Another Solution For Legislative Voting Systems

Our forefathers, in creating a new nation, were concerned about a democracy’s capability to degenerate into “mob rule” through “the tyranny of the majority.” James Madison, who later became our fourth President, in Federalist #10A and in debates in 1787, argued that the government should protect “the minority of the opulent against the majority”.

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According to vocabulary.comD means rich and superior in quality (but contains connotations of pretentious). Our forefathers, like Madison, were considered wealthy.

Yet Lord Acton’s belief that “. . . absolute power corrupts absolutely”A can be seen in states like Florida with supermajorities controlling their government. In 2023, legislatures with veto-proof majorities in both housesA control 29 states. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, with no resistance from the legislative branch, has waged a culture war of tyranny against “the woke” – Democrats, women, minorities, and anybody that publicly disagrees with his policies – in his bid for President of the United States.

In my article “Two Political Parties Are Not Enough”, I address some of the problems of our current two-party system (promoting polarization, guarantying an instant majority). I propose a solution (more political parties). But then I also discuss obstacles to that solution. While waiting for changes, I’ve come up with a simpler solution.

My New Solution

I propose adding a requirement to the only existing rule of securing a majority vote (or 60% in the Senate, or . . .) when state and national legislatures vote on bills. It should also be necessary to secure at least 25% of the vote from each minority party. This would fight polarization and encourage collaboration, compromise, and bi- or multi-partisanship to find solutions at least partially acceptable to all constituents.

Is 25% the right number? It can be tweaked. And as the rule is stated, it can be combined with other solutions (whether previously discussed or not). Could it get in the way of passing laws in an already dysfunctional government? Well, yes, but that’s actually the point until we can elect representatives that represent all the people while trying to solve problems instead of just making sure the other team doesn’t score any points. They apparently can’t do that individually, but maybe they can collectively.

By now I shouldn’t have to tell you that we accept opposing view and solutions. Start the discussion in the comment section below. Thank you.

I’m Back – Are You Still Interested?

No, I’m not a red-eyed monk (see our last post, Will 2020 See The Extinction Of The Red-eyed Monks?). And just like Samuel Clemens, any reports of my death were exaggerated.   Nor did I run out of material to write about.   The truth is that my day job grew increasingly hectic, and just as we started to get that under control, first COVID and then personal issues began to occupy a lion’s share of my time.

Not all of that has been completely cured, but I will try to commit to at least four posts a year until I finish getting my act together, so to speak.   My next article could be a new idea for how congress passes laws.   Also look for an article about what our forefathers meant when they said we were created equal, maybe some comments about our Supreme Court and possibly other constitutional issues, and probably an explanation of math concepts used/exploited in places like advertising.  To review our previous articles, see   There should be some formatting changes ahead, starting most likely with my code for reference links.

I’ve had to upgrade or replace software, etc. to conform to new standards.   In line with some of those new standards, I need to get you to reconfirm whether or not you are still interested in being notified by email about any new post to this blog.   As part of the changes, all users must now re-subscribe, and those who do not reconfirm their interest will have to be erased from our records.

To reconfirm, fill out the form at   Hope to hear from you soon.   Thank you.

Will 2020 See The Extinction Of The Red-eyed Monks?

For those of you not familiar with what has been called “the hardest logic puzzle in the world”A, The Blue-eyed Monk problem or Blue-eyed Islander problem (Version 2), check out the above reference links. For what it’s worth, that “hardest” title is probably an exaggeration. But my new version, inspired by recent events, might be harder.

In this version of the famous logic problem, there are a number of monks on this remote island. All of them are “perfect logicians”. Every monk sees every other monk every day, but they are rugged individualists who never talk to each other or communicate in any way. They also take full responsibility for their actions and obey all rules and protocols. (Yes, this problem is entirely fictional.) Strangely, there are no mirrors or reflective surfaces on the island. The ferry visits the island every night to drop off supplies. It would take the monks to the mainland, if necessary. But none of the islanders wants to leave and no strangers are allowed on the island. In this version of the problem, all of the monks have red eyes.

One day, almost all of the monks noticed that one of their peers had blue eyes, but they all continue to go about their lives. Many days later, it is noticed (by almost all of them) that two of the monks now have blue eyes. Still, life goes on. This trend continues with a slowly increasing frequency until many, many days later, the first monk to have developed blue eyes is found dead. Doctors on the mainland soon discover that some as-yet-unknown, but contagious pathogen hit the island. The number of monks infected has been growing 2% every day for quite some time. The only visible symptom is the changing of eye color from red to blue. The disease is not contagious until the eyes go blue but then remains contagious until the infected person dies. How it spreads is still unknown, but obviously, direct contact or even close proximity is not required.

By the time the doctors figure all of this out, red-eyed monks have started changing eye color at the rate of one every other day and the second blue-eyed monk has just died. If a blue-eyed monk gets to the mainland in time, they can be cured. but the ferry does have a limited capacity. The monks are pacifists, so there will be no shooting of blue-eyed monks (yes, I might have a personal stake in this directive). All of this information was left on a large sign at the ferry dock the next day.

