What’s Found by Science

I wrote this in anticipation of the April 22, 2017 March for Science. It turns out there are quite a few protest songs being written about the Trump Administration. It reminds me of the 1960s, and those politicians weren’t nearly so bad.

Sing this to the tune of “The Sound Of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, or Disturbed, or another artist.

Hello science our good friend
We’ve come to visit you again
Because your breakthroughs help us all survive
And give us things to lift our lives
Your benefits that we all share together
We treasure
We need what’s found by science


In verdant hills we walked and saw
Habitats with life galore
‘Neath the clear blue sky a scent of fir
Gentle breezes hum like a kitten’s purr
Then we came upon a factory’s discharge pipe
It isn’t right
We need the shield of science


And in the clear dark night we saw
Ten thousand stars and maybe more
We wonder if we’re all alone
And if we’ll explore the vast unknown
And figure how we all came to be right here
We all care
About what’s found by science


Cruel it is we all can know
When health fails and cancers grow
Chemicals replaced ancient spells
Now stem cells repair damaged cells
But the treatments don’t always bring a cure
That’s why we need more science


And the climate experts said
Using the data they had read
That their studies gave a warning
That the Earth’s climate was warming
They all agreed the signs were there to see
Written on the planet’s land
In nature’s hand
And appearing as the face of science


SNAP: Critical Prop

Food stamps make life a little more livable for many people. Here are some facts about SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participants.


Nearly two-thirds percent of SNAP participants were children, elderly, or had disabilities. 44% of participants were under age 18, 10% were age 60 or older, and 10% were disabled nonelderly adults. Just over half of SNAP households contained only one person.


In 1989, nearly 42% of all SNAP households received cash welfare benefits and less than 20% had earnings. In 2014, only 6% received cash welfare, while 31% had earnings. The average gross income for all SNAP households was $759 per month. Only 16 percent had gross income above the poverty line. The percentage of SNAP households with zero net income rose more than two-fold, from 18% in 1989 to 41% in 2014.


The average monthly benefit received by SNAP households was $253. Less than 10% of SNAP households received cash welfare benefits. Nearly 25% of SNAP households received Social Security, and 20% received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits given to the aged and disabled. When SNAP benefits are added to gross income, 10% of SNAP households move above the poverty line


Compared to non-SNAP purchasers, SNAP users bought more prepared foods, snacks, meat, poultry, and seafood, and less dairy, fruits, vegetables, and beans. The most notable difference is that SNAP users bought a much higher percentage of baby food than non-SNAP purchasers. These patterns are shown in the following graphs.


SNAP purchases were categorized to simplify understanding. Prepared Foods include jams, jellies, preserves and other sweets, desserts, condiments and seasoning, and soups. Dairy includes milk, eggs, high fat dairy/cheese, and other dairy products. Snacks include salty snacks, candy, nuts, and seeds. Grains include bread and crackers, rice, flour and prepared flour mixes, cereal, pasta, cornmeal, and other cereal products. Drinks include bottled water, juices, coffee, and tea.

A Lie by Any Other Name

Charles M. Blow wrote an opinion article in the New York Times on January 26, 2017 about lies told by members of the Trump administration and characterized as “alternative facts.” It reminded me of a sarcastic blog with the same title that I wrote over a decade ago about the kind of lies told by the Bush Administration and its supporters. It’s sad that even after so much time has passed, many people still can’t recognize lies for what they are. I wonder if it’s attributable to ignorance, cognitive dissonance, or perhaps living in alternate realities in which facts truly are not the same. In any case, here’s the blog I wrote so long ago.

A Lie by Any Other Name

Sometimes there are just no words to describe lies told by politicians. They lie so often and in so many different ways that it’s exhausting to always have to explain to the ignorant why their statements are false or misleading. So, I thought it was about time there was terminology that could be used to describe these false statements.

Sociologists, psychologists, and linguists who conduct research on lies study their cause, nature, occasion, victim, subject, size, result, and many other dimensions. I thought it might be simpler to classify political lies only according to their nature and their seriousness. This classification may not be all-inclusive, but it covers the most common political lies.

The nature of a political lie can be classified as one of six different types, each of which I have named in honor of a famous practitioner:

  •  LIDDY — Lies resulting from self-deception, mental confusion, cluelessness, or just plain stupidity.
  •  O’REILLY — Lies using fabricated facts or stories, fakery, or false empathy, often with the intention of lending credibility or establishing commonalities.
  •  HANNITY — Lies that use straw-man arguments, false comparisons, false generalizations, and other logical fallacies.
  •  LIMBAUGH — Lies involving omissions of facts, out-of-context quotes, misrepresented positions, and other misleading statements.
  •  COULTER — Lies involving ad hominem arguments, name calling, and other personal attacks.
  •  GALLUP — Lies that use statistics or that are about a statistical analysis such as a poll.

Lies also have one of five magnitudes:

  •  LIMP — Lies that are trivial, harmless, inconsequential, petty, not worth the time responding to, or just plain stupid.
  •  BLOATED/SHRUNKEN — Lies that are substantial (i.e., not limp) and are based on exaggerations (bloated) or minimizations (shrunken) of the truth.
  •  CRYPTIC — Lies that are consequential (i.e., more than just bloated or shrunken) and are difficult to verify. If you can’t verify that something is a lie by searching the internet, reading a newspaper, opening a book, or watching TV, than it can be considered to be cryptic. Some lies are cryptic because the subject matter is challenging such as scientific or economic analyses. Some lies are cryptic because the information needed to dispute them is dispersed and difficult to gather.
  •  NAKED — Lies that are consequential and are easy to verify. A lie can start off being cryptic but become naked as information is released to the public. Reports that Iraq had WMD began as cryptic but slowly became naked as continued inspections found no weapons.
  •  UBER — Lies that are so obviously and outrageously false that they are laughable and should need no refutation.

