions jackpot or the Nobel Prize, one does not assume a prospect is ‘innocent’, or deserving, until proven otherwise.  It is up to the claimant to prove they deserve the award.  For the Mega Millions jackpot, that would be by showing a ticket and identification.  The Nobel Prize has even more stringent requirements.  Republicans have no trouble applying this principle to welfare recipients but seem to get tripped up when it comes to Presidents and Supreme Court nominees.

The Ugly

In either of the above cases, it is well understood, as stated above, that the candidate will be fully vetted.  And the more significant the award, the more serious the investigation.  For someone to insist that a candidate is “innocent until proven guilty”, especially for a reward, and then refuse to hold a meaningful investigation into any evidence of guilt is the height of duplicity.  But that seems to be the current state of the Republican Party.  It hasn’t always been this way.

Anyone with a logical alternate interpretation of the facts is welcome to share.  You can be sure the civility of this discussion will be maintained.

The 50% Rule – A New Proposal For Term Limits

Why Do We Need Term Limits

One problem in government is that the longer a politician is in power, the more out-of-touch with their district they tend to become, the less responsive they tend to be to their constituents, and the harder it is to remove them from office.  In the pursuit of reelection, getting campaign contributions takes more and more of their time, and the focus on money rather than solutions to problems makes them more susceptible to less altruistic interests.  As they gain funds and influence, even lousy incumbents have been shown to have a clear advantage in an election.  The simple answer has been to restrict each politician to two terms of office and then force ‘retirement’.  I think that’s wasteful.  A statesman requires critical qualities and talents that can improve with experience, and the qualities that separate the statesman from the politician seem to be becoming increasingly rare.

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It’s been said that “the difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.”E. For better definitions of ‘statesman’, check out the Houston Chronicle and/or “The Art of Manliness” blog (This is not an endorsement of the AoM blog; nor is this disclaimer a denunciation. I’m always suspicious when people define “real men” because it seems it’s usually the wannabees that speak loudest, and the result is usually watered down and/or distorted into something they can succeed at. Although I have not yet had the chance to investigate this particular site, this article is very good).
  There should be a way to make the most of these skills without suffering the adverse side-effects.

A Better Plan – The 50% Rule

My idea would be to let a candidate serve as long as his constituents want him/her without ever letting them be the incumbent.  This means after serving their term, they would return to their district for at least one term to reconnect with their constituents.  They would not be allowed to hold any political office during that time, whether local, state, or federal.   It would also be good to have a separate law prohibiting them from working as a lobbyist for a set time longer than one term (maybe seven to ten years) after leaving office.  And if not already on the books, a law should be put in place requiring a candidate to live in their district for at least one term of office before becoming a candidate.  If the candidate is any good at being a statesman, s/he could end up with more than twenty years of public service.  It would just take him/her over forty years to achieve that goal.  The term incumbent and the advantages of being an incumbent would disappear while still allowing the gifted to fulfill a career in public service.

Other Helpful Ideas

Since we’ve mentioned the need to chase campaign funds as a root of this problem, it also makes sense to try to level the playing field there too.  I believe the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court was a mistake (see ‘If You Don’t Have To Pay For It, It Can’t Be Considered Free Speech” – Supreme Court).  Steps should be taken to limit campaign contributions, have the government fund viable campaigns, or even limit the duration of political campaigns to keep us from going from a one ‘man’, one vote system to one dollar, one vote.  In debunking arguments favoring the electoral college (Another Look At The Electoral College), I also decry the ‘one acre, one vote’ notion.  I discuss other possible improvements to the election process in Two Political Parties Are Not Enough. As wise and principled as our forefathers were, even they could not imagine the changes in store in the future before them. That’s why they made provisions to change our rules of governing as needed. We may need to do that now to preserve the power that was originally intended for the people of this great country.

Was Trump’s ‘Shithole Country’ Remark Really Racially Motivated

Are YOU A Racist?

Is President Trump really a racist?  Well, of course he is!