So what do the monks do? Will they go extinct? Will 2020 see the end of all logical thought on this planet? Only you can answer that question. Good luck! Leave your answers in the comment section below.

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In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I have addressed this problem before. After much fumbling, I did come up with a better (faster) solution, which was widely regarded as cheating (see comment to “The Blue-spotted Monks Revisited”.

A Pair Of Perspectives On Pearls

Several Sundays ago, our pastor began his sermon by talking about the world’s largest pearl.

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This pearl, which was just recently revealed after being hidden for ten years, is 26 inches long and 12″ wide, weighing 75 pounds. That’s over 2½ times longer and five times heavier than the previous record-holder, which was found in another giant clam near the same Philippine island in 1934 (both the diver and the clam lost their lives in the earlier case).

Filipino Fisherman Reveals 75-Pound Pearl He Kept Hidden For A Decade.

Our preacher used the pearl as an example of how God can take an irritant and help you turn it into a treasure. I believe that is a common way of looking at this from a human perspective. But for some reason, I saw the issue differently.

Another Possible Moral To This Story

Turning trash into treasure – is that what the clam was actually trying to do? Does the clam even know that the old irritant now has such great value (estimated to be over a hundred million dollars)? Was this 75-pound object, which had been growing for over a hundred yearsA, actually less irritating to the clam than the original grain of sand? I suspect not!

The preacher could have used this as an allegory, showing how man, because of pride, will try to solve a problem by himself but fail, despite putting a great deal of effort and time into it. And, as is often the case, he could even make the situation worse, not better. “But look how pretty I made it.” Can’t you just see that giant clam trying to sing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”lyrics, video (but failing, of course, because it has a 75-pound lump of calcium in its mouth)?

Is There A Third Possibility?

One of the beauties of life is that some situations can share many lessons. Reality is like that. Even as I was writing this, a third perspective began taking shape in my mind. Of course, I ignored it. But if you found another pearl of wisdom in this parable, please share in the comment section below. Thank you, and thanks for listening.

Truth In Advertising: An Unborn Baby’s Beating Heart

misleading baby's heartbeat billboard

Above is one version of a common billboard along the interstates in Florida and across America. The problem for me is that the spokesman didn’t look anything like that when he was 18 days from conception; he would have been barely visible and a lot less cuddly. Below, I’ve taken the liberty to replace him with his earlier self, which would have been about half the size of a pea or just able to fit through the pupil in the eye of his older self as shown in the background of the revised billboard. His heart would have been larger than a grain of sand. He still has no eyes, arms, or lungs, and I’ve found no information on brain function. I don’t think he’s feeling any pain. Now ain’t that cute?

corrected heartbeat billboard

His Odds Of Success

While I have touched on this subject before (in my article Save Your Birthday – Vote For Clinton), this time I dug deeper in order to put things into a more serious perspective. Here’s what I found:

  • According to ABORT73.COM, abortions have been decreasing slightly every year for the last decade. 879 thousand occurring in the United States in 2017.
  • The Statistica website says that the number of births in this country has been fairly stable. There were about 3.86 million of them in 2017.
  • The attrition rate of fertilized human eggs is not as well known. Comparing articles on spontaneous abortion in humans and Early embryo mortality in natural human reproduction, it looks like only 25% of fertilized eggs actually make it to birth (± at least 10%).

Here’s what that means: if you start with 18 fertilized human eggs, 13 will die from natural causes before birth, and one embryo or fetus would be aborted. Both forms of attrition are “front-loaded”; 2/3 of abortions happen by the 8th weekA1, while 2/3 of fertilized eggs will die in their first 11 weeksA2.

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A common mistake would be to compare the number of abortions with the number of births directly but to compare apples to apples, as they say, you need to use the same reference point. Here’s the math:

3.86 million births divided by 25% (or 0.25) gives 15.4 million fertilized eggs. That would be the common reference point. Divide that by 879 thousand abortions and you get the total number of fertilized eggs there are for every abortion (17.6 – let’s round to 18). To find the number of those fertilized eggs that would die naturally, simply multiply the same 18 by 75% (or 0.75).

One thing that is not clear is “what are the odds that the aborted “child” would have died from natural causes anyway?” The easy answer (and my best guess so far) is 75%. That means there are a lot of self-righteous people out there (many being middle-aged white males with nothing invested) who are willing to throw a woman in jail for long periods of time without even caring about the circumstances of her case to protect something that probably wasn’t going to make it anyway. I guess for the pious, any excuse is a good one for beating up on your neighbor.

At least that’s the way I see it. Any comments?

Has the Republican Party Become a Ponzi or Pyramid Scheme?

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Definition of a pyramid scheme.

As a teacher, I didn’t heartily endorse “the Curve.” I didn’t believe that just because a student could find five friends who were either stupider or lazier than they were they deserved a free pass (although I’m sure that for some of my students that was no trivial feat). This also tied into a theory I developed early in my teaching career (which turned into a prophesy). Unlike doctors, who are said to be able to bury their mistakes, if teachers were to make mistakes, and for political or social reasons were unable to correct the system to reduce the number of those mistakes, then non-educated people could eventually reach critical mass. They could then elect enough unqualified politicians to negatively affect the education process (with budget cuts, for example). This would be the beginning of a feedback loop that could put American education and thus American society on a death spiral. But that could never happen here, right?