Putting these two classifications together creates thirty categories of lies. Each category is named by stringing the lie-type and lie-magnitude together into one word. Here are a few examples:

Nixon: I am not a crook
Bush: Mission Accomplished
Bush Administrations: Reasons for the Iraq War
Delay: We’ve eliminated all the fat in government
Ashcroft: The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.
Bush’s Crawford ranch
DoD stories about Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman
Bush Administration: White House was trashed by the Clinton Administration when they moved out
O’Reilly: I got my data from the Paris Business Review
Intelligent Design
Bush: Great job, Brownie
Limbaugh: Abu Ghraib was like a fraternity prank, the guards were just blowing off steam
Bush: I’m a uniter not a divider
I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the 9/11 attacks (Rice) or the failure of the NOLA levees (Bush)
Fox News: Fair and Balanced
Al Gore claims to have invented the internet
Bush Administration pays media to sell education and health programs
Bush: I served my term of enlistment honorably in the TX ANG
Bush: You forgot Poland
Limbaugh: Democrats think that America deserves to be attacked by terrorists
Photos of John Kerry windsurfing
Coulter: Justice O’Connor was Reagan’s biggest mistake
Swift Boat Ads
Malkin: Cindy Sheehan is an anti-American, terrorist-sympathizing agitator
Coulter: New Yorkers would immediately surrender to attacking terrorists
Bush’s margin of victory in the 2004 election gave him political capital and a mandate for conservatism
State Department’s count of the number of terrorist attacks
Bush Administration statistics on the economy and the budget, such as Social Security
Republicans are more fiscally responsible than Democrats
Bush: we’ve assembled the largest international coalition in history to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

So, for example, when the State Department defined terrorist attacks in a way that would minimize their number in their annual report, they told a shrunkengallup. The swift boat ads about John Kerry were crypticcoulters because they were personal attacks that could not be verified easily. Intelligent design (i.e., creationism) is an uberoreilly to those who believe that the creation story is a myth or a metaphor.

Lies can evolve in this system. The first time I heard President Bush’s statement about nobody being able to anticipate that the NOLA levees would have failed, I thought it was a crypticliddy because it would be hard to show that Bush didn’t actually believe what he said. Within a few days, though, two facts emerged. First, FEMA had conducted an exercise called Hurricane Pam that simulated a NOLA disaster, so obviously somebody thought about it. Second, Bush knew he had cut funding for levee repair, so this was no self-deception. Clearly, it was a hannity not a liddy, because the lie was based on a false generalization. When those reports hit the media, Bush’s statement became a nakedhannity.

These new terms can be used to express nuances in the interpretation of lies and differences of opinion between interpreters. Remember when the Bush campaign used the photo of John Kerry windsurfing to cast him as an elitist? I thought that was a limpcoulter. Who cares whether he plays tennis, softball, or golf. The fact that he plays sports at all said to me that he was fit and healthy enough to withstand the rigors of the presidency. Boy was I wrong. Calling it a crypticcoulter or even a crypticlimbaugh would have been more accurate.

So, you think you have the concept? Test your self with the following lies. What would you call them? (Answers Below)

  1.  Cheney: Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.
  1.  Delay:  There’s no fat in government spending. We’ve eliminated it all.
  1.  Santorum: If you have the right to consensual sex, then you have the right to bigamy, incest, and adultery.
  1.  Limbaugh: `Osama’ Obama, `Frenchie’ Kerry, Hurricane Katrina `vanden Heuvel.’
  1.  Rove’s push poll about John McCain having fathered an illegitimate black child.
  1.  The credentials of Jeff Gannon and Michael Brown.

Of course, your answers may be different than mine. That’s the beauty of the system. The names express how we view the lie. So, give the new vocabulary a try. If nothing else, you’ll find it satisfying to slap your forehead and say `now that’s an uberoreilly if I’ve ever heard one.’

1. Crypticliddy.  2. Uberoreilly.  3. Nakedhannity.  4. Limpcoulters.  5. Bloatedgallup.  6. Bloatedlimbaughs.

by TerraByte

Sep 24, 2005

Hit the Road, Trump

Hit the Road, Trump

(sing to the tune of Hit the Road, Jack)

Hit the road, Trump, and don’t you come back
No more. No more. No more. No more.
Hit the road, Trump, and don’t you come back no more

Donald, oh, Donald don’t you treat us so mean
You’re the meanest old prez that we’ve ever seen
And I guess if you don’t go
We’ll have to send your ass to Moscow

Hit the road, Trump, and don’t you come back
No more. No more. No more. No more.
Hit the road, Trump, and don’t you come back no more

Donald. Listen, Donald, don’t you treat us this way
‘Cause we’ll throw your kind to the curb someway
Don’t care if you do ’cause it’s understood
You ain’t got no morals. You just ain’t no good
And I guess if you don’t go
We’ll impeach you and end your show
Pence too!

Hit the road, Trump, and don’t you come back
No more. No more. No more. No more.
Hit the road, Trump, and don’t you come back no more


The Only Constant in Life is Change

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Come gather ’round people wherever you roam

And admit that the waters around you have grown

And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.

If your time to you is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan


Have you ever mentioned an experience from your past to someone much younger than you only to be met with a gaze of confusion and disbelief? It happens all the time, and the older you get the more it happens. Things change.

On December 29, 2016, Tanya Lynn Dee asked the question on her Facebook page, “Without revealing your actual age, what [is] something you remember that if you told a younger person they wouldn’t understand?” There were over 1,000 responses, which I copied and classified into common themes. Here are the results.

Everyday Life (38% of responses)

Society (13% of responses)

Life was quite a bit different a few generations ago. World War II and its aftermath affected everyone. There were ration books, air raid drills and fallout shelters, Korea, and the Cold War. JFK’s assassination, flower power, Vietnam, the moon landing, and Woodstock all happened in one turbulent decade. Then Nixon resigned, Elvis died, and Mount St. Helens erupted.

Women stayed at home to care for the kids. People never locked their doors. There may not have been indoor plumbing making bathing laborious and infrequent. Everyone had an outhouse. Laundry involved wash boards, and later wringer washers, and outdoor clothes lines. Coal and wood were used for most heating. There was no air conditioning. If your house was insulated, the insulation probably contained asbestos. Many people grew their own food and made their own clothes.

Stores were closed on Sundays because of Blue Laws. People saved the Blue-Chip and S&H Green trading stamps they got from purchases to redeem for household goods. The Sears Christmas Catalog captivated every kid hoping for some special present under the Christmas tree. You could only buy condoms in gas station bathrooms.


The number of post offices peaked in 1901 when there were 76,945. The growth of rural free delivery, which became a permanent service in 1902, contributed to subsequent declines in the number of Post Offices. In 2015, there were 26,615 post offices. There were no zip codes until 1963. By that time, 80% of all mail in the United States was business mail.

Everybody smoked, all the time. Cigarettes were only 35 cents a pack and they made you look cool back then unlike today. Ashtrays were everywhere. Big ones, on every available flat surface. And, nary a “No Smoking” sign anywhere.

Food (7% of responses)

Families ate breakfast and dinner together and Sunday was a special meal after the family went to church. Friday meals were always meatless.

Refrigerators were0c78b00d81f60eac49819eb67a899cb4 called iceboxes because they were cooled with large ice blocks from the ice house. Milk had to be boiled before drinking. Oleo margarine came in plastic packs with a dye color button you had to squish around. Coffee, spam, sardines, and lard came in cans that used a twist key to peel back a strip of metal that held the lid to the can.