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Martin Luther King’s nephew suggested Mr. Trump wasn’t a ‘traditional’ racist, he was just clueless (I’m paraphrasing)A. I agree that Mr. Trump is clueless, but that doesn’t mean he’s not racist. I think there are plenty of Trump tweets to suggest he is both.
  But was his racism the underlying motivation for those infamous ‘Shithole’ remarks? If the only commonality that you noticed among the countries he referred to in his comments was the color of the inhabitant’s skin, then maybe you are a racist. I’m not sure people who live in a world with only one bipolar dimension, and who can only see life in terms of one characteristic, can go too long without becoming some sort of bigot. Whether it’s skin color, or sex, or nationality, you soon begin to define your neighbors as either “us” or “them’, depending on whether their single variable matches yours, and from there you have an easy scapegoat for all of your problems and it is all downhill from there.  In this case, it is a pity you didn’t notice any other differences. The one that popped out at me was the average income level in these countries. I think Trump noticed that too. In Trump’s mind, the plaque at the statue of liberty should probably go something like this:

“. . . Keep Give me, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” Cries she with silent lips. Send your top one percent. Give me Keep your tired, your poor, your huddled masses . . . .”

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See the original poem, “The New Colossus”, and its history at Wikipedia.

Based on his behavior, speeches, and accomplishments as President, it seems to me that Donald Trump is primarily class conscious.  Maybe race (and sex and religion and nationality) are only being invoked to give the lower classes cause to fight among themselves and thus distract them from his true agenda.

So?

What difference does any of this make?  If it is only a race issue, people might think it only adversely affects 13% of America, and the white folk can sit back and say “better them than me”.  But if it is NOT about race, it negatively impacts 99% of us – sorry, but that includes you.

How To Tell

So which theory better matches reality?  One easy way to tell is to find people who fit in one group (blacks) and not the other (poor); in other words look for rich blacks or poor whites, and see how Trump feels about them.  In praising dictators, Trump seems to be an equal opportunity kind of guyA. Would he have aided Jean-Claude  “Baby Doc” Duvalier of Haiti if given a chance? On the other hand, he does seem to have an affinity for white supremacists even if few of the activists fall in his favorite one percent.

What To Do

The jury may still be out on the ‘shithole’ motivation question.  First, as your math teacher would have told you, never just grab the first ‘obvious’ answer (just as buyers and negotiators should never jump at the first offer).  Carry both theories in mind, and as new information becomes available, test it against both ideas until one of them can be clearly eliminated.  Implicit in this plan is the assumption that your news sources are diverse enough to give you access to plenty of information that would support either theory (if it exists).  If that’s not the case, diversify your sources now, or feel your grip on reality slip away.

The Sag Awards And Political Correctness

WARNING: NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT!!

Am I the only one who, upon hearing that the SAG awards will be using only female presentersA, wondered if this is some sort of sick joke? Am I the only one to wonder what type of sag awards – awarded to image-conscious, well-paid Hollywood residents – we might see? “Best Boob Job”, perhaps? “Most Facelifts In A Single Year”? “Most Radical Tummy Tuck”? Who will receive the lifetime achievement award – I’m not sure I even want to see those before-and-after shots.

To be fair, S.A.G. actually stands for Screen Actors Guild, and any resemblance of their acronymD to any real word in the English language, or any other language, is purely coincidental. Still, wouldn’t any of the other meaningless events of self-promotion in Hollywood this season be a more appropriate venue for this gesture? Is it too late for the Oscars, or would that still be too far above a woman’s station in life? I see that after the Harvey Weinstein incidentA, companies like E! (and NBC, and Comcast)A are quick to redraw the lines of acceptable behavior in Hollywood (and thus the rest of the country). For those having trouble keeping up, it is now totally unacceptable (for anyone short of President of the United States) to actually squeeze a woman’s breast or buttocks in public, or even pretend to squeeze in a fashion undetectable by the victimA, as Al Franken can attest.

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Although I am referring to the simulated groping photo, other allegations of improper behavior later surfacedA, leading to Mr. Franken’s resignation. Debate ensued about whether his level of disrespect rivaled the level exhibited by the President and a well-known Republican Senate CandidateE in Alabama at the time. Opinions expressed about the severity of his offenses crudely correlated with party affiliation.

All other forms of abuse or discrimination, whether verbal, or emotional, or social, or professional, or even financial, are still perfectly fine. As Oprah Winfrey pointed out the other night, “A new day is on the horizon”video. But as everyone who ever traveled west discovered some time after they first saw the Rocky Mountains begin to rise above the fruited plains, we still have a lot of hard miles before we can enjoy the view from those lofty peaks. Keep moving!

Another Look At The Electoral College

Earlier this summer, I overheard a Florida man trying 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 of 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.

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 www.christianpost.com, 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.

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.

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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?