Now that Mr. Trump has been elected president and his conduct, unchecked by congress, has become more and more outrageous, I find it interesting to watch some of his supporters as they have to warp their world (or the principles by which that world is defined) to greater degrees in order to be able to justify His actions within that small world. To do that successfully, they need other people (their five friends) to be dumb enough to fall for those contorted explanations. As time goes on, those friends need to recruit their own set of even dumber friends so that they don’t look like the fools that they are . . . and so on. But even now, dumb and foolish people are not an unlimited resource in this country, and Trump’s actions will continue to test that resource like no other leader in the history of the Earth. So as in all such schemes, the buffoon bubble is bound to break. The only question is – will that happen before the next election? I’m not so sure it will. Any comments?

From Your Crew: Why We Ask “How High” When You Tell Us To Jump

When bragging about their leadership skills, most of you have probably heard someone you know tell you “When I tell them to jump, they ask ‘How high?’”. You are supposed to assume that the jumpers do it to satisfy the most particular nature of the speaker’s demands. This implies that the speaker holds such power that their workers spend extra effort meeting even his or her most detailed or trivial requests. The speaker doesn’t expect you to wonder why their workers assume s/he has a need to micromanage every task. To keep your mind from wandering too far down that path, let me explain not the speaker’s mind, but go right to the true motives of their crew.

As a crew member, I know the speaker (let’s just call him or her “fearless leader”, or even “fearless” for short) has the financial resources and personal or political connections to hold his/her current position. But they got their leadership skills from studying Hollywood blockbusters or listening to other wannabees further up the chain of command. S/he hasn’t taken the time to learn the capabilities of their team. They don’t understand the complexity of the problem at hand. They really do like to bark orders, however. As a member of fearless’ crew, my motives are simple. I want to stroke his or her ego and get out of serious work. I may have been on my school track team, but if fearless is satisfied with me jumping four inches off the ground, that’s fine with me.

If fearless had a hangover, and I was asked to stand in for them one day, my crew would know not to ask frivolous questions. If one of them did ask “How high?”, I would be tempted to stop and have him or her jump as high as they could many times while other members of the crew documented the results. And if the last jump didn’t measure up? . . . .

My crew would know two things:

  1. I expect them to give 100%. If he was on the track team, I would expect him to excel. I would have assigned it to someone else if the situation only demanded a 4″ jump. If the job demanded a spacecraft to be built, I’d give the job to my rocket scientist (which would probably be a different person than my track star).
  2. I expect my crew to understand the nature and needs of the assignment in front of them and work it out. Whether the job demanded a 36-inch or a 24-inch high jump, I would expect my track star to be able to figure it out and complete the job without further guidance. At the same time, I expect my team members to know their capabilities and understand their limitations, as well as the other capabilities within the team so that if there is a mismatch, we, as a team, can effectively deal with it.

Is any of this too much to ask?

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 the winning ticket and some form of 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.

Teamwork Or Rugged Individualism

Almost two years ago, I was inspired to address this debate by a blogger that I very much admire (“Confident Individualism” by Lani Rodriguez). She presented a very nice case for the side of individualism, but now, echoing Joni Mitchell’s sentiments in “Both Sides, Now” (my second favorite songblog), I’ve looked at individualism from both sides now. It may not be a simple this vs. that type of argument.

Part of growing up, or maturing, is being able to function on your own, meaning you need to make plans and take individual actions to solve problems as they arise, and then take the necessary follow-up to make sure those actions were effective. Some people never get this far, and others never get past this point. But there is a limit to how much one person can achieve alone.

As a member of society, the next logical step would be learning how to work with others – certainly not a trivial skill, but one that gives you the power to solve bigger problems, benefitting not just you, but your whole community. This too, as I’ve already implied, is a normal part of the maturation process; if you live in contact with others, as most of us do, this step is not optional.

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And if you can’t handle the team approach, I don’t even think you should consider having kids. “It takes a village . . .” after all.

So the title of this article, although written just as this question is usually presented, is deceptive.

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This is not the first discussion on this blog to address situations involving the misunderstanding of an ‘or’ statementexample. I have plans to discuss this further in a companion blog to The Problem With The ‘If’ Statement.  Although it is pretty high on my topic list, I can’t say how soon it will be ready.

These are not opposing means to handle any task, but both need to be an integral part of your arsenal.

You could look at them as two gears in your vehicle to success. Individualism is first gear; teamwork is second gear. People complain that their upper gears are hard to maintain (“It’s too hard to get good help”, “It would be easier to do it myself than train someone else to do it”, . . .) and thus not worth the effort. It is true that the more moving parts, the more likely to break down, but your first gear is just as likely to fail you as any other. And even if it’s not, I’ve actually had a real car that couldn’t get out of first gear, and even though the repair facility was reasonably close, it took me forever to get there. Driving around in a car with only one gear is NOT an option unless you have really low expectations in life. So why didn’t I just call a tow truck? Oh, so now you’re arguing in favor of the team approach.