Coke cost 10 cents and candy bars cost 5 cents. There was penny candy, bubblegum, mojos, Turkish taffy, pixie stix, wax lips, and wax “pop” bottles with different fruity flavors. And you ate the wax. Candy cigarettes made you look cool (who thought that was a good idea?). Popcorn was made on the stove in a pot. People made their own root beer.

Cars (6% of responses)

Families usually only had one car, which dad drove to work. Hitchhiking was commonplace unlike today. Teens spent their Friday nights cruising up and down Main Street looking for their friends.

Front car seats looked like a sofa, and there was a fabric-covered cord on the back of the seat to hold the car blanket. Child car seats were made out of stiff wire, thin vinyl and cardboard, and they just hooked over the front seat. There were no seatbelts

m11013-34Most cars had a standard transmission, three speeds on the column and double clutching with a hump (transmission tunnel) that ran down the center of rear-wheel drive cars. Engines had manual chokes. Some cars had white wall tires. Older cars had recaps. If you had a car radio, it was AM only.

There was no AC; you had wing windows for cooling. You had to crank up and down car windows and use hand turn signals instead of blinkers. The foot button on the floor next to the brake pedal was used to contrb9905a71c3172c5d045b399bf71aa7b5ol the headlight high and low beams.


Gas cost less than a quarter per gallon and it was all leaded. While the pump was running the filling (gas) station attendant would squeegee your windows and check the fluids. These days the attendant doesn’t even leave the booth.

Home Deliveries (6% of responses)

You would put a sign in in your front window so a delivery truck would stop at your house. Home deliveries provided ice, eggs, milk and other dairy products, bread and baked goods, potato chips, newspapers, coal and other items. Rag and bone men picked up anything you would give them that they could resell.

Writing (3% of responses)

Individuals used to write thank you cards and letters to pmain-qimg-e298ef71bf2585ab278ffea1dced6a24-cen pals in cursive using a fountain pen. Secretaries used shorthand and Dictaphones to record the Boss’ information and then typed it on manual typewriters, which were designed to be inefficient. They had to erase mistakes or use correction tape and white out. They had to align paper correctly and replace the ink ribbon when it wore out. For multiple copies, there was carbon paper. All of these things became obsolete when word processors came into prominence.

Fashion (2% of responses)

You dressed up when you went to Church, or out to dinner, or to neighborhood parties, or you traveled. Girls were not allowed to wear slacks to school, skirts only. Boys had to wear ties to high school. Men never wore earrings; women never got tattoos. Underwear was referred to as unmentionables.fea7465e53f42522203ceffc466a07ff

Before pantyhose, there were hose and girdles. Pin curls and seersucker are a century old but still around. The 1940s brought bomber jackets. Bobbie socks and saddle shoes were popular in the 1950s. And the Age of Aquarius saw bellbottom pants, tie-dye tee shirts, Nehru jackets, platform shoes and go-go boots, love beads, and flowers worn in the hair. Teenage girls would make hair rollers from orange juice cans, spam cans, and other objects.

Unlike today, flip flops were called thongs. Rubbers were rubber coverings put over shoes to keep them dry, also called galoshes. Few people wear them anymore. Rubbers now refer to condoms.

Medicine (1% of responses)

iron-lung3-610x463Moms painted their kids’ sore throats with iodine and their cuts and scrapes with mercurochrome. Everyone had a scar on their arm from their small pox vaccination. Doctors made house calls carrying a black medical bag

Quarantine signs were put on houses where an occupant had scarlet fever or measles. If you had TB and didn’t come to stay at the TB hospital the Sheriff would come and arrest you and take you there. You would be there three months to a year. Polio victims survived in iron lungs.

Kids (16% of responses)

Kids (5% of responses)

A kid’s life was different from today but no one complained. You shared the same bedroom with your siblings. You read Little Golden Books and watched H.R. Puffinstuff on TV. You spent most of your time outdoors playing Jack’s, Red rover, hop scotch, Hide ‘n Go Seek, Red light green light, and Tops. You worked out on the monkey bars. You rode a bike with a banana seat but no helmet, and drank water out of a hose or a bucket with a common ladle.

For spending money, you might get a 25-cent allowance. There were plenty of chores around the house that you had to do to get that allowance. You might also do odd jobs for neighbors, like yard work or babysitting. You might have a paper route or collect deposit bottles and return them to grocery stores for the penny refund.

You had a curfew and a bed time. It was ok to play outside until dark when the streetlights came on or when you were called. But if you didn’t obey, parents weren’t afraid to give a good butt woopin. If you got in trouble in school you were punished at home as well.

School (4% of responses)

One-room schoolhouses with one teacher, eight grades from 1-8, and an outhouse were common in rural areas. Factory-like schools were common in the big cities.

Thduck-and-cover-drille daily school routine included saying the Pledge of Allegiance followed by lessons in grammar, spelling, and history. You had a book for every class, big heavy books that had to be covered to protect them from normal usage. No one would intentionally abuse them. You might walk home at lunchtime and then go back to school for the afternoon. After school, you might stay to wash the chalkboard and clap the erasers, or go to the library to do homework using the card catalog. The Cold War brought duck and cover drills in which you hid under your desk to avoid nuclear annihilation.

School supplies provided memories for some. The sweet smelling mimeographs with purple ink have been replaced by Xeroxed copies. Lepage rubber tipped glue is still around but slide rules are obsolete. There are no more ink wells in school desks.


Girls were required to wear dresses and skirts to school. Jeans were never allowed. Even on snowy days, girls were in dresses. Hems had to touch the floor when kneeling. In some colleges in the 1960’s, no women were allowed on the football field. Only men could be cheerleaders or play in the marching band. If you disobeyed, a teacher might pick you up by your hair and bring you to the principal’s office for a talk or a good swatting with a paddle. You would also get the belt at home for being disrespectful.

Toys (4% of responses)

Toys from the past made kids use their imagination and creativity more than toys do today. Kites were made out of newspaper, stray pieces of wood, and torn up rags for the tail. A skate board was made with a board and an old roller skate. You would clip playing cards on your bicycle spokes with clothes pins to sound like a motorcycle.


There were all kinds of dolls, homemade and manufactured, made of paper, wood, plastic, cloth, or other common items. Young girls wanted the Gerber baby doll, Chatty Cathy, the Chrissy doll, and many others. Boys wanted toy guns and comic books. 628550033_tpRoller skates were made of metal, had two wheels on each side in a rectangle, and attached to your shoes by tightening a clasp on the front with a skate key. Before Legos, there were erector sets, Lincoln logs, and Tinker toys. There were also lawn darts, fiddle sticks, jump rope, clackers, weebles, chia pets, pet rocks, pogo stick, and knickerbocker bells.

Attitude (3% of responses)

Today’s older adults remember being taught obedience and respect for their elders and authority figures. They learned comportment and manners. Gentleman opened the door for a lady. You needed to have patience and display common sense. You had to work to earn a living. Hard work never hurt anybody.

Technology (28% of responses)

Television (13% of responses)

In the 1950s, televisions were all black & white with only 3 VHF comme879b8695759fae1580514067cf798cabrcial channels, ABC, NBC, and CBS. There was no cable or dish. Later, UHF provided PBS and a few other public stations, which didn’t come in too well. Channels were selected using dials, one for VHF and another for UHF. There were no remote controls. You had to get up off the couch to turn on the TV, change channels, turn up the volume, and turn the set off. Often, the youngest kid in the household was the remote.

Televisions started with small screens, 13-inches or smaller. There was often more furniture than TV. Later, entertainment consoles evolved. A four-foot long piece of furniture might have a TV, an AM radio, a record player, and speakers. All the electronics used vacuum tubes that had to warm up before working. Drug stores had tube testers for the home handyman who wanted to fix his own set. The horizontal hold and the vertical hold were often unstable, causinw15leg the picture to roll in one direction or another. You needed antennas to get a decent picture, rabbit ears for VHF and a loop antenna for UHF. You put aluminum foil on your rabbit ears to get better TV reception.
Television broadcasts were free. They started in the morning about 6 AM with a test pattern. If you didn’t buy a TV Guide, you didn’t know what was on. Broadcasting ended at midnight with the national anthem followed by snow. Now, most channels are 24/7. Tests of the Emergency Broadcast System occurred periodically. One commenter noted that “These [tests] were creepy and used to give me nightmares. In case of a nuclear holocaust and if your TV hasn’t been vaporized, this message will be followed by instructions on where to go to die in an orderly fashion.”

Kid shows like Romper Room and Captain Kangaroo played on weekday mornings but Saturday mornings were for cartoons. There was Danger Mouse, Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har, Mr. Magoo, and Howdy Doody.

Popular TV shows of the past included I Love Lucy, the Marx brothers, Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., American Bandstand, Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Laugh In, the Honeymooners, Combat, 12 O’clock High, Soap, the Green Hornet, Gunsmoke, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the Wide World of Disney, Lawrence Welk, Bewitched, Star Trek and Mork & Mindy. Commercial jingles like “plop-plop, fizz-fizz, oh what a relief it is” still ring in peoples’ minds. The 11 o’clock news asked if you knew where your kids were.

Telephones (11% of responses)

It seems like everyone has a cell phone today, but it certainly wasn’t always like that.

Early phones were wooden boxes mounted on the wall with a ear piece and a tube to talk into. You turned a crank on the side of the box to alert the operator that you wanted to make a call. Then the operator connected you through a switchboard consisting of wires connected to other phones and switchboards. Usually several families shared connections, called a party line. If someone else was on the line, you had to wait until they were finished.


Crank phones were eventually replaced by rotary phones. You originally had to rent your telephone from the phone company but that changed because of consumer complaints. Operators were phased out and telephone numbers beginning with letters were assigned. Eventually the letters were converted to numbers. You memorized phone numbers you called often. If you called someone and they were using the phone, you would get a busy signal. If you received a call, you did not know who was calling until you answered the phone. Once you knew who it was, you knew where they were because all phones were land lines. The phone cords limited where you could take calls and you could get all wrapped up in the cord. Rotary phones were cumbersome to use, which led to the development of push-button phones. A nice thing about rotary phones was that you could slam down the phone handset if you were angry. You can’t do that with a cell phone.

Calling long distance was expensive, so many people put a clock by the phone so no call lasted more than 3 minutes. If you could wait until after 11 PM, rates were cheaper. If you dialed your call directly you would be charged for the call, but if you called collect, the charges would be reversed to the party receiving the call. The phone system would ask you your name and then ask the receiving party if they would accept the charges from you. Some people would call collect and quickly say their message when prompted to say their name, then the call receiver would decline accepting the call so neither would pay. You could also make a person-to-person call, which was more expensive, but you would only be charged for the call if the person you wanted was available to answer.

Pay phones used to be in transparent booths which later gave way to open-air cabinets. They had talking operators who told you how much money to insert to make the call. People walking past a pay phone would check the coin return for change not taken.

Computers (3% of responses)

For all the changes computers and the Internet have gone through, only 3% of the comments referred to them. This is probably because PCs didn’t become popular until the 1990s and they are so integrated in everyday life that most young adults are quite familiar with them. Still, there are some aspects of the early days of personal computers and the Internet that would be surprising to the current generation of teenagers. Games, software, web sites, and computer models come and go but changes in technology are memorable.


Take storage. Early mainframe data storage involved reel-to-reel magnetic tapes. Storage on a personal computer involved cassette tapes or floppy (8, 5¼, or 3½-inch) disks. Punch cards and paper tapes were used to input data and computer programs. “Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate” was a frequent warning. Over time, these methods were replaced by hard drives that evolved to larger capacities, greater speeds, and lower costs. Likewise with the Internet, early connections involved dial-up via floppy-disk-comparisona 300 baud earmuff acoustic modem. Modem speeds increased and became more reliable but were eventually replaced by broadband and wireless.

Other Technology (1% of responses)

Cameras required film, which had to be processed with chemicals in darkrooms. Some were able to use flash cubes, which are now obsolete. You had to wind clocks and watches, none had batteries or solar cells. There were X-ray machines in shoe stores.

Entertainment (18% of responses)

Entertainment 15%

Society’s tastes in entertainment have changed considerably over the years. Radio programs of the 1930s and 1940s, like The Shadow and Abbot and Costello were entertaining for the time but would bore today’s youth. They don’t remember acts like Topo Gigo, Laurel and Hardy, or Paul Winchell and his dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. They don’t know that the communication devices they are using today were imagined generations ago as Dick Tracy’s Two-Way Wrist Radio and Star Trek’s communicators.

Music fared better than most performing arts. The original music of the 1960s and 1970s is still being played and covered by today’s artists, albeit often with some computer enhancement. Young adults may not know many of the bands of the British Invasion, but they know the Beatles. They may never have heard of Aretha Franklin, Sammy Hagar, the Electric Light Orchestra, Frank Zappa, Bill Haley and the Comets, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Paul Anka, all big acts of yesteryear.

Beforepdf-i-built-a-drive-in-theater Facebook, video games, and smartphones, people found entertainment in interacting with other people face-to-face. They played cards, went to barn dances, ice cream socials, and church picnics, and held small dinner parties with neighbors. They went with their friends to see bare knuckle boxing matches, football played in leather helmets without face masks, and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. Teenagers would sneak friends into drive-in theaters by hiding them inside the trunks of their cars. Or, they would go to a movie matinee where they could watch a couple of cartoons before the movie through a haze of cigarette smoke. Years later, young adults could rent a VCR player to watch their rented VHS tapes and enjoy their dime bag.

Records 3%

record_player__by_argne-d4pwubvThe 1960s and 1970s taught us what good music is supposed to sound like. It was played from 33⅓, 45, and 78 rpm vinyl records. 8-track tapes and cassettes came later. You needed a plastic insert to play 45s. Periodically, you had to replace the needle in your record player and tape pennies to c33058618a29df6273c62dec9fccdc5fthe stylus to correct the weight distribution. Records were expensive, easy to scratch or break, and required careful storage so they wouldn’t warp. Still, the music was worth the effort.

The Only Constant in Life is Change

So, what things do older adults remember that most young adults wouldn’t understand? There have been many changes over the last few generations. Some changes involved:

  • Societal norms, like stay-at-home-moms of the 1950s to working moms of today.
  • Convenience in everyday life, like the introduction of indoor plumbing.
  • The introduction of something new, like before there was televisionaudio_formatss, transistor radios, air conditioners, or computers.
  • Major technological leaps, like from iceboxes to refrigerators.
  • Periodic innovations, like wire recordings to vinyl records to 8-tracks and cassettes to CDs to digital files.
  • Refinements in products and services, like the workings of cars.
  • What thing used to cost, like gas and candy.

Surprisingly, nobody mentioned the changes from folding paper maps to paper map books to Google Maps.

You might think that it would be some technological advance that would be most surprising to young adults. However, the changes alluded to by most respondents involved not just the technology but also how everyday life was changed because of it. Consider how telephones have changed life. Few families had a telephone a century ago. Today, it seems like everybody has one, at least every young adult. People used to avoid using their phone so it would be available in case of an emergency, or at least an important call. Today, people seem as though they never hang up. Party lines were popular for a hundred years until they were largely phased out in the 1980s. After that, the trend was toward greater privacy, from multiple lines for a single family and teenage girls getting their own Princess phone to individual cell phones and even throwaway phones. Telephones have changed and they have changed us.

So what do you think will change over the next few generations that will make what we do today seem as archaic as outhouses?



Writing Blogs

If you’ve never written a blog before, you might wonder how the process works. It’s a bit different depending on the length.

Blogs less than 400 words (about four or five paragraphs) are essentially thought missiles launched from a keyboard into cyberspace. They usually convey a single idea or experience from the blogger’s consciousness rather than any research. These blogs are usually written fairly quickly, even in one sitting. Some bloggers consider the length to be optimal for readability while others think they’re just long tweets. You may not gain any insight from reading them but at least you don’t waste much time.

Then there are blogs between 400 and 1,000 or so words. These are mixed bags – maybe a simple idea embellished with unedited wordiness or a more sophisticated idea dropped and left for someone else to salvage. There are probably millions of blog entries in this category. If you’ve got the time, they’re there for the reading.

Once you get past 1,000 words, though, you have to put more thought, more research, and more wordsmithing into it. Unless you’re that person who talked nonstop the 45 minutes from Glenside to Jefferson Station, you won’t be able to do this in one sitting.

The blogs I write average about 1,500 words, although a few are shorter than 400 words. Here’s what writing a 1,000+ word blog is like for me.

  • Day 1: Have an idea. These usually come when showering or waking up.
  • Day 9: Have the same idea again. This time you write it down on a piece of scrap paper before leaving for your day job.
  • Day 31: Find scrap paper with idea while cleaning off desk. Create a Word file with the idea.
  • Day 63: Find file while looking for a copy of your resume. Think about it for a while and create a quick outline with the ideas you wanted to write about.
  • Day 172 through 734: Reopen file periodically just as it’s about scroll off your recent file list. Google things to support your thoughts and add that information to the blog. Repeat until your original idea is thoroughly described and the blog is well over 1,000 words.
  • Day 1,090: Resolve to finish the blog before you start another. Think of three new ideas and write them down. You don’t consider them started until you put them in Word files.
  • Day 1,105: Finish rewriting the blog text and search for some pictures to jazz it up.
  • Day 1,106: Step away from the blog for as long as you can, edit the text one last time, and publish it.

This is a long time to write a blog, but keep in mind that I have dozens of them somewhere in the process all the time. But, it explains why my blogging schedule is so erratic. Not a good thing. Every year, I resolve to finish some of the blogs I’ve started, at least the ones that are over a year old. I started this blog in 2015.

If you want to be a blogger, you have to ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want to communicate? Do you plan to write about your life, your hobbies, your career, or something else?
  • Who is your audience? Will you be writing for family and friends, co-workers, Facebook “friends,” or a greater population of people you don’t necessarily know?
  • How much effort do you plan to put into it? Will it be like a part-time job or just a few hours a month? Will it be an ongoing endeavor or something you do sporadically?
  • What is your motivation? Money (good luck with that), fame (you might do better writing an article for trade publication or a letter to the editor), followers (it takes a long time to build up a following), or just to unleash some of your thoughts that won’t fit in a tweet or a Facebook status?

Whatever your motivation is, the hardest part of blogging is perseverance. Coming up with ideas usually isn’t a problem. Regular posting is ideal but not as important as perseverance. If you don’t post, you can’t be heard.


Recount Anxiety

There’s going to be a recount of votes in the presidential election in Wisconsin, and probably Michigan and Pennsylvania too. I think there are at least seven possible outcomes.

  1. The counts are about the same. There’s no verification of election fraud. Trump stills wins. Life goes on the way it’s going.
  2. The counts are significantly different. There’s no verification of election fraud. Trump stills wins. Some people demand further investigation of other election related issues, like voter suppression and gerrymandering.
  3. The counts are significantly different. There’s convincing evidence of election fraud. Trump stills wins. Some people demand further investigations of the election, including hacking and fake news.
  4. The counts are significantly different. There’s convincing evidence of election fraud. Clinton wins two of the three states but still loses to Trump. Some people demand further investigations of vote totals in other states.
  5. The counts are significantly different. There’s convincing evidence of election fraud. Clinton wins the three states beating Trump. All hell breaks loose.
  6. The counts are significantly different. There’s convincing evidence of election fraud. Clinton wins the three states beating Trump but by that time the Electoral College has already voted him President. All hell breaks loose.
  7. The counts are significantly different. There’s convincing evidence of election fraud. Clinton wins the three states beating Trump and is elected President. All hell breaks loose.

Who knows what the probabilities are of each of these scenarios happening. But if the recounts produce convincing evidence of election fraud, you have to wonder about the legitimacy of all the Congressional races too.



Dear President-Elect Trump,

You astounded almost everyone by winning the 2016 U.S. election for President even though you narrowly lost the popular vote. But, half of all eligible voters in the country didn’t even bother to go to the polls. That means only about a quarter of the U.S. population really wanted you as their leader. Perhaps that’s why there are protests, even riots, in many places. Nevertheless, you can still win the hearts and minds of the populace without losing your base or compromising your promises. A key part of that is Congress. President Obama lost control of Congress and look what they did to him. So, President-Elect Trump, you should consider preparing now for the 2018 midterm elections.


The campaign seemed to be all about scandals, on both sides. The debates were largely about scandals and foreign relations. Americans got tired of it so consider doing things they’ll notice and care about. Think of your constituents as individuals not just a big group. Give them things that affect them directly as individuals.

Here are some things to think about for developing popular support in the early days of your administration.

  • Do things that people want – People want to pursue happiness. To do that, they need money, health, safety, and opportunity. That translates into freedom from discrimination, a good job, healthcare, regulatory safeguards, military and police protection, and a fast internet connection. They also need time available for their pursuits. Do things that will give individuals what they need.
  • Prevent things that people fear – People fear things they can’t control. They fear being hungry, homeless, sick, unemployed, and imprisoned. They fear for their family, their friends, their communities, their country, and their planet. Do things that will calm their fears.
  • Do things that people understand in a way they can understand – You won’t benefit from helping people unless they understand that they are being helped and you are responsible. Renegotiating trade deals may be important but most people won’t understand the benefit unless it improves their life by giving them a better job or lowering the cost of their necessities.
  • Do something completely out of character – A quarter or more of the population believes you are a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic bigot. Consider doing things to make them question that belief. Nixon was no friend of the environment but he created the Environmental Protection Agency. Reagan gave amnesty to illegal immigrants. Surprise people like you did with the election.
  • Avoid hot button issues – Stay away from divisive issues like Social Security, Medicare, immigration, abortion, and climate change. Don’t get involved in shouting matches until you and your Administration have settled in.


Turning those strategic ideas into action will require creativity and commitment. You have a wealth of those qualities but you’ll also need an open mind. So, here are ten specific actions that you might consider taking that will resonate with the people who are protesting your election as well as the people who voted for you.

1. Tone Down the Rhetoric

The campaign is over now so moderate the hate speech. Stay off social media. Let your press secretary do the talking. Don’t hold a lot of press conferences. Reagan held only one press conference every two months; every other president since him has held two or more per month. Every speech at the beginning of your term is more likely to stress people out than it is to reassure them. You might also highlight your support for Melania’s anti-bullying initiative. It’s a good cause and you don’t have to do much of anything. It’ll put a positive spin on how people perceive you.

2. Control Congress

Anything bad that happens during your term will be attributed to you, no matter who does it. You must control Congress. Senators and Representatives will be both supporters and loose cannons. Some of those people aren’t just power-hungry, self-serving opportunists, they’re downright crazy. They’re the old guard, the establishment, the people you promised to throw out of Washington. Don’t give Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan free reign to do what they want. You will pay for their idiocrasy. And Mike Pence, he doesn’t really want you to be successful, he wants your job. People are stressed out when there is too much overt dissention in the government. Keep it under control.

3. Enhance, Don’t Repeal Obama’s Work

You said you were going to repeal Obamacare and cancel all of Obama’s executive orders. Go slow on this. Many people who voted for you benefit from Obama’s actions, though they may not understand that they do. You should take the good parts and add your own ideas. Remember, Obama has a higher favorability rating than even Reagan. You might even consider finishing some of his initiatives. Let the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court be voted on. He’s a moderate not a liberal and you will have other opportunities to appoint much more conservative judges and justices in the future when it won’t look so bad.

4. Close a Few Gun Loopholes

You were going to do it anyway, so just go ahead and close those loopholes on purchases of weapons at trade shows and over the internet. Get it over with and dampen the national preoccupation with the topic. Maybe there’ll be fewer people pushing to require insurance or ban assault weapons. Then you can move on to topics you would prefer to talk about.

5. Appoint Minorities to Political Positions

You will have to appoint 4,000 individuals to political positions in your administration. Who cares if there are minorities, LGBTQ, or non-Christians among them. Who cares if you put a Muslim in charge of the General Services Administration; most people don’t even know what they do. In all those appointments, there’s only a thin crust of people at the top who set important policy. Don’t worry about the rest.

6. Pardon Both Sides

If you want them in your administration, you’re going to have to pardon Christie, Giuliani, Comey, and maybe even Melania and the kids from what they might have done. No sense waiting until the end of your term, do it early in your administration when you can benefit from it. If you do, why not throw a bone to the other side. Pardon Snowden, the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and all the non-violent drug users in prison. Better yet, pardon Hillary. She’s history; no longer any threat to Republicans. A pardon says she’s guilty of something. It will force Congress to do real work to benefit your supporters rather than just investigating her. That’ll save millions.

7. Legalize Marijuana and Hemp

This is a no-brainer. Most people want it legalized, both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. People from all walks of life use it, even many elected officials. You can empty the prisons of non-violent drug offenders and make room for real criminals. You can reprogram federal law enforcement to safeguard people against terrorism and white-collar crime, like identity theft and financial misdeeds. Best of all, it’ll create jobs in a new manufacturing industry that can be located anywhere, from Alaska to Florida. Look at what’s happening in Colorado, less crime, less addiction, and lots and lots of tax revenues.

8. Improve Internet Access and Security

Internet access has become one of the new necessities of life, right after food and shelter. Everybody, as you well know, could benefit from it. But, there are still many parts of the country, primarily rural areas, that do not have access. Some have access but the connection is sporadic or painfully slow. Some could have access but can’t afford it. Consider making a point of supporting rural expansion and net neutrality initiatives. Do what you can to prevent identity theft and provide cyber security. And if you learn anything about the existence of extraterrestrials on Earth, please see that it gets uploaded where we can all see it.

9. Simplify Elections

This is problematical because you can’t make most changes unilaterally. Even Congress can’t do it alone since elections are controlled by States. Still, you can propose a package of recommendations for states to adopt. It will take time but you have until 2018 or 2020. The package might contain:

  • Automatic Registration. Send the message that we expect citizens to vote unless they specifically opt out.
  • Open Party Primaries. In some states, you can only vote for your party’s primary challengers. That’s the way of the old establishment that you want to eliminate. Everyone should be able to vote for the candidate of their choice in every election.
  • Regional Primaries. What a pain it must be for candidates to fly across the country to campaign in whatever states are holding primaries. Divide the states into regions based on geography and population and have all the states in a region hold their primaries on the same day. Rotate the primary dates around the regions every four years.
  • Instant Runoff Voting. There are many ways to allow voters to express their preferences more clearly, including ranked choice voting. Even Mainers think it’s a good idea.
  • Election Month. Long lines at polling places unnecessarily discourage voters. Instead of one Election Day, make October Election Month. Have everyone vote by mail or over the internet. Have all states report their certified results by the traditional Election Day. Forget the idea of making Election Day a national holiday. There’s always somebody who has to work even on a national holiday.
  • No Electoral College. The Electoral College was a good idea a century ago but its time has passed. It’s time to allow citizens to elect their leaders directly.
  • Voter Incentives. There are many disincentives for voters, like having to register, long lines at the polls, and a perception that a single vote doesn’t make a difference. Give them a reward for voting, like a tax break on their income taxes.

10. Simplify Taxes

This will also take some time since there are so many people with vested interests, but if you start on your first day in office, you’ll have a year to get it done by 2018. Focus on income and deductions. The accountants can work out the rates. Include ALL forms of income EXCEPT social security. Most of the people who gave you a vote only get hourly or annual salary. Lift the cap on payroll deductions; most people don’t make over $127,000. Remove as many deductions as you can but let people deduct all their medical, educational, and childcare expenses. That will address some of the grumbling over Obamacare and free college.

So there you have it President Trump, ten ways you can bring some of your haters into your camp. Give a few of them a try. You might be surprised with the results.

Your Constituent,


November 11, 2016


What I Think about Hillary Clinton

She’s not a criminal. Her worst opponents, mainly Republicans, have spent half a billion dollars of taxpayer money over twenty years trying to prove she did something criminal. All they revealed was that they themselves tried to set her up to fail, established an unethical precedent which she followed, tried to frame her by leaking untrue information, or did something even worse along the same lines.

She’ll say anything to get what she wants. Like most politicians, she’ll say anything to get elected. It’s not just flip-flopping, she’ll say what people want to hear at the moment then say something different at the next venue. If she’s speaking to vets, she wants a strong military. If she’s speaking to Bernie supporters, she wants relief for the middle class. Then when it comes time to deliver, she says we can’t make such big changes, only a little at a time.

She’s still a “Goldwater girl,” She’s not a progressive, for sure. She’s barely a moderate. She’s truly a conservative. She’s a Republican in the 1960s sense of the word. She’s a war hawk and an interventionist. She may talk about Bernie’s progressive ideas but she won’t fight too hard for them. There has to be a large majority opinion for her to get behind something new.

She’ll be an OK president. Like President Obama, she won’t get any support from Republican Congress. Much of her time will be spent dealing with Congressional investigations. Anything she accomplishes will be through her executive powers. Misogynists will be exposed across the country in the same way that racists have been exposed under Obama. Still, she’s better than Trump though not nearly what the country needs.

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Ten Ideas for Fixing the Federal Government

In just the past year, the country has gone through a series of divisive political debates over the economy, tax cuts, unemployment, job creation, health care, bank regulation, the budget deficit, and the debt ceiling. The only thing the two major political parties can agree on is fighting wars, enforcing pernicious drug laws, kowtowing to corporate lobbyists, and abridging the rights of citizens under the Patriot Act. These are not things the majority of Americans want. Maybe it’s time to make some changes to our current system of government. Here are ten ideas that might change things for the better.

1. Bring ‘Em All Home

You elect representatives to present your views of what the country should do. They probably live nearby, maybe even in your neighborhood. You may even know them personally or worked on their campaign. But then they go off to Washington. They meet scores of new people. They eat at fine international restaurants and go to world class cultural events. They are waited on and fawned over by support staff and lobbyists. How could they not get distracted and forget why they’re in Washington and who put them there? Perhaps it would make sense to move political thought back to State capitals and away from the rarefied atmosphere inside the Beltway.
One solution to this issue would be to have Representatives telework to Washington from offices in their home States (rather than telework to their home States from Washington). Representatives already maintain offices in their home State, so this would not be unprecedented. Communications shouldn’t be an issue. Everybody from the President to Congressional pages has a Blackberry. Hearings and meetings formerly held in Washington could be conducted by video. Voting could be done electronically, as is done now.
Each State would be responsible for maintaining office spaces—working offices in the State and an embassy in Washington. The State would decide how many representatives, if any, to send to Washington to represent the State in person. A State could decide to send just one representative, rotate several representatives during a term, or send several representatives at the same time for each party or constituency. The States could decide to make their offices as lavish or humble as they choose, regardless of the seniority of their Representatives. The offices in the Capitol Building formerly used by Representatives would be assigned to Congressional support staff or be redesigned as meeting rooms equipped with telecommunications capabilities to allow hearings to be broadcast nationwide.
Having representatives telework would improve their connection to their constituents and reduce travel, but there would also be other benefits. National security would be enhanced as elements of the Federal government are moved out of Washington. Local interest groups would find it easier to lobby their representatives in their State capitals and local districts, while the 14,000 high-priced lobbyists in Washington would have to spread their presence around the country rather than bask on K Street. Companies spend over $2 billion on lobbying just in 2011. Wouldn’t it be nice to spread that money around the country?

2. Improve Representation

When the United States was created, the Founding Fathers agreed that members of the House of Representatives should serve no more than 30,000 of the four million or so citizens of the country, resulting in 105 members of the House. The number of Representatives increased with the population until Congress limited the number to 435 in 1929. By 2000, the US population had grown to about 281 million, so there was one representative for 647,000 constituents. But representation varies by state. Wyoming and Rhode Island have about 525,000 constituents per representative while Utah and Montana have over 900,000 constituents per representative.
One way to minimize this unequal and ineffective representation is to give each State one vote (rather than one Representative) in the House of Representatives for every 30,000 of population. Of course, the improved representation would come at a price. With twenty times more representatives to provide for, States would have to be creative in administering their governments. They could send just a few of their Representatives to Washington at a time, having the remaining Representatives telework instead. States could economize by combining the jobs of State and Federal Representatives. The extra workload could be accommodated by adding non-elected support staff. Furthermore, States should pay the salaries of their Representatives and their staffs, and be free to set the salaries, as well as link the salaries to performance, the State’s economy, or other relevant factors, as in the private sector. As the cost burden shifts from the Federal government to the States, Federal income taxes could be reduced, and States could implement taxation measures they deem to be more appropriate for funding government.

3. Create Unbiased Election Districts

It’s no secret that politicians stay in power, and kick opponents out of office, by redistricting. Gerrymandering is a concept known even to high school students. But the arcane art of politicians drawing district boundaries should be relegated to history books. Really! Sophisticated GIS (geographic information system) software is readily available as are mathematical algorithms for partitioning spatially dependent data. Isn’t it about time we bring elections into the 21st century?

4. Make Sure Candidates Are Qualified

When you apply for a job, you have to prove you’re qualified. You might need a degree or a certification, or have to pass a test, but you have to prove you’re qualified just to get an interview. Appointed Federal officials, like judges and agency heads, have to pass Congressional confirmation, so why shouldn’t candidates for elected Federal offices also go through some screening process?
As part of the requirements of filing to run for an office, candidate qualifications should be screened to safeguard voters from ignorance, incompetence, instability, or immorality. For example, candidates need to know the Constitution. Perhaps a candidate’s knowledge of civics could be evaluated with the tests given to immigrants seeking citizenship. Psychological tests and security checks might follow those given to FBI and other law enforcement agents. Financial audits might be similar to those required of IRS employees. Drug testing would also be prudent, at least as long as the war on drugs
continues. One exception to the screening process would be lie-detector testing. It would probably be too severe a test for any politician to pass.

5. Reduce the Influence of Money in Elections

The Supreme Court made a big deal of saying in the Citizens United case that money represents free speech and cannot be censored. But while the ruling protects the rights of corporations, foreign governments, and wealthy individuals who have the money to speak, it trounces on the rights of millions of Americans to free and fair elections. So, why don’t we make it a law that contributions to a political campaign can only be made by those who can vote in that election. No contributions would be allowed from corporations, foreign governments, PACs, unregistered voters, or residents of other voter districts. Another approach advocated by some is public financing of elections.

6. End Two Party Dominance

The U.S. Constitution doesn’t call for or even mention political parties. That’s because there were no political parties when it was written. It wasn’t until almost a decade later that the Federalist Party became active in elections. Today, there are scores of active political parties in the U.S., though you wouldn’t know it from the way Republicans and Democrats dominate the political dialogue. But the current system is stacked against these third parties. There are substantial administrative and financial requirements to even be put on an election ballot. Even then, most voters won’t support third-party candidates because the candidates are perceived as having little chance of victory, and without voter support, they in fact have little chance of victory. One way to address this self fulfilling prophecy is Instant Runoff Voting. In IRV, voters rank their choices for an office rather than just selecting one candidate. Votes can be counted in a number of ways, such as averaging the rankings or eliminating the lowest ranking candidates and reranking the rest.

7. Count Every Vote Correctly

In the 2000 Presidential election, Florida taught us about butterfly ballots, hanging chads, and counting and recounting votes. Not to be outdone, Ohio’s 2004 Presidential election taught us how electronic vote counts can be hacked. In both cases, the contested results were maintained because there wasn’t enough time for an investigation and a full recount. In contrast, the 2008 Minnesota Senatorial election took six months to investigate and recount before finally overturning the election of Norm Coleman in favor of Al Franken.
So, perhaps the solution to this problem is the simple application of transparency over time. Let voters cast their votes by paper ballot throughout the month of October and require election districts to post incremental vote tallys on a website. This would highlight any statistically improbable changes in voting trends and provide time for investigation should any improprieties come to light.

8. Drop the Electoral College

Improving citizen representation will render the biased and obsolete Electoral College less biased but even more obsolete. Already, about 70% of citizens would prefer direct election of the President. Things have changed a lot in two hundred years. Communications are instantaneous. Cross country travel takes hours instead of months. Most Americans are literate. There is a national media. It’s long past time to do away with the Electoral College and save the money for something else.

9. Blacklist Politicos for Election Crimes

Dirty tricks have been a staple of US politics for two centuries. Watergate brought many of these abuses to the attention of the media, and eventually, the courts, but the light sentences have not served as a deterrent. If anything, the tricks have become more pervasive and more successful in misleading voters and suppressing turnout. This infringes on the right if citizens to fair elections.
In cases in which a court decides some law has been violated in a political campaign, the punishment is usually relatively minor, such as a fine or a short term of incarceration. Election results, however, are virtually never overturned as a consequence. If you cheat in sports, you’re punished and your team forfeits the game. If you cheat in politics, you may avoid any punishment, especially if your team wins the election.
If someone commits a crime that infringes on the rights of the voters to a fair election, the perpetrator should be prohibited from participating in future political activities. Perhaps the first offense should carry a mandatory two-year ban, the second offense a ten-year ban, and the third offense a lifetime ban on any future electioneering. Like doctors and lawyers, politicians and political operatives who abuse their profession should lose their ability to practice.

10. Limit the Time Politicians are in Office

The idea of limiting the terms of government officials has been discussed since the early days of the country and is today more relevant than ever. The President is limited to two, four year terms by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, but members of Congress and the Courts are not bound by term limits. Unfortunately, the people who would have to implement term limits are the same politicians who don’t want to give up the prestige and power of office. But if the President is limited to a total of eight (to ten) years in office, it might make sense to also limit Senators to two six-year terms, Representatives to four, two-year terms, and Justices to one ten-year term.

Changing the Rules

So, if we create unbiased voting districts of about 30,000 citizens, make sure the candidates are qualified, limit campaign contributions to voters, and hold elections over a month using instant runoff voting, we should be able to elect representatives, many from third parties, who will more closely reflect our views. Keep those representative local rather than sending them to Washington so that they are accessible to their constituents. Limit their lifetime terms so they don’t build political fiefdoms. And if they’re caught cheating, throw them out of public service.
A few of these ideas, like eliminating the Electoral College, are well on the road to implementation. Others won’t come about, though, until the sky over Washington D.C. had been darkened by myriad flocks of flying pigs. That’s because the politicians who would have to implement these changes are the same politicians who would be restricted
by them. So we can’t wait for our elected officials to do what’s best for most Americans. They relish the power they hold and will not give it up easily.
Most Americans are not interested in politics. They don’t pay attention to it most of the time. They rely on the rants they hear on talk radio for their information rather than informed sources. They just want the government to work, like their cars, computers, and household appliances. They feel that they don’t need to know how or why it works, just that it does. As Thomas Jefferson wrote,

… [M]ankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

A time may come, though, when the two-party rivalry goes beyond just being an irritant and becomes dysfunctional. When our cars, computers, and household appliances break down, we repair or replace them. Likewise, we must be prepared to repair our government.

… [W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Willow Grove, PA
25 August 2011